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Sir Geoffrey Salmond (1878-1933) Air Chief Marshal And Chief Of The Air Staff

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Sir Geoffrey Salmond (1878-1933) Air Chief Marshal And Chief Of The Air Staff

Posted: 1222397263000
Classification: Obituary
Surnames: Salmond, Trenchard, Carr, Brooke-Popham, Ellington
We regret to announce that Air Chief Marshal Sir Geoffrey Salmond died yesterday at King Edward VII Hospital for Officers, Grosvenor Crescent, at the age of 54. On April 1 he succeeded his brother, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir John Salmond, as Chief of the Air Staff, but owing to his serious illness it was arranged that Sir John Salmond should act for him in this post for a time.
Whenever future students of history study the growth of the air arm in war they will find three names outstanding, those of Sir Hugh (now Lord) Trenchard and of the brothers Sir John and Sir Geoffrey Salmond. The three names will be ranked in that order of importance, but Geoffrey was the elder of the brothers. In rank in the Royal Flying Corps and afterwards in the Royal Air Force, Geoffrey was always a little behind his brother, but they both held positions of the highest importance and both displayed outstanding qualities in command and in administration.

William Geoffrey Hanson Salmond was descended from Major-General J. H. Salmond (1766-1837), military secretary to the Court of Governors of the old East India Company, and author of the "The Mysore War." His uncle, Captain Charles James Salmond, also of the East India Company's service, distinguished himself in the defence of Lucknow, and was killed near Cawnpore in December, 1857, at the age of 24. He was the son of Major-General Sir William Salmond, R.E. (who died on November 8, 1932, at the age of 92), and was born on August 19, 1878, three years before the birth of his brother John, at Hougham, Dover, Kent. He was educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military Academy.

On June 23, 1898, he received his first commission in the Royal Artillery. He served in the Royal Regiment until 1913, and during that time he graduated at the Staff College at Camberley, fought in the South African War of 1899-1902, and married in 1910 Miss Margaret Carr, of Ditchingham Hall, Norfolk. In South Africa he took part in the relief of Ladysmith and the operations on the Tugela Heights. He received he Queen's Medal and seven clasps, but did not qualify for the King's Medal, for in 1900 he was sent to China and gained a medal for the operations there.

In August, 1912, his younger brother John, who was an infantry officer, learnt to fly and was attached to the newly formed Royal Flying Corps. Six months later Geoffrey decided to follow his brother's example, and on February 18, 1913, he received the Royal Aero Club certificate No. 421. He then held the rank of captain. A course at the Central Flying School at Upavon followed, at the close of which Captain Geoffrey Salmond was entitled to wear his "wings."

Qualified Staff officers were rare in the Royal Flying Corps, and so Geoffrey Salmond was not sent to one of the squadrons, but was placed on the R.F.C. reserve and became a G.S.O.3 on the directorate of Military Aeronautics at the War Office on August 31, 1913. A year later he became G.S.O.2 and was promoted to rank of major. On the day before he became G.S.O.2 Great Britain declared war on Germany. On August 8, 1914, Major Salmond accompanied the Royal Flying Corps to France as staff officer to Major-General Sir David Henderson, the commander of the corps.

The R.F.C. at that time consisted of only four squadrons, numbered 2, 3, 4, and 5, for No. 1 Squadron had been equipped with airships and had been handed over to the Admiralty. During the retreat the whole of the corps kept together, all four squadrons using the same fields, as temporary aerodromes. At that time there was but one conception of the functions of aircraft in war — namely, reconnaissance. Bombing, artillery observation, photography, and fighting in the air were later developments. It was not until after the Battle of the Aisne, when the trench lines became stabilized, that the squadrons were allotted to different parts of the line and began to develop new duties.

During the war of movement it was thought sufficient if the aeroplanes could supply trustworthy reports of the movement of enemy troops by visual observation. In September, 1914, however, an attempt was made to direct artillery fire from the air by means of "wireless signals." It was quickly found that the Army methods of working from a map were too cumbrous to be adapted to wireless signalling. Lieutenant Lewis, who undertook the first artillery observation from the air, devised a squared and lettered map and showed it to Major Salmond. The latter, being an artillery officer, was quick to see its advantages, and took the matter up with characteristic energy, with the result that the method of indicating a target to the guns known as "pinpointing" became universal and proved an immediate success.

