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Air Chief Marshal Sir Kenneth Cross (29065)

Sir Kenneth Brian Boyd CrossKenneth Brian Boyd                b: 4 Oct 1911                     r: 24 Feb 1967            d: 18 Jun 2003

KCB - 13 Jun 1959 (CB - 10 Jun 1954), CBE - 8 Jun 1944, DSO - 13 Feb 1942, DFC - 13 Sep 1940, MiD - 1 Jan 1942,  NWC (S) - 6 Oct 1942, LoM (O) - 11 Apr 1944, LoH, O - xx xxx 1944, C de G (F) - xx xxx 1944, ON(C)s - 18 Nov 1947.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Plt Off (P): 11 Apr 1930, Plt Off: 11 Apr 1931, Fg Off: 13 Oct 1931, Act Flt Lt: xx Apr 1935, Flt Lt: 13 Oct 1935, Sqn Ldr: 1 Oct 1938, Act Wg Cdr (Unp): 28 Sep 1940, Act Wg Cdr (Paid): 19 Oct 1940 [28 Sep 1940], (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Dec 1940, Act Gp Capt: xx Jul 1941, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1943, Act A/Cdre: 12 Jan 1943, Gp Capt (WS): 12 Jul 1943, Wg Cdr: 1 Oct 1946, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1948, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1953, AVM: 1 Jan 1956, Act AM: 20 May 1959, AM: 1 Jul 1961, ACM: 1 Oct 1965.

Sir Kenneth Brian Boyd Cross

by Elliott & Fry
bromide print, 1955
NPG x86893

National Portrait Gallery, London


11Apr 1930:           Granted a Short Service Commission.

26 Apr 1930:          U/T Pilot, No 3 FTS.

7 Apr 1931:            Pilot, No 25 Sqn

xx Dec 1934 - xx Mar 1935:      Attended Flying Instructor's Course, Central Flying School (graded B)

11 Mar 1935:          Instructor, No 5 FTS - RAF Sealand

 1 Jun 1936:            Granted a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

xx Aug 1936:            Instructor, Cambridge UAS - RAF Duxford

12 Sep 1938            Operations Room duties, SHQ RAF Duxford

12 Dec 1938:           Auxiliary Liaison Officer, HQ No 12 (Fighter) Group

30 Oct 1939:           Officer Commanding, No 46 Sqn. (Hurricanes - Digby/Norway)

11 Jun 1940:            Convalescing

xx Aug 1940:           Group Controller, RAF Digby

28 Sep 1940:           Wing Commander - Operations and Training, HQ No 12 (Fighter) Group

xx Dec 1940:           Officer Commanding, No 252 Wing - MEAF

13 Nov 1941:           Supernumerary, HQ Western Desert Air Force

12 Dec 1941:           Officer Commanding, No 258 Wing - WDAF

 1 Mar 1942:            Officer Commanding, No 239 Wing - WDAF (No 258 Wing redesignated)

12 Mar 1943:           Officer Commanding, No 243 Wing - WDAF (No 239 Wing redesignated)

 2 Apr 1942:            Officer Commanding, No 211 Group - WDAF

22 Feb 1943:            AOC, No 242 Group - NWATAF/NWACAF

xx Mar 1944:            Air Commodore - Training, HQ AEAF

12 Jun 1944:             Director of Overseas Operations

xx xxx 1945:             Director of Operations (Tactical)

xx xxx 1945:             Attended Imperial Defence College

29 Jan 1947:             Group Capt - Operations, HQ BAFO

xx xxx 1949:             Officer Commanding, Eastern Sector

 8 Sep 1952:             Director of Weapons

xx xxx 1952:             Director of Operations (Air Defence)/(1)

