Charles Longcroft

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, KCB, CMG, DSO, AFC (13 May 1883 – 20 February 1958) was a pilot and squadron commander in the Royal Flying Corps who went on to become a senior commander in the Royal Air Force.

Sir Charles Longcroft
Born(1883-05-13)13 May 1883
Llanarth, Cardiganshire
Died20 February 1958(1958-02-20) (aged 74)
Paddington, London
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army (1902–18)
Royal Air Force (1918–29)
Years of servicec. 1902–29
RankAir Vice Marshal
Commands heldInland Area (1926–29)
RAF Cranwell (1919–23)
III Brigade RAF (1918)
Training Division RFC (1917–18)
V Brigade RFC (1916–17)
2nd Wing RFC (1916)
No. 4 Squadron RFC (1915)
No. 1 Squadron RFC (1914–15)
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Order of Saint Stanislaus, 3rd Class with Swords (Russia)
Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Other workGentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod

Early years

Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft was born on 13 May 1883 in Cardiganshire, Wales, the third of four children born to Charles Edward Longcroft (1842–1892) and his wife, Catherine Alicia Holcombe. The Longcrofts had originated in Wiltshire but first rose to prominence as merchants in Hampshire in the 18th century. Charles' somewhat distinguished great-grandfather, Captain Edward Longcroft RN (c.1750–1812), had settled in Wales in the mid-1780s after returning from a lengthy period of service in the West Indies during the American War of Independence. Charles' father inherited the Llanina estate in 1888 but after his death only four years later the estate passed in trust to his nine-year-old son.[1]

Charles Longcroft was educated at Charterhouse, attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before May 1903 and was then commissioned into the Welch Regiment. After obtaining his Royal Aero Club certificate in March 1912, Longcroft was attached to the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers at his request. With the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps in the following month, he was seconded to the new Corps.[2]

First World War

By 1914, Longcroft had been promoted to major and was appointed Officer Commanding No. 1 Squadron RFC. For the next year and a half, apart from a brief period as a supernumerary, Longcroft was the squadron commander of either No. 1 Squadron or No. 4 Squadron RFC. During the period 1915 to 1918, he was promoted several times and had command of the RFC's Training Wing, 2nd Wing, V Brigade and Training Division. Longcroft finished the war as General Officer Commanding the 3rd Brigade.[3]

Royal Air Force commander

With the establishment of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, Longcroft transferred to the new service on a temporary basis. However, just over a year later on 1 August 1919, he resigned his commission in the Welch Regiment and was awarded a permanent RAF commission in the rank of group captain. Just four days later he was promoted to air commodore.[2]

On 1 November 1919, Longcroft was appointed as the first commandant of the world's first air academy, the RAF (Cadet) College at Cranwell. The first intake of cadets arrived on the following February and his post was upgraded to Air Officer Commanding RAF Cranwell.[4] He became Director-General of Personal Services in 1923 and Air Officer Commanding, Inland Area in 1926 before retiring from the RAF at his own request on 2 November 1929.[4]

Later years

On 27 April 1921 he married the widowed Marjory Hepburn, née McKerrell-Brown, and together they had a son, Charles McKerrell Longcroft, who was born in 1926. From 1932, Charles A. H. Longcroft appointed Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod of the Order of the Bath, before being appointed Registrar and Secretary of the Order of the Bath in 1948. Charles was appointed Knight of the Order of the Bath in 1938. Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft died in London on 20 February 1958. His widow, Lady Longcroft, died in 1964.[1]


  1. Phillips-Evans, J. The Longcrofts: 500 Years of a British Family (Amazon, 2012), pp. 381–384
  2. "The Welsh founder of the RAF you have probably never heard of". Wales Online. 2 April 2018. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  3. "Air/Land Integration in the 100 Days: The Case of Third Army". RAF Centre for Air and Space Power Studies. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  4. "Senior RAF Appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 7 July 2019.
Military offices
Preceded by
Edward Maitland
Officer Commanding No. 1 Squadron RFC
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Salmond
Preceded by
H R P Reynolds
Officer Commanding No. 4 Squadron RFC
January–July 1915
Succeeded by
F F Waldron
Preceded by
John Salmond
General Officer Commanding the Training Division RFC
Succeeded by
Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt
Preceded by
John Higgins
Brigadier-General Commanding III Brigade RAF
April–December 1918
Brigade disbanded
New title
RAF College established
Commandant RAF College
Succeeded by
Amyas Borton
Preceded by
Sir Tom Webb-Bowen
Air Officer Commanding Inland Area
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Richard Stapleton-Cotton
Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod
Succeeded by
Douglas Wimberley
New title
Award established
Recipient of the Royal Aero Club Britannia Trophy
Succeeded by
J W Sedden
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