It now became evident that the number of squadrons must be increased, and in January, 1915, Major Salmond was sent home to raise a new No. 1 Squadron. He was able to bring this unit over to France on March 7, just in time to take part in the battle of Neuve Chapelle. It is interesting to note that in this battle No. 1 Squadron formed part of the 3rd Wing and that the Wing Commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Brooke-Popham. Yet Geoffrey Salmond attained the rank of Air Marshal seven months before Brooke-Popham reached it, and on April 1 of this year Sir Robert Brooke-Popham succeeded Salmond as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Defence of Great Britain.

Salmond commanded No. 1 in the taking of Hill 60 and in the battle of Aubers Ridge. At Hill 60 his artillery experience again came in useful. His squadron was given the task of locating enemy guns by their flashes in the evening, and our own gunners were turned on to the positions of 33 German guns. As a result the enemy fire was kept in check. Salmond, working in conjunction with the commander of the 2nd Corps, had devised a system of brief signals whereby the corps artillery could be turned at once on to any target such as troops on a road. This worked well until another corps received the signals and did not understand them. Salmond accordingly took the matter to Sir David Henderson, and a uniform system of calls between the air and the artillery was drawn up.

In August, 1915, Salmond was promoted to temporary lieutenant-colonel and recalled to England. Later in the year he was sent to command the 5th Wing, R.F.C., in Egypt, and in July, 1916, he was promoted to temporary Brigadier-General and given command of the R.F.C. in the Middle East, a post which he held with brief intervals, until the end of 1921. The D.S.O. was conferred on him in the Gazette of March 3, 1917, "for conspicuous ability and devotion to duty when personally directing the work of the Royal Flying Corps during the action. The striking success attained was largely due to his magnificent personal example." The action referred to was during the operations in Sinai at the end of 1916. In this command he was responsible for providing air cooperation for General Smuts's force in East Africa, for the forces in Salonika and Mesopotamia, for Allenby's conquest of Palestine, and for the R.F.C. in India. The part played by the Royal Flying Corps in the final advance in Palestine was particularly well conceived and brilliantly executed.

While holding the command of the Middle East, and while the War was still occupying the whole attention of most authorities, Geoffrey Salmond took a step which showed his foresight. He laid out an airway from Cairo to South Africa, clearing a chain of aerodromes in Central Africa. His idea was to send a demonstration flight or flights of R.A.F. aircraft across Africa, thus providing the link of which Cecil Rhodes had dreamed in a Cape-to-Cairo railway. Salmond contemplated flights by both landplane and flying-boat. He was not destined to put his idea into execution, but his airway was used by Sir Pierre van Ryneveld and Sir Christopher Brand on their first flight to South Africa, and it is due to Salmond's inspiration that the R.A.F. blazed the trail to Capetown for Imperial Airways to follow.

Early in 1922 Salmond was recalled to England to become Air Member of the Air Council for Supply and Research. He was now Air Vice-Marshal Sir Geoffrey Salmond, for he had been made K.C.M.G. in the Birthday Honours of 1919. During his tenure of office at the Air Ministry the idea was accepted of making civil flying safe by the use of three-engined aeroplanes. How far he himself was responsible for this idea cannot be stated, but he enunciated it at an Air Conference at Guildhall, when the then Director of Civil Aviation (the late Sir Sefton Brancker) was inclined to assert that safety had already been secured with single-engined machines through the improved methods of engine maintenance. Sir Geoffrey's view was soon generally adopted.

From the Air Council Sir Geoffrey passed to the command in India. He travelled out to take up his new command in the Hercules aeroplane in which Sir Samuel and Lady Maude Hoare flew to Delhi in the winter of 1926-27, being the first officer who had flown out to take over an oversea command. The command in India is never an easy post for an air officer, and affords opportunity for no small exercise of tact. His most interesting service at this time was the control of the air evacuations from Kabul in 1928-29.

In September, 1931, Sir Geoffrey Salmond, who had been promoted to Air Marshall in July, 1929, succeeded Sir Edward Ellington as A.O. Commanding-in-Chief of Great Britain, a command second in importance only to the position of Chief of the Air Staff. On January 1, 1933, he was promoted to Air Chief Marshal. He was made a K.C.B. in 1926, and had received several foreign decorations. His widow survives him, with one son and three daughters.

Source: The Times, Friday, Apr 28, 1933; pg. 19; Issue 46430; col A

[No familial connection, undertaken as part of other research.

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