 2 Feb 1956:             AOC, No 3 Group - Bomber Command

20 May 1959:           AOC in C, Bomber Command

 1 Dec 1963:             AOC in C, Transport Command

Universally known as 'Bing', Kenneth Cross was the second child of five, the others being 3 sisters and a brother, his father being a surveyor and estate agent in Portsmouth.  Educated first at Hilsea College in Portsmouth, he was moved to his father's old school, Kingswood in 1927 for his last five terms.  Never particularly talented in the academic arena, he did excel in sports and games.  With the prospect of leaving school approaching, he decided he did not wish to follow his father into business but the appeal of security offered by the services seemed able to provide the atmosphere he craved.  Too old to enter Dartmouth and not attracted by the Army, he turned his attention to the RAF.  However, lacking the academic qualifications needed for Cranwell, he decided to apply for a Short Service Commission.  The minimum age for a SSC being 18, he acquired a job in a local motor engineers as a 'grease boy' until he reached the required age.

Accepted for a five year SSC, he arrived at Uxbridge on 11 April 1930 for his two week 'Officer Training' before proceeding to No 3 FTS at Grantham for his year's flying training course.  Graduation from No 3 FTS was followed by his first posting to No 25 Sqn at Hawkinge which at the time was equipped with Siskins.  Re-equipment with Hawker Fury's also saw the squadron selected to undertake the squadron formation display at the 1933 and 1934 Hendon Air Displays.  It was during this period that Kenneth Cross was part of 'C' Flight which attempted and perfected a barrel roll in formation, the first time this had been achieved, and a manoeuvre incorporated into the squadron display.

Nearing the end of his SSC, he attempted to gain a permanent commission by taking a specialization examination in which he needed to pass in the top 25.  Failing to do this he applied for a newly introduced Medium Service Commission which would extend his initial five year engagement to 10.  Being accepted, he was then selected for training as a Flying Instructor and left Hawkinge  for the CFS at Wittering in late 1934. Qualifying as a QFI he was posted to No 5 Flying Training School at RAF Sealand. During June and July 1936 he was attached to Cambridge UAS during it's Annual Camp at RAF Abingdon. Returning to Sealand he was informed of his permanent posting to Cambridge UAS and so he moved to their base at Duxford. In 1937 the RAF offered the opportunity to those holding medium service commissions of being accepted for permanent commissions, 'Bing ' applied for one and was successful.

Promotion to Squadron Leader, initially as Administrative Officer at Duxford, was quickly followed by a posting to HQ No 12 Group under Trafford Leigh-Mallory as Auxiliary Liaison officer.  This involved touring the Auxiliary squadrons in No 12 Group, advising on training as they prepared to convert from biplanes to Hurricanes and Spitfires.  A return to the operational environment came with his appointment to command No 46 Sqn equipped with Hurricanes and based at Digby.  Operations at this stage was mainly convoy patrols over the North Sea, but then Squadron Leader Cross was told to go to France and recce a site for the operation of 46 Sqn as part of the Air Component BEF.  This move never came off however, as 46 was then sent to reinforce British forces in Norway.

Flying their Hurricanes from the deck of HMS Glorious they arrived eventually at their operating base of Bardufoss from where they were to cover operations around Narvik.  On 3 June he learnt that Norway was to evacuated completely.  Given the choice of flying his aircraft further North, dismantling them and putting them aboard a steamer or leaving them and burning them, he proposed an alternative - to fly them onto the deck of HMS Glorious.  Having successfully landed his squadron on the carrier it made it's way independently back to Scapa Flow.  Unfortunately, it was attacked by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and sunk, 'Bing' Cross and his flight commander, 'Pat' Jameson being the only two pilots of 46 to survive.  Scrambling aboard a Cayley float together with about 30 others they drifted for three days and two nights until being rescued by the Norwegian trawler SS Borgund, taken to the Faroes and then to Rosyth aboard HMS Veteran.

