John Slessor

John Slessor, the son of an army officer, was born in Ranikhet, India, on 3rd June 1897. Childhood polio left him lame in both legs and as a result he was initially rejected by the British Army as "totally unfit for any form of military service". However, with the help of influential members of his family, he was able to gain a commission in the Royal Flying Corps in 1914.

Slessor, a member of 17 Squadron, saw action in the Sudan during the First World War. He was badly wounded in 1916 but after making a full recovery he was appointed flight commander of 5 Squadron and was sent to the Western Front in France.

After a spell in business Slessor joined the Royal Air Force in 1920. He held several staff positions including commander of 4 Squadron (1925-28). His reputation was enhanced by the publication of his book, Air Power and Armies (1936). In the book Slessor argued that during a war heavy bombing could be used to destroy enemy morale.

In 1937 Slessor was appointed Director of Plans at the Air Ministry. During the Second World War he was Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (1942-43), Commander in Chief of Coastal Command (1943-44) and Commander in Chief of RAF Mediterranean and Middle East (1944-45).

After the war Slessor was Air Member for Personnel (1945-47), Marshal of the RAF (1950) and Chief of the Air Staff (1950-52).

Following his retirement from the Royal Air Force he was a Justice of the Peace, a county councillor and High Sheriff for Somerset. He also published two military books, The Central Blue (1956) and The Great Deterrent (1957). John Slessor died on 12th July, 1979.

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