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Dowding, Hugh, 1st Baron Dowding

Dowding, Hugh, 1st Baron Dowding (1882–1970). Air chief marshal. Dowding was born in Dumfriesshire and went to Winchester. He joined the army, served in India, and just before the First World War qualified as an RFC pilot. He finished the war as brigadier-general and transferred to the new RAF. In 1936 he was made commander-in-chief of Fighter Command and though due to retire in 1939 was asked to continue. He thus held a crucial post during the Second World War. In May 1940, in a powerfully argued memo, he begged that no more fighter planes be sent to France, and he was in personal control all through the Battle of Britain which followed. He was replaced in November 1940, after the German invasion threat had been defeated, and was given a barony in 1943. ‘Stuffy’ Dowding was austere and could be difficult. But the men under his direct command won one of the vital battles of the war. Churchill called his decision to hold seven squadrons in reserve ‘an example of genius in the art of war’ and in his victory broadcast of May 1945 paid a special tribute to Dowding.

J. A. Cannon

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