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Chief of the Air Staff
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Ensign of the Royal Air Force
(CAS Command Flag)
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston CBE.jpg
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston

since 26 July 2019
Ministry of Defence
Style Air Chief Marshal
Abbreviation CAS
Member of Defence Council
Air Force Board
Reports to Chief of the Defence Staff
Nominator Secretary of State for Defence
Appointer Prime Minister
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council[1]
Term length 3 Years
Formation 3 January 1918
First holder Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard
Deputy Deputy Commander Capability/Operations
Website Official website

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) is the professional head of the Royal Air Force and a member of both the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Air Force Board. The post was created in 1918 with Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard as the first incumbent. The current and 30th Chief of the Air Staff is Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston, who succeeded Sir Stephen Hillier in July 2019.

History[edit | edit source]

The post of Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) was established in January 1918, just prior to the official formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and its first occupant was Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard. Following Trenchard's resignation in March 1918 after disagreements with the first air minister, Lord Rothermere, his rival Major General Sir Frederick Sykes was appointed. For political reasons Trenchard's resignation did not take effect until late April in order that he would be CAS when the RAF was formed. With Winston Churchill's post-war appointment as Secretary of State for War and Air, Sykes was moved sideways to head up the nascent Civil Aviation ministry and Trenchard returned as CAS. In the early 1920s, Trenchard had to fight to keep the RAF from being divided and absorbed back into the Royal Navy and the British Army. After Lord Trenchard retired in 1930 there were still suggestions that the RAF should be broken up, but Trenchard's foundations proved solid.[2]

By the time the Second World War broke out in 1939, the then occupant of the post, Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril Newall, had a service that had been undergoing the most rapid of expansions during the British rearmament programs of the late 1930s. Newall gave way in 1940 to Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, who led the service for the rest of the war. Portal was a tireless defender of the RAF and highly capable in administration and strategy. Postwar the RAF was reoriented to perform the dual roles of defending the shrinking British Empire and possibly fighting against the Soviet Union in a Warsaw Pact verses NATO war over Germany and the United Kingdom. The Chiefs of the Air Staff of the day had to fight a constant battle to keep the British aircraft industry alive. In the end only minimal success was achieved, with only a rump aviation industrial base left by the 1970s.[3]

The first eight Chiefs of the Air Staff were originally commissioned in the British Army, with four coming from the infantry, two from the artillery and one each from the cavalry and the engineers. Of these both Lord Trenchard and Sir John Salmond each held the post over two separate periods. By the early mid-1950s sufficient time had elapsed for officers originally commissioned in the British air services of the First World War to have risen through the ranks to RAF's senior post; Sir John Slessor had originally served in the Royal Flying Corps while Sir William Dickson was commissioned into the Royal Naval Air Service. In 1956 Sir Dermot Boyle became the first CAS to have originally been commissioned in the RAF.[4]

Chiefs of the Air Staff[edit | edit source]

The following list gives details of the chiefs of the air staff from 1918 to the present:[1]

