Marshal of the Royal Air Force (MRAF) is the highest rank in the Royal Air Force. In peacetime it was granted to RAF officers in the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff, and to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff, who were promoted to it on their last day of service. Promotions to the rank have ceased since the British defence cuts of the 1990s. While surviving Marshals of the RAF retain the rank for life, the highest rank to which officers on active service are promoted is now Air Chief Marshal. Although general promotions have ceased, further promotions to Marshal of the Royal Air Force are still possible in wartime and also for members of the Royal Family and certain other very senior officers in peacetime at the discretion of the Monarch.
Marshal of the Royal Air Force is a 5 star rank 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.
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 25 men who have held the rank. Of those, 21 have been professional RAF officers and four have been senior members of the British Royal Family. Technically King George V did not hold the rank but as the Chief of the Royal Air Force he did wear the uniform of a marshal of the RAF. 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.
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 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. This new title, which only existed on paper, did not last long. King George V took the view that the title of Marshal of the Air impinged upon the attributes which should properly be reserved for God and the rank title was changed at the King's request to Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
Insignia, command flag and star plate
The rank insignia consists of four narrow light blue bands (each on a slightly wider black band) over 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 the 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. Prior to 1953, the Tudor 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.
Marshals of the Royal Air Force
|Year of promotion||Officer||Year of birth||Year of death||Notes|
|1927||Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard||1873||1956||Promoted 1 January 1927.|
|1933||Sir John Salmond||1881||1968||Promoted 1 January 1933.|
|1936||HM King Edward VIII||1894||1972||Honorary rank.|
Promoted 21 January 1936.
|1936||HM King George VI||1895||1952||Honorary rank.|
Promoted 11 December 1936.
|1937||Sir Edward Ellington||1877||1967||Promoted 1 January 1937.|
|1940||Cyril Newall, 1st Baron Newall||1886||1963||Promoted 4 October 1940. Retired only 20 days later.|
|1944||Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford||1893||1971||Promoted 1 June 1944.|
|1945||Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder||1890||1967||Promoted 12 September 1945.|
|1946||William Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside||1893||1969||Promoted 1 January 1946.|
|1946||Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris||1892||1984||Promoted 1 January 1946, several months after retirement.|
|1950||Sir John Slessor||1897||1979||Promoted 8 June 1950.|
|1953||HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh||1921||-||Honorary rank.|
Promoted 15 January 1953.
|1954||Sir William Dickson||1898||1987||Promoted 1 June 1954.|
|1958||Sir Dermot Boyle||1904||1993||Promoted 1 January 1958.|
|1958||HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester||1900||1974||Honorary rank.|
Promoted 12 June 1958.
|1962||Sir Thomas Pike||1906||1983||Promoted 6 April 1962.|
|1967||Charles Elworthy, Baron Elworthy||1911||1993||Promoted 1 April 1967.|
|1971||Sir John Grandy||1913||2004||Promoted and retired on the same day (1 April 1971).|
|1974||Sir Denis Spotswood||1916||2001||Promoted and retired on the same day (31 March 1974).|
|1976||Sir Andrew Humphrey||1921||1977||Promoted 6 August 1976.|
|1977||Neil Cameron, Baron Cameron of Balhousie||1920||1985||Promoted 31 July 1977.|
|1982||Sir Michael Beetham||1923||-||Promoted and retired on the same day (14 October 1982).|
|1985||Sir Keith Williamson||1928||-||Promoted and retired on the same day (15 October 1985).|
|1988||David Craig, Baron Craig of Radley||1929||-||Promoted 14 November 1988.|
|1992||Sir Peter Harding||1933||-||Promoted 6 November 1992. Resigned commission 14 June 1994.|
Excluding monarchs and 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 World War II. 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.
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. 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.
- RAF officer ranks
- List of Royal Air Force air chief marshals
- Comparative military ranks
- Marshal of the Air Force
- General of the Air Force
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marshals of the Royal Air Force.|
- "Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. 2007. http://www.raf.mod.uk/structure/commissionedranks.cfm. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
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- Laffin, John (1964). Swifter than Eagles. A biography of Marshal of the RAF Sir John Salmond. William Blackwood & Sons Ltd. pp. 149.
- Raf 1
- "No. 33235". 31 December 1926. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33235/page/
- Barrass, Malcolm (9 October 2007). "Marshal of the RAF The Viscount Trenchard of Wolfeton". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Trenchard.htm. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
- "No. 33898". 30 December 1932. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33898/page/
- "No. 34251". 31 January 1936. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34251/page/
- "No. 34351". 18 December 1936. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34351/page/
- "No. 34356". 1 January 1937. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34356/page/
- Baron Newall
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-29). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Harris.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- "No. 39753". 13 January 1953. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39753/page/
- "No. 41409". 3 June 1958. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41409/page/
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-01). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Thomas Pike". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Pike_TG.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF The Lord Elworthy of Timaru". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Elworthy.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Grandy.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-10-07). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Denis Spotswood". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Spotswood.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. pp. 133. ISBN 0117726354.
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. pp. 135. ISBN 0117726354.
- "No. 47289". 1 August 1977. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/47289/page/
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. pp. 137. ISBN 0117726354.
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. pp. 139. ISBN 0117726354.
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. pp. 141. ISBN 0117726354.
- "No. 53103". 9 November 1992. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53103/page/
- "No. 53814". 10 October 1994. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53814/page/
- "From All Quarters" (pdf). 23 January 1953. p. 86. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1953/1953%20-%200088.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- "The King and the Sea". Time magazine. time.com. 1935-07-29. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,847457,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Rallings, Colin; Broughton, David (1996). "Reference Section". British Elections and Parties Yearbook. Farrell, David. Taylor & Francis. pp. 179. ISBN 0714642436.
- The Air Force List, 2006. HMSO ISBN 0-11-773038-6
|Commissioned officer ranks of the British Armed Forces|
|NATO rank code||Student Officer||OF-1||OF-2||OF-3||OF-4||OF-5||OF-6
|Royal Navy||O Cdt||Mid||SLt||Lt||Lt Cdr||Cdr||Capt||Cdre||RAdm
|Adm of the Fleet|
|Royal Marines||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen||Lt-Gen||Gen|
|Army||O Cdt||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen
|Royal Air Force||OC / SO||APO / Plt Off||Fg Off||Flt Lt||Sqn Ldr||Wg Cdr||Gp Capt||Air Cdre||AVM||Air Mshl||Air Chf Mshl
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