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Marshal of the Royal Air Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marshal of the Royal Air Force
Marshal of the RAF rank flag
United Kingdom-Air force-OF-10-collected.svg
Marshal of the Royal Air Force sleeve & shoulder board
MRAF star plate.svg
A Marshal of the RAF star plate
Country United Kingdom
Service branch Royal Air Force
RankFive-star rank
NATO rank codeOF-10
Non-NATO rankO-11
Next lower rankAir chief marshal
Equivalent ranks
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Hugh Trenchard.
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Hugh Trenchard.

Marshal of the Royal Air Force (MRAF) is the highest rank in the Royal Air Force (RAF).[1] In peacetime it was granted to RAF officers in the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff (CAS), who were promoted to it on their last day of service. While surviving Marshals of the RAF retain the rank for life,[2] the highest rank to which officers on active service are promoted is now air chief marshal. Although general promotions to Marshal of the Royal Air Force have been discontinued since the British defence cuts of the 1990s, further promotions to the rank may still be made in wartime, for members of the Royal Family and certain very senior RAF air officers in peacetime at the discretion of the monarch; all such promotions in peacetime are only honorary, however.[3] In 2012, Charles, Prince of Wales was promoted to the rank in recognition of his support for his mother, the Queen, in her capacity as head of the armed forces (commander-in-chief), while in 2014 Lord Stirrup, who had served as Chief of the Air Staff and Chief of the Defence Staff for over seven years, was also promoted.

Marshal of the Royal Air Force is a five-star rank[4] and unlike the air marshal ranks, can properly be considered a marshal rank. MRAF has a NATO ranking code of OF-10, equivalent to an admiral of the fleet in the Royal Navy or a field marshal in the British Army.[5]

The rank was instituted in 1919 and the first officer to be promoted to MRAF was Sir Hugh Trenchard in 1927. Since that time, including Trenchard, there have been 27 men who have held the rank. Of those, 22 have been professional RAF officers and five have been senior members of the British Royal Family. King George V did not formally hold the rank of marshal of the RAF; rather he assumed the title of Chief of the Royal Air Force.[6] In this capacity from time to time he wore RAF uniform with the rank insignia of a marshal of the RAF. He first publicly wore such uniform in 1935, the year before his death.[7]

Excluding monarchs and other members of the Royal Family, the only two RAF officers ever to have held the rank without serving as Chief of the Air Staff were Lord Douglas of Kirtleside and Sir Arthur Harris. Both held high command during the Second World War. Harris was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Bomber Command and Douglas was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command, Middle East Command and Coastal Command.


Prior to the creation of the RAF's officer rank titles in 1919, it was proposed that by analogy with field marshal, the highest rank title should be air marshal. It was later decided to use the rank of air marshal as an equivalent rank to lieutenant general[8] and "marshal of the air" was put forward as the highest RAF rank. This new rank title was opposed by the then Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson, who considered that the title was "ridiculous". However, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard was unmoved and the title was adopted. Though never held by a Royal Air Force officer, the rank title of marshal of the air lasted until April 1925, when it was changed to marshal of the Royal Air Force.[9] Questioned in the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Air Sir Samuel Hoare stated that the reason for the change in title was that marshal of the air was "somewhat indefinite in character" and the new title was deemed more appropriate.[10] It has also been reported that King George V was not happy with the title of marshal of the air, feeling it might imply attributes which should properly be reserved for God.[11]

Insignia, command flag and star plate

The rank insignia consists of four narrow light blue bands (each on a slightly wider black band) above a light blue band on a broad black band. This insignia is derived from the sleeve lace of an admiral of the fleet and is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the service working dress uniform. Marshals of the Royal Air Force wear shoulder boards with their service dress at ceremonial events. These shoulder boards show the air officer's eagle surrounded by a wreath, two crossed marshal's batons and, since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the St Edward's Crown representing royal authority.[12] Prior to 1953, the Tudor Crown (sometimes called the King's Crown) was used.

The command flag of a marshal of the Royal Air Force has a broad red horizontal band in the centre with a thinner red band on each side of it.

The vehicle star plate for a marshal of the Royal Air Force depicts five white stars (marshal of the Royal Air Force is equivalent to a five-star rank) on an air force blue background.