Chief of the Air Staff Took office Left office Time in office Flying specialism or arm Ref
Sir Hugh Trenchard
Trenchard, HughMajor General Sir Hugh Trenchard
3 January 191813 April 1918100 daysInfantry[5]
Sir Frederick Sykes
Sykes, FrederickMajor General Sir Frederick Sykes
13 April 191831 March 1919352 daysCavalry[6]
Sir Hugh Trenchard
Trenchard, HughMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Hugh Trenchard
31 March 19191 January 193010 years, 276 daysInfantry[7]
Sir John Salmond
Salmond, JohnAir Chief Marshal Sir John Salmond
1 January 19301 April 19333 years, 90 daysInfantry[8]
Sir Geoffrey Salmond
Salmond, GeoffreyAir Chief Marshal Sir Geoffrey Salmond
1 April 193327 April 1933 †26 daysArtillery[9]
Sir John Salmond
Salmond, JohnMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Salmond (Acting)
28 April 193322 May 193324 daysInfantry[10]
Sir Edward Ellington
Ellington, EdwardMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Edward Ellington
22 May 19331 September 19374 years, 102 daysArtillery[11]
Sir Cyril Newall
Newall, CyrilMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Cyril Newall
1 September 193725 October 19403 years, 54 daysInfantry[12]
The Lord Portal
Portal, CharlesMarshal of the Royal Air Force The Lord Portal
25 October 19401 January 19465 years, 68 daysEngineers[13]
Sir Arthur Tedder
Tedder, ArthurMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Tedder
1 January 19461 January 19504 years, 0 daysInfantry[14]
Sir John Slessor
Slessor, JohnMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor
1 January 19501 January 19533 years, 0 daysFighters (biplanes)[15]
Sir William Dickson
Dickson, WilliamMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson
1 January 19531 January 19563 years, 0 daysNaval aviation (biplanes)[16]
Sir Dermot Boyle
Boyle, DermotMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Dermot Boyle
1 January 19561 January 19604 years, 0 daysFighters (biplanes)[17]
Sir Thomas Pike
Pike, ThomasMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Thomas Pike
1 January 19601 September 19633 years, 243 daysFighters (biplanes)[18]
13Elworthy, CharlesAir Chief Marshal Sir Charles Elworthy
1 September 19631 April 19673 years, 212 daysBombers (biplanes)[19]
Sir John Grandy
Grandy, JohnAir Chief Marshal Sir John Grandy
1 April 19671 April 19714 years, 0 daysFighters (biplanes)[20]
Sir Denis Spotswood
Spotswood, DenisAir Chief Marshal Sir Denis Spotswood
1 April 19711 April 19743 years, 0 daysMultirole (monoplane)[21]
Sir Andrew Humphrey
Humphrey, AndrewAir Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Humphrey
1 April 19747 August 19762 years, 159 daysFighters (monoplane)[22]
Sir Neil Cameron
Cameron, NeilMarshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron
7 August 197610 August 1977337 daysFighters (monoplane)[23]
Sir Michael Beetham
Beetham, MichaelAir Chief Marshal Sir Michael Beetham
10 August 197715 October 19825 years, 66 daysBombers (monoplane)[24]
Sir Keith Williamson
Williamson, KeithAir Chief Marshal Sir Keith Williamson
15 October 198215 October 19853 years, 0 daysFighters (fast jet)[25]
Sir David Craig
Craig, DavidAir Chief Marshal Sir David Craig
(born 1929)
15 October 198514 November 19883 years, 30 daysFighters (fast jet)[26]
Sir Peter Harding
Harding, PeterAir Chief Marshal Sir Peter Harding
(born 1933)
14 November 19886 November 19923 years, 358 daysBombers (fast jet)[27]
Sir Michael Graydon
Graydon, MichaelAir Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon
(born 1938)
6 November 199210 April 19974 years, 155 daysFighters (fast jet)[28]
Sir Richard Johns
Johns, RichardAir Chief Marshal Sir Richard Johns
(born 1939)
10 April 199721 April 20003 years, 11 daysFighters (fast jet)[29]
Sir Peter Squire
Squire, PeterAir Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire
21 April 20001 August 20033 years, 102 daysFighters (fast jet)[30]
Sir Jock Stirrup
Stirrup, JockAir Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup
(born 1949)
1 August 200313 April 20062 years, 255 daysGround attack/
reconnaissance (fast jet)
Sir Glenn Torpy
Torpy, GlennAir Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy
(born 1953)
13 April 200631 July 20093 years, 109 daysGround attack (fast jet)[32]
Sir Stephen Dalton
Dalton, StephenAir Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton
(born 1954)
31 July 200931 July 20134 years, 0 daysGround attack (fast jet)[33]
Sir Andrew Pulford
Pulford, AndrewAir Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford
(born 1958)
31 July 201311 July 20162 years, 346 daysHelicopters[34]
Sir Stephen Hillier
Hillier, StephenAir Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier
(born 1962)
11 July 201626 July 20193 years, 15 daysGround attack (fast jet)[35]
Michael Wigston
Wigston, MichaelAir Chief Marshal Michael Wigston
(born 1968)
26 July 2019Incumbent1 year, 166 daysGround attack (fast jet)[36]
  1. ^ The ranks and titles shown are the highest that the officer in question attained during his tour as Chief of the Air Staff. However, in the case where the officer was promoted on the day before he was posted or retired, then the lower rank is shown.

