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Air Chief Marshal, Royal Air Force,
Baron of Bentley Priory
Pioneer in Military Airman -
Victor in the Battle of Britain
1882 - 1970
Born in Moffat, Dumfreshire, Scotland on 24 April 1882. Graduated from the Royal Military Academy in 1899 serving as an artillery officer in the Far East until he returned to England in 1918. While attending the Army Staff College, he paid for his own flight instruction, qualifying for his Royal Flying Corps pilots rating.
He served with distinction in France as a squadron and wing commander and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Flying Corps. At wars end, Brigadier Dowding was in command of all flight training in England.
Upon formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, he received the rank of Group Captain - serving in staff and command positions in England and the Middle East. In 1930, Air Vice Marshal Dowding was appointed to the Air Council as Member for Supply and Research - a key position in which he was to influence the development and procurement policies of the Royal Air Force so vital to its successes in World War II. Knighted in 1935 for his superior performance, he set out with high purpose and haste to develop the Radio Direction Finding System - known as RADAR - that contributed so much to victory in 1940.
In 1936 as first Commander in Chief of the Royal Air Force Fighter Command - responsible for the air defenses of Great Britain - he began the Herculean task of forging the Shield and Sword. Britain's defense network when completed was comprised of early warning radars, Ground Observer Corps, complex command and control facilities, the air interceptors Hurricane and Spitfire, and the welding of the whole into a highly trained cohesive weapons system. Because of his foresight, deep sense of purpose, and leadership, Fighter Command was ready when the call came in 1939.
The epic Battle of Britain in July, August, and September of 1940 - the only battle in the history of the world to be fought entirely in the air - with Hugh Dowding leading his charges day and night by his sagacious employment of limited resources, had saved England from certain destruction. The eloquent words of Winston Churchill - "Never was so much owed by so many to so few" - will forever remind the world of sacrifice and valor of "the few" and their indomitable leader Hugh Dowding.
He died on 15 February 1970 in Kent.
Invested 1985 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
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Updated: October 31, 2009