Biography of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by PA. Dutchman, May 13, 2011.

  1. PA. Dutchman

    PA. Dutchman Senior Member

    Coningham: A Biography of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham(.pdf)

    World War I service
    Coningham volunteered for service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1914. He served in Egypt and Somaliland, but developed Typhoid fever and was invalided out of service. In 1916, he betook himself to England and volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps.[5] By the end of the war he had attained the rank of Major and was in command of No. 92 Squadron.[5] He had destroyed four enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of three others with Evander Shapard, Frank Billinge, and Arthur Randell. He was also credited with seven victories for having driven down an enemy machine out of control. He emerged from the war with two wounds, a DSO, and a Military Cross.[5] During this time, he had also acquired the nickname "Maori" as a play on his heritage; over the years, this would become corrupted into "Mary".[6]
    [edit] Inter-war years

    After the end of World War I, Coningham remained in the Royal Air Force, initially remaining as Officer Commanding No. 92 Squadron.[5] During the early 1920s he served as a technical and flying instructor before being posted to No. 55 Squadron flying DH9As out of Mosul in Iraq.[5] In the summer of 1923 Coningham was promoted to squadron leader and appointed as the Officer Commanding of No. 55 Squadron.[5] From early 1924 to early 1926 Coningham carried out staff officer duties, first at the headquarters of Egyptian Group and then at the headquarters of RAF Middle East.[5]
    After further service at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell and the Central Flying School, Coningham was promoted to wing commander in 1931.[5] The next year he was sent to the Sudan as the senior RAF officer.[5]
    On his return to Great Britain in 1935 he took up staff duties in Coastal Area before being promoted to group captain and serving as the Senior Air Staff Officer at the headquarters of No. 17 Group.[5] From 1937 to 1939, Coningham was the Officer Commanding RAF Calshot.[5]
    World War II service

    Coningham began the war commanding Bomber Command's No.4 Group, which he led for two years in the bombing offensive against Germany.[5] In 1941 he was sent to the Middle East, where he assumed command of the Western Desert Air Force.[5] He inherited a poorly functioning situation, where the Royal Air Force was almost totally failing to support ground troops. He promptly delegated out technical duties to those he trusted and did not micromanage them; however, he held his subordinates strictly responsible for achieving the results he wanted. Any mistakes by his underlings that resulted in fatalities to friendly troops were grounds for dismissal by Coningham.

    Faced with equipment shortages, a hostile desert environment, and superior enemy planes, Coningham's management system, through judicious deployment of his squadrons, gradually achieved air superiority in the North African campaign. In particular, Coningham developed the use of fighter-bombers, able to fight as fighter planes in the air or in bombing and strafing attacks of enemy ground targets. Coningham developed an efficient ground support system to keep planes flying, and a command and control system to allow ground observers to radio in air attacks. Coningham's Western Desert Air Force, in continuous air attacks of enemy ground targets, was instrumental in stopping the enemy offensive at El Alamein in July 1942. Coningham formed a close relationship with the new commander of the British Eighth Army, General Bernard Montgomery.[1] Montgomery and Coningham recognised the importance of joint operations. The air power doctrine devised by Coningham is the basis of modern joint operations doctrine. The dominance of the Allied air force was a critical factor in the British victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. Coningham's doctrine of tactical air power would reach its fruition in early 1943, when RAF and USAAF fighter-bombers and bombers attacked enemy land forces.

    Coningham's doctrine was fundamental. He stated that the greatest attribute of air power was its ability to speedily concentrate its force. It followed that its command must also be concentrated. Tactical air power had to be closely coordinated with the ground forces, but the army could not command it. He stated as much in a pamphlet that was widely distributed, to every ranking officer in North Africa, so that they would know what to expect. The pamphlet was later copied nearly verbatim as part of the United States Field Manual on use of air power. FM 100-20 also included Coningham's priorities for success in use of tactical air power. First, gain air superiority. Second, use the air superiority gained to interdict enemy reinforcements of men and materiel. Third, combine air attacks with ground assaults on the front lines.

    Coningham was knighted after El Alamein and continued to provide tactical air support for the Eighth Army until they occupied Tripoli in January 1943.[1]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Coningham (centre) with Montgomery (left) and Dempsey (right) prior to the British crossing of the Rhine

    Later in 1943 Coningham was promoted to Air Marshal and directed tactical air force operations in the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy as commander of the 1st Allied Tactical Air Force.

    As the leading exponent of tactical air warfare, Coningham was the obvious choice to command 2nd Tactical Air Force, the Allied tactical air forces in the North-West European campaign, and in January 1944 he was recalled to England where he helped plan air support for the Normandy Landings.

    He remained commander of the 2nd Tactical Air Force until July 1945, when he was replaced by Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas and appointed head of Flying Training Command.

    Retirement and disappearance

    Coningham's career ended on 1 August 1947 after 30 years of commissioned service.[5] He requested that his retirement be shown as taking place at his own request. He disappeared on 30 January 1948 when the airliner G-AHNP Star Tiger in which he was travelling to Bermuda was lost off the east coast of the United States.[5]
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    PA Dutchman
    I am not aware of whoever wrote that biography - but I would have little hesitation in nominating him/her for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction - it would be sure to win.
  3. PA. Dutchman

    PA. Dutchman Senior Member

    You would know best, no insult meant and I apologize.

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