Sir Lawrence Pattinson Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and documents covering the life and work of Sir Lawrence, primarily relating to his time working for the Royal Air Force during World War I and World War II.

Administrative / Biographical History

Air Marshal Sir Lawrence Arthur Pattinson (1890 - 1955) was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Flying Training Command.

Sir Lawrence was born on 8 October 1890 to Hugh Lee III and Mary Pattinson, née Adamson. He was their youngest son, the eldest being Hugh Lee IV. Both boys attended Stubbington House School, and Hugh Lee IV studied for the Army Entrance to Sandhurst and was successful. Hugh Lee IV became a soldier, married Lina Chaworth-Musters in 1914, but was killed in action a year later while laying out lines for a night-time working party.

Sir Lawrence, however, was unsuccessful in his examination for Dartmouth and was instead sent to Rugby. He was unhappy at the school, so at 17 he moved to Wesley College, Melbourne, Australia with the help of his uncle, Lawrence Arthur Adamson, who served as headmaster. Here, Sir Lawrence passed the Cambridge Entrance Examination and joined Jesus College in October 1909. He received a 2nd Class Honours Historical Tripos BA. Sir Lawrence then spent sixth months studying bookkeeping and audit at a chartered accountants in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and a further seven months management training at the Swedish Steel Rope Wire Company in Darlington.

On 24 February 1914, Sir Lawrence was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 5th Durham Light Infantry as part of the Territorial Army, but the Battalion was mobilised on 4 August 1914, with Sir Lawrence being appointed Officer for land forces. On his brother’s suggestion, Sir Lawrence joined the Royal Flying Corps and took his first flight at Fort Grange, Gosport on 20 February 1915. By 30 March 1915, he had received his Aviator’s Certificates and was posted to Northolt, then Netheravon to complete his training. Sir Lawrence graduated at the Central Flying School and was awarded his Wings on 5 July 1915.

Sir Lawrence began his service for the Royal Flying Corps at London with the Royal Fusiliers. He acted as pilot for a fighter plane, known as a scout, and the improvements he developed himself to standard aircraft fittings soon gained him a promotion. He joined the first full fighter squadron to go to France (No. 11 Squadron), and started service flying at Doullens on 31 July 1915. This included photo reconnaissance and escort duty. By 14 October 1915, Sir Lawrence was promoted to Flight Commander RFC Temporary Captain.

The following year, on 3 June 1915, Sir Lawrence was awarded a Military Cross for his fighting as a scout-fighter pilot, and on the 13 June 1915 he was promoted to Officer Commanding No. 57 Squadron on the Western Front. Sir Lawrence remained with the squadron for just under three years, during which time he led scouts, photographic reconnaissance and bombing. March 1918 saw Sir Lawrence become Officer Commanding No. 99 Squadron, and during September 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Later that year, in October, he was promoted Acting Lieutenant Colonel and command of 41st Wing, then 89 Wing in France, for the last few weeks of the war.

After 11 November 1918, Sir Lawrence remained in France until March 1919 to demobilize squadrons. He then returned to the Home Establishment and commanded No. 50 Training Squadron, then No. 18 and 7 Wings. In June 1919, Sir Lawrence was awarded his Distinguished Service Order and granted a permanent commission as Squadron Leader RAF. He spent a few months at the Officer’s Posting Section at the Air Ministry, before being promoted to Wing Commander on 1 January 1922. For the next two years, Sir Lawrence was sponsored by the RAF to study at the Staff College, Camberley. Following his studies, Sir Lawrence became Chief of Staff at RAF Cranwell, educating officer cadets of the army from March 1923 until February 1926.

During his time at Cranwell, Sir Lawrence married Mabel Capper, the eldest daughter of Colonel W.B. Capper, on 23 September 1923. They had two children, Veronica Gillian born on 29 August 1924 and John Lawrence born on 17 June 1926. Once the children were born, the family moved to India in September 1926, so that Sir Lawrence could serve as Wing Commander Air Staff Training at HQ RAF India for the next three years. The family didn’t leave India until 29 January 1930, when Sir Lawrence was promoted to Group Captain and went to work at the Air Ministry in London as Deputy Director of Organisation for four years.

In 1933, Sir Lawrence was appointed Air Aide-de-Camp to King George V. This ceremonial role was an honour given by His Majesty to recognise excellence. Sir Lawrence then began a 28-day Middle East tour, unaccompanied by his family, on 22 December 1932. By the end of 1933, Sir Lawrence was offered command of Armament Command. In this position, Sir Lawrence developed training and set up a course of boy entrant armourers in 1934. On 1 January 1934, he became Air Commodore, and the family moved together to Sheerness. Here, Sir Lawrence worked at Garrison Point Fort while his wife and children set up a family home in the nearby Admiralty House. They lived here until 1937, when Sir Lawrence was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal, and appointed Air Officer Commanding No.23 Group RAF-Flying Training. Sir Lawrence’s new station required the family to move to Grantham in Lincolnshire, and again, his wife Mabel set up home in a house nearby called Norman Leys. On 1 January 1938 Sir Lawrence was created Companion of the Bath by the Prime Minister, in the New Year’s Honours.

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Sir Lawrence was appointed Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Flying Training Command in April 1940. Once again the family had to move, and Sir Lawrence set up home at Goodrest. However, after a relatively short period in command, on 7 July 1941 Sir Lawrence was somewhat unexpectedly placed onto the retirement list. His retirement took effect on 17 September 1941, but he sought to remain an active pilot by working at the Ministry of Aircraft Production with the Air Transport Auxiliary. This he did until 1942, when he was taken off the retirement list in order to become the Head of a Royal Air Force Training Mission to China to train Chinese pilots. On his return in January 1945, Sir Lawrence was created Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as part of the New Year’s Honours.

After Sir Lawrence’s full retirement from the RAF, he found employment from the Minister of Health who wanted senior officers of the war to liaise with hospitals about the new proposed plans for a National Health Service. This was to be Sir Lawrence’s final role, and when the appointment ended he moved back to his native north-east England and bought Salkeld Hall in Cumbria. Sir Lawrence died from cancer at Halton Hospital on 28 March 1955.

Arrangement

The letters, which form the bulk of the papers, have been arranged according to Sir Lawrence's experiences during both World Wars and the periods before, between, and after.

Further contextual documents are also listed according to type.

Conditions Governing Access

Open.

Access is open to bona fide researchers; appointment in advance and proof of identity required. Please see http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/specialcollections/using/ for further details.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue was created by Rachel Hill, Special Collections Assistant, at Newcastle University Special Collections, in 2013.

Bibliography

Sir Lawrence's son, John L. Pattinson, has produced a book on his father entitled "L.A.P.: The Life of Air Marshal Sir Lawrence Arthur Pattinson" (Spiegl Press Ltd., 2011). This is also available at Newcastle University Special Collections (see here).