28 January, 2009

Air Marshal Arthur W. Tedder

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Arthur William Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder of Glenguin, was a senior officer in the Royal Air Force and a significant British commander during the Second World War.

Arthur Tedder was born in Scotland at the Glenguin Distillery (now Glengoyne) north of Glasgow in 1890. He was the son of Sir Arthur John Tedder and Emily Charlotte Bryson. His father was distinguished as the Commissioner of the Board of Customs who devised the old age pension scheme. He was educated at Whitgift School and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read history.

While at University, Tedder had gained a reserve commission in the Dorsetshire Regiment in 1913. He joined the Colonial Service and served in the administration in Fiji, but returned to Britain to rejoin his regiment.

In 1916 he suffered a knee injury which made him unfit for further infantry service. As a result, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, serving in France from 1915 to 1917 where he served first with No. 25 Squadron RFC, then as commander of No. 70 Squadron RFC (1 Jan 1917) and then transferred to the Middle East as commander of No. 67 Squadron RFC/RAF (25 Jun 1917)) and then in Egypt from 1918 to 1919 as commander of the School of Navigation and Bomb Dropping and of 38th Wing (from 24 Jun 1918).

After the War, Tedder accepted a permanent commission in the new Royal Air Force (RAF) as a squadron leader and commanded Nos 207 and 274 Squadrons, both based at RAF Bircham Newton. No 207 Sqn (equipped with DH9a bombers) was briefly deployed to Turkey in 1922/3 during the Chanak Crisis. No 274 Sqn was equipped with the Handley Page V/1500, the largest RAF bomber of its time. From 1923, Tedder was involved in training, both as a pupil at the RN Staff College and the Imperial Defence College and on the staff at the Directorate of Training, the RAF Staff College and the Air Armament School (as officer commanding in 1932). By 1931 Tedder had reached the rank of group captain and from 1934 to 1936 he served as Director of Training.

In 1936, he was appointed Air Officer Commanding (AOC) RAF Far Eastern Forces and in 1938 he became director general for research in the Air Ministry.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Tedder's department was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Aircraft Production, but Tedder was unable to form a good working relationship with the minister, Lord Beaverbrook, and consequently with Prime Minister Churchill and in November 1940, he became Deputy Air Officer Commander in Chief, RAF Middle East Command.

Tedder was appointed as Air Officer Commander in Chief, RAF Middle East Command in June 1941, with the temporary rank of Air Marshal (made permanent in April 1942). He had not been Churchill's first choice for the role but when the preferred choice (Air Vice-Marshal O T Boyd) was captured, Tedder was appointed. As head of the RAF Middle East Command, he commanded Allied air operations in the Mediterranean and North Africa, covering the evacuation of Crete in May 1941 and Operation Crusader in north Africa. After experiencing victories and defeats supporting troops fighting General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, Tedder's air forces were key to the Allied victory at the Battle of El Alamein. One of his bombing tactics became known as the "Tedder Carpet".

In December 1943, by now a temporary Air Chief Marshal, Tedder took command of Allied Air Forces in the Mediterranean. He was involved in the planning of the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Arthur Tedder (centre) at the ceremony of the German unconditional surrender (May 1945). Standing is Soviet Marshal Zhukov reading the act of the surrender.When Operation Overlord - the invasion of France – came to be planned, Tedder was appointed Deputy Supreme Commander beneath U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Finding himself with little responsibility in this new role he wrested control of the air planning for D-Day from the commander of the Allied Air Expeditionary Force, Trafford Leigh-Mallory. He developed an antipathy towards the British General Bernard Montgomery and during the difficult Battle of Normandy and later, he was a critic of Montgomery's performance and advocated Montgomery's removal from command.

In the last year of the war Tedder was sent to Russia to seek assistance as the Western Front came under pressure during the Battle of the Bulge. When the unconditional surrender of the Germans came in May 1945 Tedder signed on behalf of General Eisenhower.

Knighted in 1942, Tedder was granted a peerage at the war's end. He followed Charles Portal as Chief of the Air Staff and served in that post from 1946 to 1950. In 1947 he delivered the Lees Knowles Lecture, which was then published as Air Power in War.

Although the nature of his war service denied him gallantry awards, he received several significant foreign awards from Belgium, France, the United States and elsewhere.

Tedder was the author of a historical study of the Royal Navy and also composed his war memoirs. In 1950 he became Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. In 1950 he served as the British representative on the military committee of NATO in Washington DC. He also served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC. He received at least six honorary LLD degrees, and was avidly interested in astronomy. In his later years he contracted Parkinson's Disease and died in Surrey in 1967, aged 76 years.

He married Rosalinde Maclardy who was killed in a plane crash in Egypt in 1943, an event that Tedder witnessed. Tedder remarried but his second wife predeceased him by about two years, in 1965. Tedder was the parent of: Dick (killed in France 1940), John Michael (1926-1994; Late Purdie Professor of Chemistry, University of St. Andrews), and a daughter Mina. His stepson Alasdair was also killed.

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