Military Wiki
David Grahame Donald
Air Marshal Donald, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, RAF Maintenance Command, at his desk in his Headquarters in Andover, Hampshire.
Born 1891
Died 1976 (aged 84–85)
Place of death Hampshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
 Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914-1947
Rank Air Marshal
Commands held No. 205 Squadron
No. 3 Squadron
No. 201 Squadron
Maintenance Command
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Force Cross

Air Marshal Sir David Grahame Donald KCB DFC AFC RAF (27 July 1891 – 23 December 1976), often known as Sir Grahame Donald, was a Royal Naval Air Service pilot during World War I, a senior Royal Air Force officer between the wars and a senior RAF commander during World War II. In February 1939, Donald was appointed Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry.[1] He was also a rugby union international having represented Scotland twice in 1914.

Early life[]

Grahame Donald was the son of Dr David Donald, and was educated at Dulwich College[2] where he played in a school team that featured five future international rugby footballers. From Dulwich he went on to University College, Oxford[2] and from there entered the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve[3] in 1914 as a surgeon probationer.[4] He served aboard a hospital ship, torpedo boat and a destroyer before transferring to the RNAS in 1916.[4]

Rugby career[]

Grahame Donald
Born David Grahame Donald
(1891-07-27)July 27, 1891
Died December 23, 1976(1976-12-23)

Whilst at Dulwich College he played in an unbeaten first XV in 1909 which contained five future internationals dubbed the 'Famous Five'.[5] These five would all go on to play in the 1913 Varsity match, (and also produced the captains of both Oxford and Cambridge in 1919), and all served in the First World War. They were Eric Loudoun-Shand and Grahame Donald who went on to play for Scotland, W. D. Doherty who went on to play for and captain Ireland, J. E. Greenwood who went on to play for and captain England and the record-breaking Cyril Lowe.

From Oxford, Grahame Donald was selected in 1914 to play for Scotland, who he represented as a prop against Wales on 7 February, and Ireland on 28 February. His participation in the First World War and subsequent career in the military ended his international rugby career.

Military career[]

Donald also became famous for his miraculous escape from death having fallen from his Sopwith Camel at 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in 1917. On that fateful summer's afternoon he attempted a new manoeuvre in his Sopwith Camel and flew the machine up and over, and as he reached the top of his loop, hanging upside down, his safety belt snapped and he fell out. He was not wearing a parachute as a matter of policy. Incredibly, the Camel had continued its loop downwards, and Donald landed on its top wing. He grabbed it with both hands, hooked one foot into the cockpit and wrestled himself back in, struggled to take control, and executed "an unusually good landing". In an interview given 55 years later he explained, "The first 2,000 feet passed very quickly and terra firma looked damnably 'firma'. As I fell I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly I fell back onto her."[6][page needed]

He was appointed Officer Commanding No. 205 Squadron in 1920, Officer Commanding No. 3 Squadron and Station Commander at RAF Leuchars in 1921 before he moved on with his new squadron to RAF Gosport the following year.[4] He joined the Directing Staff at the RAF Staff College, Andover in 1924 and became Officer Commanding No. 201 Squadron in 1928.[4] He went on to be Officer Commanding the School of Naval Co-operation in 1929, Officer Commanding No 1 (Indian Wing) Station at Kohat in India and then rejoined the Directing Staff, RAF Staff College in 1935.[4] After a tour as Instructor at the Imperial Defence College in 1937 he became Director-General of Organisation, a post he held at the start of World War II.[4] He was made Deputy Air Member for Supply and Organisation in 1941 and Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Maintenance Command in 1942 before retiring in 1947.[4]

Honours and awards[]

  • 3 June 1919 - Mention in Dispatches - Capt. David Grahame Donald for valuable services rendered during the war (Coast Patrol).[7]
  • 22 December 1919 - Distinguished Flying Cross - Flight Lietenant David Grahame Donald, AFC, in recognition of distinguished services rendered during the War and since the close of hostilities (BALTIC).[8]

Personal life[]

His first marriage was to Gwyneth Martin in 1916.[4] After her death he married Ailsa Stevenson in October 1947.[4]


Military offices
Preceded by
Sir John Bradley
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Maintenance Command
1942 – 1947
Succeeded by
Sir Cyril Cooke

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