Two months convalescence at the Gleneagles Hotel was followed by his appointment to HQ No 12 Group as a Group Controller, he was unable to return to flying due to 'trench foot' as a result of his experience.  As his feet recovered he desired to get back in the air and decided to apply for a posting in the Middle East.  Originally earmarked for a Staff position, he was appointed to command No 252 Wing responsible for the air defence of western Egypt in view of his recent fighter experience.  He was desperate to get into the main operational area and his wish was granted in late 1941 with first a supernumerary posting to HQ Western Desert Air Force and then command of No 258 Wing.  However, when No 258 was upgraded to a Group, he found himself back in Alexandria at the helm of No 252 Wing.  Promotion to Act Air Commodore brought a move back to Western Desert Air Force as AOC, No 212 Group albeit short-lived as he was moved further West as AOC, No 242 Group initially  part of Eastern Air Command, then North-west African Tactical Air Force and finally North-west Coastal Air Force.  Continuing to operate from Algiers and Tunisia in support of Operation Husky (the Sicilian invasion) before moving his group onto the Italian mainland, his command expanded from air defence and tactical support to embrace shipping strike and recce.

Following one of his rear visits to the UK on leave during this period, he was due to return aboard a Hudson aircraft which suffered engine problems.  To avoid further delays he managed to 'hitch' a flight back on a American C-54.  On arriving back in Africa he learnt that the Hudson he should have been aboard had been shot down crossing the Bay of Biscay with all onboard being killed. 

After an absence of over three years, he returned to the UK to work once again under his old boss, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who was now the Air C in C, Allied Expeditionary Air Force.  In this capacity, together with his American counterpart, he was tasked with the conversion of RAF and USAAF fighter squadrons from the air fighting role to that of ground attack. With the Invasion of France underway the training requirement was reduced and he requested to return to operations in a reduced rank, however Portal had other ideas and Cross was posted to the Air Ministry as the Director of Overseas Operations (Tactical), the post in which he finished his war service.

With the cessation of hostilities and now holding a permanent commission, he reverted to his substantive rank of Group Capt and the more normal career pattern of an senior officer.  Attending the first post war course at the Imperial Defence College he moved to Germany on graduation as a Staff Officer with the British Air Forces of Occupation. This phase of his career included being closely involved in the planning of the Berlin airlift. A lengthy tour in Germany was followed by a return to the Air Ministry.  The introduction of the V-Bombers brought with it a re-think of bomber operations, a result of which was the staffing of Bomber Command with Senior officers with fighter experience.  It was because of his previous experience in this area that Kenneth Cross found himself AOC, No 3 Group and then AOC in C, Bomber Command. His final post in the RAF saw yet another change of role when he became AOC in C, Transport Command.  During his tenure at the helm of Transport Command, he had the pleasure of returning to his old squadron, No 46, when on 27 January 1967, he attended the ceremony at Abingdon to welcome the arrival of the first Andovers with which the squadron was about to be equipped following its re-formation in December 1966.

Always a keen sportsman, he played Rugby for Harlequins as well as the RAF.  He met his future wife, Brenda, in 1944 when she worked in the War Room in Whitehall marrying her within a month, remaining happily married until she died in 1991.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished  Service Order.

"Acting Group Captain Kenneth Brian Boyd CROSS, D.F.C.

Since the commencement of operations in the Libyan campaign, this officer has displayed inspiring courage and leadership. In spite of his onerous duties on the ground, Group Captain Cross has constantly participated in the air operations and his indomitable courage and skill have contributed materially to the fighting efficiency of the force he commands."

(London Gazette 13 February 1942)

Citation for the award of  Commander of the Order of the British Empire

"CROSS, Kenneth Brian Boyd, A/C, DSO, DFC (Royal Air Force) - No.242 Group, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces Headquarters

Since February 1943, this officer has been in command of the Group which has been responsible for the Air Defence of Tunisia, the protection of convoys passing through the central Mediterranean from air and submarine attack, for offensive action against the enemy shipping running to Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, and for air-sea reconnaissance.  The Group played a most important part in attacking enemy shipping and air transport moving to and from Corsica and Sardinia.  After the landing in Italy its operations have been particularly successful in stopping enemy shipping running to and from the Adriatic.  All these operations have been most successful and this is attributable to the outstanding ability, leadership and drive of Air Commodore Cross."

(Source - )Air 2/9003

This page was last updated on 10/12/23

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