Owen Tudor Boyd

Air Marshal Owen Tudor Boyd, CB, OBE, MC, AFC (30 August 1889 – 5 August 1944) was a British aviator and military officer. He served with the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War before transferring to the newly formed Royal Air Force in 1918, with which he served during the interwar period and into the Second World War.

Owen Tudor Boyd
Born(1889-08-30)30 August 1889
London, England
Died5 August 1944(1944-08-05) (aged 54)
London, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army (1909–18)
Royal Air Force (1918–44)
Years of service1909–44
RankAir marshal
Commands heldNo. 93 Group (1944)
RAF Balloon Command (1938–40)
No. 1 Group (1935–36)
RAF Aden (1931–34)
School of Army Co-operation (1923–25)
No. 24 Squadron (1922–23)
No. 72 Squadron (1918)
No. 66 Squadron (1917)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)

Education and pre-warEdit

Born in Marylebone,[1] Boyd was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. On 20 January 1909, he was commissioned on the 'unattached list for the Indian Army' and attached to a British Army regiment in India before being appointed to the Indian Army in March 1910. Boyd was posted to the Indian Army's 5th Cavalry.[2] He was promoted Lieutenant on 20 April 1911.[3]

First World WarEdit

He was promoted temporary Captain, Indian Army, to date from the 1 September 1915 in the London Gazette of 28 July 1916. From 25 April 1916, Boyd saw service in the First World War as a flying officer with the Royal Flying Corps. Later in 1916, he was a pilot on the Western Front with No. 27 Squadron; on 9 July, he was promoted to flight commander.[2] He was awarded the Military Cross in the London Gazette of 18 August 1916.

Boyd stayed on the Western Front and continued to earn promotion. On 26 October, he was made officer commanding of a squadron and on 19 January 1917, took command of No. 66 Squadron.[2]

In June 1917, he was moved to a staff appointment and on 2 December, he was made a staff officer, 2nd Class, RFC (captain – graded as brigade major).[2]

By 7 July 1918, Boyd was in Mesopotamia as officer commanding No. 72 Squadron.[2]

Interwar yearsEdit

From 18 January 1919, Boyd was an officer commanding and a staff officer (acting lieutenant colonel). On 1 August, he was awarded a permanent commission as a major. By 21 January 1920, he was a staff officer with the Mesopotamian Wing Headquarters. He was also involved as a staff officer with the Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.[2]

On 23 October 1922, Boyd was once again commanding a squadron, this time No. 24 Squadron.[2]

On 26 February 1923, he was made the Commandant of the School of Army Co-operation. Starting 21 January 1926, he attended the Army Staff College, Camberley. By 21 January 1928, he was on the directing staff of the college.[2]

On 4 January 1930, Boyd became the deputy director of staff duties.[2]

On 7 August 1931, Boyd was the officer commanding, RAF Aden. By 16 April 1934, he was Secretary of State for Air for the Headquarters Fighting Area. By 24 October 1935, he was air officer commanding, Central Area.[2]

On 1 May 1936, Boyd was promoted to air commodore of No. 1 Group RAF. He was appointed director of personal services at the Air Ministry in December 1936.[2]

Second World WarEdit

In 1938, as an air vice marshal, Boyd became commander-in-chief RAF Balloon Command. On 1 December 1940, he was replaced by Air Marshal Sir Leslie Gossage at RAF Balloon Command. Boyd was then (?) promoted to air marshal and appointed deputy to the air officer commanding-in-chief (AOC-in-C) Middle East.[2]

On his way to Egypt, Boyd was to stop in Malta. However, the aircraft in which he and his staff were passengers was forced down over enemy-controlled Sicily by a group of Italian fighter aircraft. There is some controversy over his capture as Boyd was indoctrinated into "Ultra" intelligence and the advantage gained from breaking some German codes, which led to fears he could reveal this secret.[4] Secondly one history book refers to "the reported circumstance is a navigation error and consequent fuel shortage".[5]

After destroying his confidential papers by setting his own aircraft on fire, Boyd became a prisoner of war (POW). He spent much of the war in the Castle Vincigliata (Castello di Vincigliata) camp near Florence, Italy.[6]

When Italy capitulated in September 1943, Boyd and two British Army generals (Philip Neame and Richard O'Connor, both captured in North Africa in 1941), with help from the Italian resistance movement, escaped while being transferred from Vincigliata. After spending time in the Italian countryside and a failed rendezvous with a submarine, they arrived by boat at Termoli, then went on to Bari where they were welcomed as guests by General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding the Allied Armies fighting on the Italian Front, on 21 December 1943. Their escape was led by a Lieutenant Colonel Pat Spooner, who had escaped once before and returned to German-controlled Italy.[7]

Of all of RAF Bomber Command's wartime group commanders, Boyd spent the shortest time in command of his appointed group. In late July 1944, he was divorced. Little more than a week later, on 5 August, he was dead from a heart attack.[2]


  1. ^ "The Home of CricketArchive". cricketarchive.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation : Air Marshal O T Boyd". Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  3. ^ Indian Army List January 1915
  4. ^ Wilfrid Freeman: The Genius behind Allied Survival and Air Supremacy, 1939 to 1945 by Anthony Furse
  5. ^ Royal Air Force 1939–45 by Denis Richards; Vol. 1, Chap IX, p270
  6. ^ "Prize Catch". Time Magazine. 2 December 1940. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  7. ^ "Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Spooner - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 10 November 2014.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Cuthbert MacLean
As Air Officer Commanding Aden Command
Officer Commanding RAF Aden
Succeeded by
Charles Portal
As Officer Commanding Aden Command
Preceded by
Hazelton Nicholl
Air Officer Commanding Central Area
Formation renamed as No. 1 Group
Preceded by
J C Quinnell
Quinnel's command was redesignated No. 6 Group in 1936
Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group
Succeeded by
S W Smith
New title
Command established
Air Officer Commanding Balloon Command
Succeeded by
Sir Leslie Gossage
Preceded by
Alan Ritchie
Air Officer Commanding No. 93 Group
Succeeded by
George Hodson