|Sir William Forster Dickson|
Dickson sitting down to afternoon tea while attending a conference at the Tactical Headquarters of the 8th Army, near Venafro, Italy.
|Born||24 September 1898|
|Died||12 September 1987(aged 88)|
|Place of birth||Northwood, Middlesex|
|Place of death||RAF Hospital, Wroughton, Wiltshire|
Royal Navy (1916–1918)|
Royal Air Force (1918–1959)
|Years of service||1916 – 1959|
|Rank||Marshal of the Royal Air Force|
No. 25 Squadron|
No. 9 (Fighter) Group
No. 10 Group
No. 83 Group
Desert Air Force
RAF Mediterranean & Middle East
Chief of the Air Staff
World War I|
World War II
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath|
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Air Force Cross
Mention in Despatches (3)
|Other work||Master of The Glass Sellers’ Company|
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Forster Dickson GCB, KBE, DSO, AFC (24 September 1898 – 12 September 1987) was a Royal Naval Air Service aviator during World War I, an middle-ranking Royal Air Force officer during the inter-war years and a senior Royal Air Force commander during and after World War II. Dickson was Chief of the Air Staff in the mid-1950s in which role his main preoccupation was the establishment of the V Force and the necessary supporting weapons, airfields and personnel. He also served as the first Chief of the Defence Staff in the late 1950s.
Born the son of Campbell Cameron Forster Dickson and Agnes Dickson (née Nelson-Ward and a direct descendant of Lord Nelson) Dickson was educated both at Bowden House in the Sussex town of Seaford and at Haileybury College.
World War I and inter-war years
Dickson joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 8 October 1916 and after completing flying training, he served as a pilot at RNAS Grain on the Isle of Grain. From August 1917 he was a pilot on HMS Furious, where he carried out pioneering work, performing deck landings and taking part in the first bombing raid from an aircraft carrier in history. He was mentioned in despatches on 1 October 1917. He was promoted to captain in the flying branch on 7 October 1918 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 21 September 1918. Dickson spent the last few weeks of the War on HMS Revenge, having been posted there in October 1918, before taking up duties on HMS Queen Elizabeth in April 1919. He was mentioned in despatches again on 1 January 1919 and received a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force on 1 August 1919.
The early 1920s saw Dickson transfer rapidly from one post to another. In March 1920, he was appointed to the staff at RAF Gosport and two months later he was appointed as a pilot on No. 210 Squadron which was based at Gosport and had recently been reformed. Just under a year later in April 1921, Dickson returned to sea on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus and in January 1922 Dickson was sent to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where he served as a test pilot. He was awarded the Air Force Cross on 3 June 1922 and promoted to flight lieutenant on 30 June 1922. It was not until 1923 that Dickson's career became more settled. In May he was appointed the Personal Advisor to the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and Director of Operations and Intelligence, Air Commodore John Steel and he remained in this post until July 1926 when he was removed from duties for three weeks due to illness following a motor-cycle accident. He was posted to No. 56 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill as a flight commander later that month. He attended the RAF Staff College in Autumn 1927 remaining there as a supernumerary officer during the whole of the following year.
Dickson was posted to the staff at No. 1 (Indian Wing) Station at RAF Kohat in February 1929 and found himself flying missions over the North West Frontier. In April 1930, he became Personal Assistant to the Air Officer Commanding RAF India. Promoted to squadron leader on 5 November 1930, he remained on the staff at RAF India and was mentioned in despatches again on 26 June 1931. Appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1934 Birthday Honours, he joined the air staff at Headquarters Western Area in September 1934. He was appointed Officer Commanding No. 25 Squadron at RAF Hawkinge in January 1935 and then joined the Directing Staff at the RAF Staff College in March 1936. He was promoted to wing commander on 1 January 1937 and attended Imperial Defence College in Spring 1939.
World War II
At the start of World War II, Dickson was on the staff of the Directorate of Plans. He was appointed to the Joint Planning Staff, which was a subcommittee of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and involved supporting the planning carried out by Winston Churchill and the senior British military commanders. Dickson continued in this work for the first two years of the War, receiving a temporary promotion to group captain on 2 January 1940, (made permanent in April 1942) being appointed Director of Plans in March 1941 and gaining an acting promotion to air commodore in April 1941.
In May 1942 Dickson took up post as the Senior Air Staff Officer at the Headquarters of No. 9 (Fighter) Group. However, Dickson did not remain as a staff officer for long. The following month he was appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 9 (Fighter) Group and in November 1942 he took up command of No. 10 Group. While serving as AOC No. 10 Group, Dickson accompanied C-in-C Fighter Command Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory on a visit to the Air Headquarters in the Western Desert. He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1942 Birthday Honours and promoted to the rank of acting air vice marshal on 26 June 1942. In March 1943, Dickson was given the task of setting up No. 83 Group, which as the first composite group would provide the model for the future groups of the soon to be established Second Tactical Air Force which was formed for the planned invasion of Europe.
