Hugh Dowding, born on 24-11-1882 in Moffat, Scotland, gained his Aviator’s Certificate on 19-12-1913 in a Vickers biplane at the Vickers School, Brooklands. In his youth Dowding was an accomplished skier, winner of the first ever National Slalom Championship. In August 1914, he joined the Royal Flying Corps as a pilot on No. 7 Squadron. Dowding was sent to France and in 1915 was promoted to commander of No. 16 Squadron After the Battle of the Somme. The commander of the RFC, ordered that the rest pilots exhausted by non-stop duty, needed a break. As a result Dowding was sent back to Britain and, although promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, saw no more active service during the First World War. He was promoted to Air Chief Marshal in 1937 and commander of the RAF. Due to retire in June 1939, Dowding was asked to stay on until March 1940 because of the tense international situation. He was again grudgingly permitted to continue, first until July and finally until October 1940. Thus he fought the Battle of Britain under the shadow of retirement. In 1940, Dowding, nicknamed “Stuffy” by his men, proved unwilling to sacrifice aircraft and pilots in the attempt to aid Allied troops during the Battle of France. Because of his brilliant detailed preparation of Britain’s air defenses for the German assault, and his prudent management of his resources during the battle, Dowding is today generally given the credit for Britain’s victory in the Battle of Britain. The new Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Charles Portal removed Dowding from his post in November 1940 and replaced him. Fortal died age 77, on 22-04-1971. In the 1969 film of the Battle of Britain, (see Bomber Harris) Dowding was played by legendary actor Laurence Olivier. (see Olivier) Olivier had himself served as a pilot in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm during World War II.
Lord Dowding died at his home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on 15-02-1970, at the old age of 87. He was cremated and buried in the RAF Chapel hehind the Westminster Abbey, in London.