Wing Commander Paul Davie HOLDER


No photo at this time.

south africa


Paul Davie HOLDER               

Born : 2 Sep 1911       

Retired : 30 Sep 1968            

Died : 22 Apr 2001

 Known Awards (War-time)

DSO – 27 Oct 1942, DFC – 31 Oct 1941

Promotions (War Time)

Pilot Officer: 2 Mar 1936 [3 Jun 1934],

Flying Officer: 3 Sep 1936 [3 Dec 1935],

Acting Flying Officer: 3 Mar 1938,

Flight Lieutenant: 3 Sep 1938 [3 Dec 1937],

Squadron Leader: 1 Jun 1939,

Temporary Wing Commander: 1 Jun 1941,

Acting Wing Commander: 9 Jun 1943,

Wing Commander (WS): 9 Dec 1943,

 Promotions (Post War)

Wing Commander: 1 Oct 1946.

Group Captain: 1 Jan 1951.

 Act Air Commodore: 26 Feb 1957.

Air Commander 1 Jul 1957.

Air Vice Marshall: 1 Jan 1960.

Act Air Marshall: 23 Jan 1965.

Air Marshall: 1 Jul 1965.

 Known Postings

3 Mar 1936:    Appointed to a Permanent Commission.

3 Mar 1936:    U/T pilot, No 3 FTS

Dec 1936:        Pilot, No 57 Sqn (Hawker Hind, RAF Upper Heyford)

4 Jan 1937:      Pilot, No 108 Sqn. (Hawker Hind, RAF Upper Heyford)

8 Jan 1938:      No 84 Sqn. (Shaibah in Iraq and Vickers Vincents)

1940:               Station Administration Officer, RAF Habbaniya – Iraq.

1941:                Staff Officer, HQ Bomber Command.

1 Jan 1942:      Officer Commanding, No 218 Sqn. (Vickers Wellington Short Stirling – RAF Marham)

30 Aug 1942:   No.3 Group HQ

19 Jun 1943:    SASO, Force 686, Ankara, Turkey.

 1 Mar 1944:    Group Captain – Plans, HQ Middle East Command.*


1945:   Directing Staff, RAF Staff College.

1946:   Officer Commanding, RAF Broadwell.

1947:   Vice-President, RAF Selection Board.

1947:   Attended Administrative Staff College – Henley on Thames.

1948:   Chief Instructor, RAF Officer Cadet Training School.

1950:   Officer Commanding, RAF Shallufa – Egypt.

1952:   Officer Commanding, RAF Kabrit – Egypt.

1953:   Deputy Director of Air Staff Policy.

1956:   Attended Imperial Defence College.

26 Feb 1957:   AOC, AHQ Singapore.

13 Nov 1957:   AOC, AHQ Hong Kong.

13 Jul 1960:     Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Training).

14 Jan 1963:    AOC, No 25 (Training) Group.

23 Jan 1965:    AOC in C, Coastal Command/Commander Maritime Air, Eastern Atlantic Area and Channel Command. *

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa where his father was Chief Electrical Engineer and managing director of the tramway company, his family moved to Somerset when he was two.  Paul Holder had quite an academic record before joining the RAF having gained a first in his MSc in Engineering from Bristol University in 1933 (he also attended the University of Illinois), becoming a Robert Blair Fellow in 1934 and gaining his PhD in 1935.  He joined the RAF as a University entrant in 1935 and following his training at No 3 FTS, Grantham, he was posted to No 57 Squadron flying Hawker Hinds at Upper Heyford in December 1936.  However, a month later No 108 Squadron was reformed at Upper Heyford and he was posted to  it as one of its first officer.  In February the squadron moved to Farnborough and in July it moved again to Cranfield.*

At the end of 1937, he was posted to the Middle East and in January 1938, he joined No 84 Squadron, which was based at Shaibah in Iraq and was equipped with Vickers Vincents.  By 1940 he was the station Administration Officer at RAF Habbaniya at when the station was attacked and besieged by the Iraqi Army in 1941 he took command of the makeshift bomber squadron assembled from the stations training aircraft.  It was during this incident that he twice managed to escape his aircraft before it exploded, on both occasions, he managed to force land and fled before the aircraft blew up.  However, on the second occasion he landed on a golf course, the aircraft turned over and he found himself upside down in a bunker.  He was awarded the DFC for these operations.

Following the ‘Battle of Habbaniya,  (would recommend visiting this excellent blog which records in some detail using primary source material the battle of Habbaniya, ) he returned to the UK and joined the air staff at HQ Bomber Command, before being given command of No 218 Squadron at RAF Marham in early 1942.  He took command just as the squadron was re-equipping from the Vickers Wellington to the four-engined Short Stirling.  By the time he relinquished command of 218, he had completed 69 operations and was awarded the DSO.*

Distinguished Flying Cross 31st October 1941. (No 4 Service Flying School)

Squadron Leader P.D. Holder has taken part in over 50 sorties. He has shown the greatest possible keenness not only during these sorties but on the ground as well, particularly during the first three days after the outbreak of hostilities when the tarmac was under shell fire at point blank range. His zeal and cheerfulness at all times have been an inspiration to others.”.

Distinguished Service Order on October 27th 1942, the citation reads;

Wing Commander Holder took command of No.218 squadron on January 1st 1942. Previous to taking over this command he was in Iraq where he carried out 55 sorties gaining the award of the DFC. Since taking over operation control of No.218 Squadron he has carried out 14 sorties including a successful daylight attack on Lubeck in which he led his squadron. His courage, coolness and ability as Squadron Commander is outstanding. The spirit de corps of his squadron and the confidence his crews have in his ability and leadership. His keenness for operations does not affect his administration of his squadron and with his organising ability he has always manage to maintain a high serviceability with his Stirling aircraft. I have no hesitation in recommending him for the award of the DSO. 

In 1943, he joined a secret planning group in Turkey and then in 1944 he was tasked with setting up the first Yugoslav fighter squadron for Marshal Tito at Benina, Lybia equipped with Hurricanes and once trained, he handed over command and returned to Britain.  Back home he joined the Staff College directing staff and remained there for the next two years. *

Details marked * taken via RAFWEB.ORG

Operations flown with No.218 Squadron 

06.01.1942 Wellington Z1101  HA-F Brest  Duty Carried Out
2nd pilot S/Ldr William
10.01.1942 Wellington R1496 HA-R  TOADS Duty Carried Out
13.01.1942 Wellington Z1101  HA-F Hamburg Duty Carried Out
02.03.1942 Stirling W7473 HA-F Billancourt Duty Carried Out
2nd Pilot F/Lt Livingston
13.03.1942 Stirling W7475 HA-H Cologne Duty Carried Out
2nd Pilot F/Lt Livingston
02.04.1942 Stirling W7503 HA-R Poissy Hit by Flak.  Bombs jettisoned
05.04.1942 Stirling N3720 HA-B Cologne Duty Carried Out
13.04.1943 Stirling W7469 HA-M Mining Duty Carried Out
14.04.1942 Stirling W7469 HA-M Dortmund Duty Carried Out. Hit by flak
22.04.1942 Stirling N6071 HA-G Mining Duty Carried Out. 
06.05.1942 Stirling DJ977 HA-F Lyons Duty Carried Out
30.05.1942 Stirling W7530 HA-Q COLOGNE Duty Carried Out
2nd Pilot AVM Baldwin
11.06.1942 Stirling N3725 HA-D Emden Duty Carried Out
16.07.1942 Stirling N3763 HA-Q Lubeck Duty Carried Out. Hit by flak
Attacked by Fighters