The rank insignia and flag exists in some other air forces for equivalent ranks. The rank title differs slightly, often being a variation on marshal of the air force, usually with the name of the relevant air force in place of the words 'Royal Air Force'. A notable example of this practice is the rank of marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Marshals of the Royal Air Force

King George V in the uniform of a Marshal of the RAF
King George V in the uniform of a Marshal of the RAF
Date of promotion Image Officer Year of birth Year of death Notes
1 January 1927[13][14]
Sir Hugh Trenchard (cropped).jpg
Sir Hugh Trenchard
(later Viscount Trenchard)
1873 1956 Chief of the Air Staff 1918 and 1919–1930
1 January 1933[15]
Sir John Salmond in 1925.jpg
Sir John Salmond 1881 1968 Chief of the Air Staff 1930–1933
21 January 1936[16]
Edward Prince of Wales during his visit to Canada in 1919.jpg
King Edward VIII 1894 1972 Assumed the rank on the date shown following accession to the throne.
11 December 1936[17]
HM King George VI in MRAF uniform.jpg
King George VI 1895 1952 Assumed the rank on the date shown following accession to the throne.
1 January 1937[18]
Marshal of the RAF Sir Edward Ellington.jpg
Sir Edward Ellington 1877 1967 Chief of the Air Staff 1933–1937
4 October 1940[19]
Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril Newall (close-up).jpg
Sir Cyril Newall
(later Lord Newall)
1886 1963 Chief of the Air Staff 1937–1940.
Retired 20 days after promotion.
1 January 1944[20]
MRAF Sir Charles Portal.jpg
Sir Charles Portal
(later Viscount Portal of Hungerford)
1893 1971 Chief of the Air Staff 1940–1946
12 September 1945[21]
Tedder1943 detail.jpg
Sir Arthur Tedder
(later Lord Tedder)
1890 1967 Chief of the Air Staff 1946–1950
1 January 1946[22]
Air Marshall W Sholto Douglas, CB, MC, DFC (Art. IWM ART LD 997).jpg
Sir Sholto Douglas
(later Lord Douglas of Kirtleside)
1893 1969
1 January 1946[22][23]
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris.jpg
Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris 1892 1984 Promoted several months after retirement.
8 June 1950[24]
Air Marshal Sir John Slessor.jpg
Sir John Slessor 1897 1979 Chief of the Air Staff 1950–1952
15 January 1953[25]
Prince Philip by Allan Warren 1992.jpg
The Duke of Edinburgh 1921 2021 Honorary appointment.
1 June 1954[26]
Air Vice-Marshal Dickson near Venafro, Italy (cropped).jpg
Sir William Dickson 1898 1987 Chief of the Air Staff 1953–1955
Chief of the Defence Staff 1959
1 January 1958[27]
Dermot Boyle.jpg
Sir Dermot Boyle 1904 1993 Chief of the Air Staff 1956–1959
12 June 1958[28]
The Duke of Gloucester 1900 1974 Honorary appointment.
6 April 1962[29]
Air Marshal Sir Thomas Pike.jpg
Sir Thomas Pike 1906 1983 Chief of the Air Staff 1960–1963
1 April 1967[30]
Sir Charles Elworthy.jpg
Sir Charles Elworthy
(later Lord Elworthy)
1911 1993 Chief of the Air Staff 1963–1967
Chief of the Defence Staff 1967–1971
1 April 1971[31] Sir John Grandy 1913 2004 Chief of the Air Staff 1967–1971
Promoted and retired on the same day.
31 March 1974[32]
Sir Denis Spotswood 1916 2001 Chief of the Air Staff 1971–1974
Promoted and retired on the same day.
6 August 1976[33]
Wg Cdr Humphrey after the 1953 flight from Cape Town (cropped).jpg
Sir Andrew Humphrey 1921 1977 Chief of the Air Staff 1974–1976
Chief of the Defence Staff 1976–1977
31 July 1977[34][35] Sir Neil Cameron
(later Lord Cameron of Balhousie)
1920 1985 Chief of the Air Staff 1976-1977
Chief of the Defence Staff 1977–1979
14 October 1982[36]
Flt Lt M Beetham.jpg
Sir Michael Beetham 1923 2015 Chief of the Air Staff 1977–1982
Promoted and retired on the same day.
15 October 1985[37] Sir Keith Williamson 1928 2018 Chief of the Air Staff 1982-1985
Promoted and retired on the same day.
14 November 1988[38]
Official portrait of Lord Craig of Radley crop 2.jpg
Sir David Craig
(later Lord Craig of Radley)
1929 Living Chief of the Air Staff 1985–1988
Chief of the Defence Staff 1988–1991
6 November 1992[39]
Les Aspin with Air Marshal Sir Peter Harding (cropped).jpg
Sir Peter Harding 1933 2021 Chief of the Air Staff 1988-1992
Chief of the Defence Staff 1992–1994
Resigned commission 14 June 1994.[40]
16 June 2012[41]
Carlos de Gales (2011).jpg
The Prince of Wales 1948 Living Honorary rank, royal family (heir apparent)
13 June 2014[42]
Stirrup in Istanbul.jpg
Lord Stirrup 1949 Living Chief of the Air Staff 2003–2006
Chief of the Defence Staff 2006–2010
Honorary rank.

