Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, GCB GCVO CMG

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Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, GCB GCVO CMG

Birthplace: St. Ninian's School, Wells St., Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Death: February 15, 1970 (87)
1 Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England (United Kingdom)
Place of Burial: London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Arthur John Caswall Dowding and Maud Caroline Dowding
Husband of Clarice Maud Dowding and Lady Muriel Dowding, Baroness
Father of Derek Hugh Tremenheere Dowding, 2nd Baron Dowding
Brother of Hilda Maud, Camilla Dowding; Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Ninian Dowding, K.B.E, C.B, Offr.Legion of Merit (USA) and Kenneth Townley Dowding

Occupation: Air Chief Marshal, Royal Air Force
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, GCB GCVO CMG,_1st_Baron_Dowding

Sir Hugh Dowding formed the new RAF Fighter Command C-in-C from July 1936 to its scuess during the Battle of Britain, May 1940.

He famously wrote to Churchill in May 1940.......

“if the Home defence Force is drained away in desperate attempts to remedy the situation in France, defeat in France will involve the final, complete and irremediable defeat in this country”.

He was played by Laurence Olivier in the film Battle of Britain

Hugh Dowding was born at Moffat in 1882. Educated at Winchester and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery and spent the early years of his service career overseas. After spending two years at the Staff College, Camberley, Dowding took the opportunity to learn to fly at Brooklands and gained his RFC wings during 1913.

The outbreak of the Great War saw him spend time in France with Nos 6 and 9 Squadrons before his interest in wireless telegraphy led to him returning home to form the Wireless Experimental Establishment at Brooklands in April 1915. Within months, however, Dowding was back in France, this time as Officer Commanding No 16 Squadron before taking command of the Ninth (Headquarters) Wing during the Battle of the Somme. Differences of opinion with Trenchard saw him return the UK to run the Southern Training Brigade at Salisbury, a post he occupied for the rest of the war.

Following the war, Dowding spent time in the Air Ministry and in Staff Officer posts, but it was his appointment as the Air Council as Air Member for Supply and Research at the end of 1930 and his subsequent position as Air Member for Research and Development were he influenced the future shape of Britain's defences. Here, he encouraged the development of advanced fighter aircraft, and it was largely on his initiative that the Hurricane and Spitfire were ordered into production in 1934. He also showed tremendous interest in the detection of enemy aircraft and provided his full support to the new Radio Direction Finding (RDF) equipment then under development.

His interest in defence made him the natural choice to command the new Fighter Command when it was set up in July 1936, and was disappointed to be overlooked for the position of Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) in 1937 (which went to Newall). Dowding continued to prepare his Command for war, overseeing the introduction new aircraft, bullet-proof wind-screens, the development of the Observer Corps and the integration of RDF units with communications and control organisations into a structure far in advance of anything else in the world.

Heavy fighter losses in France saw Dowding warn the War Cabinet of the dire consequences should the present wastage rates continue, and a letter dated 16 May 1940 is one of the great documents of history. After covering the evacuation from Dunkirk, he had just enough aircraft to fight the Luftwaffe in the one place they could be effectively used - within the comprehensive air defence system he had built in the UK. Even so, he admitted that the situation was "critical in the extreme" and while it is true that the immortal "Few" - his 'chicks' as Churchill christened them - won the Battle using the organisation he had created, the Luftwaffe lost it through bad leadership, faulty tactics and mistaken target selection. His personal role was, of course, limited. Day-to-day control of the fighters rested with the Group Commanders, of which Air Vice-Marshal Park (11 Group) and Air Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory (12 Group) bore the brunt of the enemy attacks, but the differing views of the two men (Park's closely matched those of Dowding, while Leigh-Mallory favoured large formations of defending aircraft - 'big wings'), and Dowding's inability settle the squabble between the two led to serious criticism of him. The Air Ministry favoured Leigh-Mallory's policies, and Dowding was increasingly seen as uncooperative and difficult to get on with. Within weeks of the end of the Battle of Britain, and with a new CAS (Air Chief Marshal Portal) in post, Dowding (now aged 58) relinquished his position. He was persuaded by Churchill to head an aircraft purchasing mission to the USA, a role for which he was quite unsuited, and also headed a major RAF economy study before finally retiring in July 1942.

An unwillingness to break with Service precedents meant that Dowding was not promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Royal Force - even when it was suggested by the King, and he spent the rest of his life largely away from the RAF. In later years he became President of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. After his death in 1970, his remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, a fitting tribute to his remarkable achievements.

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Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, GCB GCVO CMG's Timeline

April 24, 1882
Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
January 9, 1919
York, England, United Kingdom
February 15, 1970
Age 87
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
March 12, 1970
Age 87
London, England
Saint Ninian's, Moffat, Scotland.
Winchester College
Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.