Sir Hugh Dowding Air Chief Marshal, a Scot responsible for RAF fighter Command, organized the complex air defense system which stopped Hitler’s attempt to subdue Britain.

Despite the victory, Dowding was fired from his position. His supporters claim that Dowding was the victim of a plot orchestrated by a group of top RAF officers. Since then, the controversy surrounding Dowding’s firing has heatedly debated.

What was the secret to the mysterious downfall of this quiet and austere man whose reserved personality was frequently mistakenly thought to be aloofness, earning him the nickname Stuffy’ from his RAF colleagues. 

Dowding was the child of St Ninian, the founder of St Ninian’s preparatory school. He was born in Moffat, Dumfriesshire. His academic prowess earned him a scholarship at Winchester College. He joined the Army Cadet Corps to avoid classical Greek lessons.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the Scot in charge of RAF fighter command, organised the sophisticated air defence system that thwarted Hitler's bid to grind Britain under the jackboot. Above: His statue in London

Sir Hugh Dowding (Air Chief Marshal), was the Scot who managed RAF fighter command. He created the advanced air defense system that stopped Hitler from putting Britain to the sword. Above: The statue of his in London

Following his graduation from school, he entered the Royal Military Academy Woolwich and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. This position saw him serve in India, Gibraltar, Hong Kong.

He was attracted to aviation when he returned to Britain and began to fly in the newly formed Royal Flying Corps. His father thought flying was dangerous, and asked him to quit. Then the First World War broke out.

Dowding, 32 years old, was too young to be a fighter pilot in frontline combat. He was therefore sent to France. He was appointed to 16 Squadron as commanding officer in 1915. However, he became a formidable enemy when he met Lord Trenchard who would become commander of RFC. This man is often referred too as the ‘father of the RAF. 

His marriage to Clarice, a young widow of an Army officer in 1918 brought him personal satisfaction. In addition, he gave birth to their son Derek.

Dowding was not happy, and Clarice succumbed to cancer two years after Dowding. The deeply grieving pilot became more isolated and found solace in his work.

He rose steadily in what would become the Royal Air Force and became Air Chief Marshal. However, in 1936, his top position of Chief of Air Staff was vacant so he was made commander-in­-chief of Fighter Command.

Despite opposition from traditionalists he was able to free the RAF of its attachment to biplanes. He also oversaw the introduction and operation of monoplane fighters like the Hawker Hurricane or Supermarine Spitfire.

He also understood the significance of the new technology to detect hostile aircraft. This is being created by Robert Watson-Watt, the brilliant Scots scientist. The radio direction finding, also known later as radar.

Dowding’s efforts helped to ensure that Britain had an extensive radar network in place when war broke out with Nazi Germany. 

Dowding worked with Keith Park, Air Vice Marshal, another fighter tactician who commanded the RAF Number 11 Group in South-East England. Together, they devised a strategy for meeting Luftwaffe Raiders in small groups of squadron strength. This allowed Dowding to take down the enemy, while still conserving limited resources of fighters. 

Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Goering made the reckless decision to give up his attack on the RAF’s Airfields to support civilian targets in London. This relieved Fighter Command of the burden and allowed Dowding’s squadrons, which were already under severe pressure to rebuild.

More Spitfires and Hurricanes were intercepting German raiders in September and inflicting heavy losses.

Hitler finally accepted that there was no air superiority over the south of England after the epic air battles of September 15. In which the Luftwaffe lost 56 aircraft to the RAF 28’s 28, Hitler quietly cancelled Operation Sea Lion.

Dowding, however, was replaced in a matter of weeks. Churchill is reported to be surprised at Dowding’s dismissal so quickly after the Battle of Britain but decided not to intervene.

Thus, the Scot who was not promoted to Marshal of Royal Air Force received a minor posting at the Ministry of Aircraft Production and would soon retire in 1942.