Unlike other MRAFs who only relinquished their appointments, Sir Peter Harding resigned from the RAF in 1994.[43] Consequently, his name was removed from the Air Force List, but it was later reinstated.[44]

See also


  1. ^ "Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. 2007. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Telegraph style book: the Services". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 April 2008. Archived from the original on 25 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  3. ^ "2014 Birthday Honours for service personnel and defence civilians". Ministry of Defence. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  4. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (8 September 2007). "Glossary". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Archived from the original on 13 April 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  5. ^ "Chapter 2 Part 4". The Queen's Regulations for the Army (PDF). Norwich: HMSO. 28 February 2000 [28 February 2000]. pp. 2–4/7. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  6. ^ "From All Quarters". Flight. LXIII (2296): 86. 23 January 1953. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  7. ^ "The King and the Sea". Time. 29 July 1935. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  8. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (11 June 2007). "Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force 1919 – present". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  9. ^ "New Royal Air Force Title", Flight, 17 (17): 249, 1923
  10. ^ Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood, Secretary of State for Air (12 May 1925). "MARSHAL OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. col. 1689W.
  11. ^ Laffin, John (1964). Swifter than Eagles. A biography of Marshal of the RAF Sir John Salmond. William Blackwood & Sons Ltd. p. 149.
  12. ^ Raf 1
  13. ^ "No. 33235". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1926. p. 9.
  14. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (9 October 2007). "Marshal of the RAF The Viscount Trenchard of Wolfeton". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
  15. ^ "No. 33898". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1932. p. 15.
  16. ^ "No. 34251". The London Gazette. 31 January 1936. p. 665.
  17. ^ "No. 34351". The London Gazette. 18 December 1936. p. 8187.
  18. ^ "No. 34356". The London Gazette. 1 January 1937. p. 17.
  19. ^ Baron Newall
  20. ^ "No. 36309". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1943. p. 43.
  21. ^ "No. 37261". The London Gazette. 11 September 1945. p. 4532.
  22. ^ a b "No. 37414". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1945. p. 187.
  23. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (29 September 2007). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  24. ^ "No. 38941". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1950. p. 3045.
  25. ^ "No. 39753". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 January 1953. p. 349.
  26. ^ "No. 40186". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 May 1954. p. 3195.
  27. ^ "No. 41266". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 December 1957. p. 7593.
  28. ^ "No. 41409". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1958. p. 3561.
  29. ^ "No. 42644". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 April 1962. p. 2929.
  30. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (16 June 2007). "Marshal of the RAF The Lord Elworthy of Timaru". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  31. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (16 June 2007). "Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  32. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (7 October 2007). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Denis Spotswood". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  33. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 133. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
  34. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 135. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
  35. ^ "No. 47289". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 August 1977. p. 9978.
  36. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 137. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
  37. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 139. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
  38. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 141. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
  39. ^ "No. 53103". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 November 1992. p. 18862.
  40. ^ "No. 53814". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 1994. p. 14206.
  41. ^ "Prince Charles awarded highest rank in all three armed forces". The Daily Telegraph. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  42. ^ "2014 Birthday Honours for service personnel and defence civilians". Ministry of Defence. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  43. ^ Rallings, Colin; Broughton, David (1996). "Reference Section". British Elections and Parties Yearbook. Farrell, David. Taylor & Francis. p. 179. ISBN 0-7146-4243-6.
  44. ^ Obituaries, Telegraph (22 August 2021). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Peter Harding, charismatic and imposing Chief of Defence Staff brought down after a tabloid exposé – obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 August 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 7 June 2022, at 10:24
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