On his return
to Britain he learnt to fly. After obtaining his pilot's license
in December 1913, he joined the Royal Flying Corps. He was sent
to France and in 1915 was promoted to commander of 16 Squadron.
Battle of the Somme, Dowding clashed with General Hugh Trenchard,
the commander of the RFC, over the need to rest pilots exhausted
by non-stop duty. 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.
now joined the recently created Royal Air Force and in 1929
was promoted to vice marshal and the following year joined the
Dowding was promoted to air marshal and was knighted the following
year. As a member of the Air Council for Supply and Research,
he concentrated on research and development and helped prepare
the RAF for war. This included a design competition that led
to the production of the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine
Spitfire. He was also responsible for encouraging the development
of radar that became operational in 1937.
took command of Fighter Command where he argued that the Air
Ministry should concentrate on development of aircraft for the
defence of Britain rather than producing a fleet of bombers.
Aware that the RAF would struggle against the Luftwaffe, Dowding
advised Neville Chamberlain to appease Adolf Hitler in an attempt
to gain time to prepare the country for war.
Dowding worked closely with Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, the
commander of No. 11 Fighter Group, in covering the evacuation
at Dunkirk. Although Dowding only had 200 planes at his disposal
he managed to gain air superiority over the Luftwaffe. However,
he was unwilling to sacrifice his pilots in what he considered
to be a futile attempt to help Allied troops during the Western
Battle of Britain Dowding was criticized by Air Vice Marshal
William Sholto Douglas, assistant chief of air staff, and Air
Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, for not being aggressive
enough. Douglas took the view that RAF fighters should be sent
out to meet the German planes before they reached Britain. Dowding
rejected this strategy as being too dangerous and argued it
would increase the number of pilots being killed.
was credited with winning the Battle of Britain and was awarded
the Knight Grand Cross. His old adversary, Hugh Trenchard, also
told him that he had been guilty of gravely underestimating
him for 26 years.
Air Chief Marshal Charles Portal, the new chief of the air staff,
had agreed with William Sholto Douglas in the dispute over tactics
and in November 1941, and Dowding was encouraged to retire from
his post. Douglas had the added satisfaction of taking over
from Dowding as head of Fighter Command.
was now sent on special duty in the United States for the Ministry
of Aircraft Production before retiring from the Royal Air Force
in July, 1942. The following year he was honoured with a baronetcy.
In his retirement
he published Many Mansions (1943), Lynchgate (1945), Twelve
Legions of Angels (1946), God's Magic (1946) and The Dark Star
(1951). Hugh Dowding died on 15th February, 1970.