Wilfrid Freeman

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Sir Wilfrid Rhodes Freeman
Air Chf Mshl Sir Wilfrid Freeman.jpg
Sir Wilfrid Freeman
Born(1888-07-18)18 July 1888
Died15 May 1953(1953-05-15) (aged 64)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army (1908–18)
Royal Air Force (1918–42)
Years of service1908–42
RankAir Chief Marshal
Commands heldVice-Chief of the Air Staff (1940–42)
RAF Staff College, Andover (1933–35)
RAF Leuchars (1928–29)
Central Flying School (1925–27)
No. 2 Flying Training School (1920–22)
No. 2 Group (1918)
No. 14 Squadron RFC (1916)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Knight of the Legion of Honour (France)
Other workWork at Courtaulds

Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Rhodes Freeman, 1st Baronet, GCB, DSO, MC, FRAeS (18 July 1888 – 15 May 1953) was one of the most important influences on the rearmament of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the years up to and including the Second World War.

RAF career[edit]

Having joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1914, he saw active service during the First World War as Officer Commanding No. 14 Squadron and then as Officer Commanding 10th Wing and then 9th Wing, and continued to serve in the newly formed RAF during the inter-war years.[1] He was made Commandant of the Central Flying School in 1925, Deputy Director of Operations and Intelligence at the Air Ministry in 1927 and Station Commander at RAF Leuchars in 1928.[1] He went on to be Air Officer Commanding Transjordan and Palestine in 1930, Commandant of the RAF Staff College, Andover, in 1933.[1]

In 1936, as Air Member for Research and Development, he was given the job of choosing the aircraft with which to rearm the RAF, and in 1938 his remit was expanded to include the controlling of their production, which he did with great distinction until 1940. In November 1940 he was moved against his will to become Vice-Chief of the Air Staff.[1] His department, now formed into the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) by the opportunistic Lord Beaverbrook (who took credit for much of Freeman’s work) rapidly stagnated, and after two years Freeman was moved back to MAP which he continued to run with distinction.[2]

More perhaps than any other single figure, Freeman was responsible for the RAF ordering the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, De Havilland Mosquito, Avro Lancaster, Handley-Page Halifax and Hawker Tempest. He played an equally vital role in the development of the Merlin-engined P-51 Mustang, providing North American with the original specification and then installing Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in place of the unsatisfactory Allison V-1710 engines.[2]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman
  2. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Freeman, Sir Wilfrid Rhodes (requires login)
  3. ^ "No. 37193". The London Gazette. 24 July 1945. p. 3835.
  4. ^ "No. 35750". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 October 1942. p. 4541.
  5. ^ "No. 43496". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 May 1937. p. 3079.
  6. ^ "No. 33785". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1932. p. 4.
  7. ^ "No. 29834". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 November 1916. p. 11400.
  8. ^ "No. 29114". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 March 1915. p. 3080.
  9. ^ Burke's genealogical and heraldic history of the peerage, baronetage, and knightage, Privy Council, and order of preference. 1949.

Further reading[edit]

  • Furse, Anthony. Wilfrid Freeman: The Genius behind Allied Survival and Air Supremacy, 1939 to 1945. Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount, 1999. ISBN 1-86227-079-1
Military offices
New title
Group established
Officer Commanding No. 2 Group
Title next held by
Bertine Sutton
Preceded by
Felton Holt
Commandant of the Central Flying School
Succeeded by
Charles Burnett
Preceded by
Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Commandant of the RAF Staff College, Andover
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Barratt
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Dowding
Air Member for Research and Development
Post renamed Air Member for Development and Production on 1 August 1938

Ministry of Aircraft Production created
Preceded by
Sir Richard Peirse
Vice-Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Charles Medhurst