RAF Stories: Lt-Gen Sir David Henderson — the alternate founding father of the Royal Air Force

Read time 4 mins
Posted on August 16th 2018
Hendersons Medals

A serving officer of the British Army, Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson played a pivotal role in establishing the RAF in the final year of World War One, but has largely been forgotten. Sir David, a decorated and distinguished serviceman, saw conflict across the world, fighting with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the Zulu and Boer Wars and the Sudan.

Born in Glasgow in 1862, Sir David was a man of Scotland. He entered Glasgow University at the age of 15 to read engineering but left without graduating and went to the Royal Military College Sandhurst instead. He learned to fly in 1911 and became the first head of the Royal Flying Corps when it was formed a year later. The fact that Sir David could fly is believed to be a significantly vital point to the success of his challenging the War Office with his proposals.

In 1917, Sir David was the persuasion of PM David Lloyd-George, by writing a seven-page memorandum, suggesting that a merging of the Royal Flying Corps - a part of the Army, and the Navy’s Royal Naval Air Service, to create a singular service altogether. In a time where the Royal Air Force didn’t yet exist, it was this man who perhaps made one of the most significant, and poignant movements in its history, that ultimately brought it to life.

Sir David wrote in July 1917: "It is difficult to indicate any method of overcoming the present illogical situation of divided responsibility in aeronautics, except by the formation of a complete department and a complete united service dealing with all operations in the air, and with all the accessory services which that expression implies."

Little time passed with the influence of Sir David’s inaugurate words, and Parliament moved forward to pass legislation that would bring about the world’s first independent Air Force, the RAF. Glasgow Science Centre are excited to showcase Sir David, and are encouraging others to take more interest and recognise Lieutenant General Henderson for his contributions to the RAF.

Lieutenant General Henderson will be remembered during the RAF100 aircraft tour which comes to the Glasgow Science Centre from 31 August to 2 September. With VR simulations and augmented reality technology to experience and explore, there’s no greater day out for the family!

Come and fly with us!

Be sure to come down to the celebrations and see planes through the ages and partake in lots of exciting STEM activities, all for free.


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