William's Top Matches
About William Sholto Douglas
Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside, GCB, MC, DFC (23 December 1893 – 29 October 1969) was a senior figure in the Royal Air Force up to and during World War II.
Douglas was born in Headington, Oxfordshire, the son of Professor Robert Langton Douglas and his wife Margaret Jane (née Cannon). On his father's side he was descended from Sir Archibald Douglas, a younger son of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Queensberry. He was educated at Emanuel School, Tonbridge School and Lincoln College, Oxford.
At the outbreak of World War I Douglas was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery. In 1915, following a disagreement with his Commanding Officer, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps joining 2 Squadron as an observer. He soon trained as a pilot and earned Royal Aero Club certificate No 1301. By September 1917 he was a major and Commanding Officer of 84 Squadron. The squadron became one of the premier RFC/RAF fighter units in 1918 and by the end of the war Douglas had been awarded a Military Cross and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Post-war Douglas worked briefly for Handley Page and as a commercial pilot before rejoining the Royal Air Force in 1920 after a chance meeting with Hugh Trenchard. He became an RAF instructor before being appointed to the Air Ministry in 1936. He was raised to Air Vice Marshal in 1938 and made assistant chief of air staff.
In April 1940, with World War II well under way, he was made Deputy Chief of the Air Staff. During 1940, Douglas and Trafford Leigh-Mallory clashed with the head of No. 11 Group, Keith Park, and the head of Fighter Command, Hugh Dowding, over strategy in the Battle of Britain. Douglas argued for a more aggressive engagement with a 'Big Wing' strategy. When Charles Portal was made Chief of the Air Staff in October 1940 he supported Douglas, moving Park and Dowding and appointing Douglas to replace Dowding as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOCinC) of Fighter Command.
As commander-in-chief of Fighter Command, Douglas was responsible for rebuilding of the command's strength after the attrition of the Battle of Britain, but also for bringing it on the offensive to wrest the initiative in the air from the German Luftwaffe. He was therefore one of the main orchestrators of the only partially successful Circus offensive. In 1942 Douglas was replaced at Fighter Command by Leigh-Mallory and was transferred to Egypt, becoming AOCinC of RAF Middle East Command in 1943. Douglas returned to England in 1944 to head Coastal Command during the invasion of Normandy.
Douglas was well rewarded after the war. He was the first commander of the British Zone of Occupation in Germany and in 1946 he was promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force, one of only two RAF officers ever to hold this rank without serving as Chief of the Air Staff. In 1948 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Douglas of Kirtleside, of Dornock in the County of Dumfries. Douglas retired in 1948 and became chairman of BEA in 1949 a post he retained until 1964. He published two volumes of autobiography, Years of Combat, covering the first world war, and Years of Command covering the second.
Lord Douglas of Kirtleside was married three times. He married firstly Mary (née Howard) in 1919. They had no children and were divorced in 1932. He married secondly Joan, daughter of Colonel H. C. Denny, in 1933. This marriage was also childless and ended in divorce in 1952. He married thirdly Hazel, daughter of George Eric Maas Walker and widow of Captain W. E. R. Walker, in 1955. They had one daughter.
Lord Douglas of Kirtleside died in October 1969, aged 75, when the barony became extinct.
Awards and decorations