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Sir Charles Portal

1893 - 1971

Sir Charles Portal
Sir Charles Portal

Charles Fredrick Algernon Portal was born May 21st 1893 and educated in Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford.

At the start of World War I he joined the Motor Cyclist section of the Royal Engineers. In 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) as an observer, but by 1916 he was regarded as a pilot. By 1917 Portal was commanding a squadron and was later promoted to lieutenant colonel RAF in June 1918. He was also awarded the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and bar.

Between the wars his career progressed very far with several promotions. In 1925 he was promoted to wing commander and became commander of No. 7 (Bomber) squadron in 1927. By 1934 he was group captain and was appointed commander of British forces in Aden. In 1937 Portal was again promoted to air vice marshal and appointed as Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry. He remained at this post until being appointed to the Air Council in 1939 as Air Member for Personnel.

When World War II broke out, Portal was highly respected by many and was given the rank of acting air marshal whist still on the Air Council. He was later chosen to succeed Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt as Commander-in-Chief Bomber Command. He was Commander in Chief for only six months but guided the command through the rough summer of 1940. During his command he issued orders that all Hampdens and Wellingtons were to perform night operations only after disastrous daylight attacks against the German fleet at Kristiansand. In October 1940, Charles Portal was appointed Chief of Air Staff after being knighted, a post he held until the end of the war. He was promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force in April 1942.

From 1948 to 1951 Portal was the controller of Atomic Energy at the Ministry of Supply. In 1960 he was elected chairman of the British Aircraft Corporation.

Portal died on April 22nd 1971 aged 77 after losing a fight with cancer.

Charles Portal was one of the principle architects of the Allied victory in Europe and hence the War. He was a favourite of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Charles Portal: Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command, 1940
Charles Portal: Commander-in-Chief,
Bomber Command, 1940


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