Other service chiefs[edit | edit source]

Generally relevant[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Departmental Resource Accounts 2006-7 Ministry of Defence
  2. "Sir John Salmond". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35915. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  3. "Meeting our makers: Britain’s long industrial decline". 24 January 2013. http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2013/01/meeting-our-makers-britain%E2%80%99s-long-industrial-decline. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  4. "Sir Dermot Alexander Boyle". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/51502. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  5. 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. 
  6. "Air Vice Marshal Sir Frederick Sykes". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Sykes.htm. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  7. "No. 31348". 20 May 1919. p. 6249. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31348/page/6249 
  8. "No. 33565". 31 December 1929. p. 8506. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33565/page/8506 
  9. "No. 33926". 31 March 1933. p. 2194. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33926/supplement/2194 
  10. "No. 33936". 2 May 1933. p. 2940. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33936/page/2940 
  11. "No. 33942". 23 May 1933. p. 3457. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33942/page/3457 
  12. "No. 34432". 3 September 1937. p. 5561. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34432/page/5561 
  13. "No. 34989". 12 November 1940. p. 6492. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34989/supplement/6492 
  14. "Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder". Air of Authority: A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Tedder.htm. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  15. "No. 38795". 30 December 1949. p. 6168. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/38795/supplement/6168 
  16. "No. 39739". 30 December 1952. p. 56. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39739/supplement/56 
  17. "No. 40666". 27 December 1955. p. 7307. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40666/supplement/7307 
  18. "No. 41664". 20 March 1959. p. 1979. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41664/supplement/1979 
  19. "No. 42924". 15 February 1963. p. 1615. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/42924/supplement/1615 
  20. "No. 44281". 31 March 1967. p. 3691. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/44281/supplement/3691 
  21. "No. 45337". 5 April 1971. p. 3340. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/45337/supplement/3340 
  22. "No. 46252". 1 April 1974. p. 4287. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/46252/supplement/4287 
  23. "No. 46984". 10 August 1976. p. 10916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/46984/supplement/10916 
  24. "No. 47289". 1 August 1977. p. 9978. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/47289/supplement/9978 
  25. "No. 49156". 1 November 1982. p. 14275. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/49156/supplement/14275 
  26. "No. 50279". 7 October 1985. p. 13878. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/50279/supplement/13878 
  27. "No. 51543". 28 November 1988. p. 13394. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/51543/supplement/13394 
  28. "Sir Michael Graydon". Debretts People of Today. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20141110202105/http://www.debretts.com/people-of-today/profile/6819/Michael-James-GRAYDON. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  29. "Sir Richard Johns". Debretts People of Today. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20141110145727/http://www.debretts.com/people-of-today/profile/950/Richard-Edward-JOHNS. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  30. Who's Who 2010, A & C Black, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4081-1414-8
  31. "Sir Jock Stirrup". NATO. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-4084B1D8-A915087A/natolive/who_is_who_50457.htm. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  32. "No. 57965". 25 April 2006. p. 5686. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/57965/supplement/5686 
  33. "Air Rank Appointments List 07/08 dated 16 October 2008". Ministry of Defence. http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/0A01BEEB_1143_EC82_2EECD1B592959ED2.doc. Retrieved 26 May 2012. 
  34. "No. 60575". 23 July 2013. p. 14490. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/60575/supplement/14490 
  35. "No. 61656". 26 July 2016. p. 16088. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/61656/supplement/16088 
  36. "A 'generation of innovators' has been appointed to run the military in a shake-up of the top ranks of the Army, Navy and RAF" (in en). 3 December 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/03/generation-innovators-has-appointed-run-military-shake-up-top/. Retrieved 3 December 2018. 

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