Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside

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Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside GCB, MC, DFC (23 December 1893 – 29 October 1969) was a senior figure in the Royal Air Force up to and during World War II.


Early life

Douglas was born in Headington, Oxfordshire, the son of Professor Robert Langton Douglas and his wife Margaret Jane (née Cannon). On his father's side he was descended from Sir Archibald Douglas, a younger son of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Queensberry. He was educated at Tonbridge School and Lincoln College, Oxford.[1]


At the outbreak of World War I Douglas was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery. In 1915, following a disagreement with his Commanding Officer, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps joining 2 Squadron as an observer.[2] He soon trained as a pilot and earned Royal Aero Club certificate No 1301.[2] By September 1917 he was a major and Commanding Officer of 84 Squadron.[2] The squadron became one of the premier RFC/RAF fighter units in 1918 and by the end of the war Douglas had been awarded a Military Cross and a Distinguished Flying Cross.[2]

Post-war Douglas worked briefly for Handley Page and as a commercial pilot before rejoining the Royal Air Force in 1920 after a chance meeting with Hugh Trenchard. He became an RAF instructor before being appointed to the Air Ministry in 1936. He was raised to Air Vice Marshal in 1938 and made assistant chief of air staff.[2]

In 1940, during World War II, Douglas and Trafford Leigh-Mallory clashed with the head of No. 11 Group, Keith Park, and the head of Fighter Command, Hugh Dowding, over strategy in the Battle of Britain. Douglas argued for a more aggressive engagement with a 'Big Wing' strategy. When Charles Portal was made Chief of the Air Staff in October 1940 he supported Douglas, moving Park and Dowding and appointing Douglas to replace Dowding as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOCinC) of Fighter Command.[2]

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