Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman

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Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman
Nickname(s) Chaps
Born (1899-01-17)17 January 1899
British Guiana
Died 28 April 1978(1978-04-28) (aged 79)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Flying Corps
 Royal Air Force
Years of service 1917 – 1957
Rank Air Chief Marshal
Commands held RAF Linton-on-Ouse
RAF Elsham Wolds
No. 38 Group
Indian Air Force
Home Command
Battles/wars World War I
Kabul Airlift
World War II
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Force Cross
Other work Director of Resettlement at the Ministry of Labour
President of the Council of Cheltenham College

Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman GCB KBE DFC AFC (17 January 1899 – 28 April 1978) was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force in the middle of the 20th century and the penultimate RAF commander-in-chief of the Indian Air Force.

Early life and the First World War

Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman was born in British Guiana to a successful merchant. He came to England with his parents in 1903 and attended Cheltenham College.[1] He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and served as a Bristol Fighter pilot on the western front with 10 Squadron in the last eleven months of the war.[2]

Between the Wars

In January 1929 Ivelaw-Chapman, then a flight-lieutenant in the RAF, participated in the Kabul Airlift, a successful evacuation of the British Legation in Kabul amidst a civil war and a bitter winter. On 27 January a Kabul-bound Vickers Victoria, piloted by Ivelaw-Chapman, was forced to make an emergency landing in the mountainous Surobi District. Rescued by an Afghan royalist officer, Ivelaw-Chapman was awarded the Air Force Cross for his handling of the incident.

Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War Ivelaw-Chapman now a Wing Commander was part of the operations staff of RAF Bomber Command headquarters.[2] In June 1940 he was promoted to Group Captain and was appointed station commander at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, a 4 Group bomber station near York.[2] In 1941 he returned to a staff job at the Air Ministry involved in D-Day planning.[2] In 1943 he was again appointed a station commander at RAF Elsham Wolds, a 1 Group bomber station.

On the night of the 6/7 May 1944 Ivelaw-Chapman was flying as second pilot of a 576 Squadron Avro Lancaster on a mission to bomb an ammunition dump at Aubigne in France. His aircraft was shot down by a night fighter and Ivelaw-Chapman went on the run.[2] Because of his experience and knowledge Churchill ordered the French resistance to do all they could to help him return to England, he was to be killed if he was in danger of being captured by the Germans.[2] He was captured by the Gestapo on 8 June 1944, the most senior Bomber Command officer to have been captured by the Germans. Churchill's fear was unfounded as the Germans did not realise his importance and he was treated as an ordinary prisoner of war.[2]

Post war

After the war he was promoted to Air Vice Marshal and took command of No. 38 Group at Marks Hall, Earls Colne, Essex. In 1950 he became an Air Chief Marshal and accepted the post of Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed Indian Air Force. On his return to the UK he became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Home Command in March 1952, Deputy Chief of the Air Staff in November 1952 and Vice-Chief of the Air Staff in 1953 before he retired in 1957.[2]


In 1930 he married his fiancée Margaret.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Falconer 2003, page 209


Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Elmhirst
Commander in Chief, Indian Air Force
Succeeded by
Sir Gerald Gibbs
Preceded by
Sir Robert Foster
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Home Command
March 1952 – November 1952
Succeeded by
Sir Harold Lydford
Preceded by
Sir John Baker
Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
November 1952 – November 1953
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Pike
Preceded by
Sir John Baker
Vice-Chief of the Air Staff
1953 – 1957
Succeeded by
Sir Edmund Hudleston