Although Dickson had spent considerable time in planning and preparation for the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe, he did not take part in the operations: on 1 December 1943 he was granted a temporary promotion to air vice-marshal and in April 1944 he was given command of the Desert Air Force (formerly the Air Headquarters in the Western Desert) which was operating in Italy after the Allied victory in North Africa in 1943. He was awarded the Soviet Order of Suvorov (3rd Class) on 11 April 1944. In December 1944, Dickson was recalled to London, taking up the post of Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Policy), a post which he held throughout the rest of the War and into mid-1946. He was advanced to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services during operations in Italy on 5 July 1945 and was appointed a Commander of the American Legion of Merit on 13 November 1945.
Post War and later life
He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1946 New Year Honours. He was appointed Vice-Chief of the Air Staff with the acting rank of air marshal on 1 June 1946 and confirmed in the rank of air marshal on 1 July 1947. He became Commander-in-Chief RAF Mediterranean & Middle East in March 1948 and Air Member for Supply and Organisation on 2 March 1950. He was promoted to air chief marshal on 8 January 1951. He was advanced Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1952 New Year Honours.
He became Chief of the Air Staff in 1 January 1953. As such he was the only Chief of the Air Staff to have been originally commissioned in the Royal Navy (Sir Frederick Sykes served in the Navy for a little under a year even though he was originally commissioned in the Army). In that role his main preoccupation was the establishment of the V Force and the necessary supporting weapons, airfields and personnel. He was advanced Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1953 New Year Honours. He attended the funeral of King George VI in February 1952 and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. He was promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force on 1 June 1954. He was the first and only Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, serving from 1 January 1956, through the Suez Crisis, until 1 January 1959 when he became the first Chief of the Defence Staff, a post he held until July 1959.
In retirement he worked for a variety of charitable organisations including the Royal Central Asian Society, the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society and the Forces Help Society. He died at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Wroughton in Wiltshire on 12 September 1987.
In 1932 he married Patricia Marguerite Allen; they had two daughters, one of whom died in childhood.
- "Dickson, Sir William Forster". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/40137?docPos=1. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- Probert, p. 46
- "Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Dickson.htm. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- "No. 31000". 8 November 1918. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31000/page/
- "No. 31098". 31 December 1918. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31098/page/
- "No. 31486". 1 August 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31486/page/
- "No. 32725". 30 June 1922. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/32725/page/
- "No. 33658". 4 November 1930. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33658/page/
- "No. 34056". 1 June 1934. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34056/page/
- "No. 34356". 1 January 1937. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34356/page/
- Probert, p. 47
- "No. 34765". 2 January 1940. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34765/page/
- "No. 35525". 14 April 1942. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35525/page/
- "No. 35586". 5 June 1942. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35586/page/
- "No. 35741". 9 October 1942. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35741/page/
- Probert, p. 48
- "No. 36340". 18 January 1944. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/36340/page/
- "No. 36463". 7 April 1944. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/36463/page/
- "No. 37161". 3 July 1945. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37161/page/
- "No. 37407". 28 December 1945. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37407/page/
- "No. 37590". 31 May 1946. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37590/page/
- "No. 38015". 11 July 1947. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/38015/page/
- "No. 38855". 7 March 1950. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/38855/page/
- "No. 39129". 19 January 1951. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39129/page/
- "No. 39739". 30 December 1952. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39739/page/
- Probert, p. 49
- "No. 39732". 30 December 1952. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39732/page/
- "No. 39575". 17 June 1952. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39575/page/
- "No. 40020". 17 November 1953. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40020/page/
- "No. 40186". 28 May 1954. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40186/page/
- Probert, p. 50
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Dickson.|
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. HMSO. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
- Papers of William Dickson
L H Slatter
|Air Officer Commanding No. 9 Group
C R Steele
A H Orlebar
|Air Officer Commanding No. 10 Group
1942 – 1943
C R Steele
|New title||Air Officer Commanding No. 83 Group
1943 – 1944
|Air Officer Commanding Desert Air Force
R M Foster
|Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Policy)
1944 – 1946
Sir William Elliott
Sir Douglas Evill
|Vice-Chief of the Air Staff
1946 – 1947
Sir James Robb
Sir Charles Medhurst
|Commander-in-Chief RAF Mediterranean and Middle East
Sir John Baker
Sir George Pirie
|Air Member for Supply and Organisation
Sir John Whitworth-Jones
Sir John Slessor
|Chief of the Air Staff
Sir Dermot Boyle
|Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
|Post redesignated as Chief of the Defence Staff|
Post established by redesignating
Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
|Chief of the Defence Staff
The Viscount Mountbatten of Burma
|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|