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From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] POCOCK: Donald Arthur Pocock 2008
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2008 16:34:59 +0100
Air Vice-Marshal Donald Pocock
Commandant-General of the RAF Regiment who cut his teeth in action in the
Western Desert, Italy and Aden
Last Updated: 12:48AM BST 11 Aug 2008
Pocock: maintained discipline among troops and minimised casualties Air
VICE-MARSHAL DONALD POCOCK, who has died aged 88, was one of the founder
members of the RAF Regiment on its formation in 1942 and the first
full-career officer of the Corps to become its Commandant-General.
Pocock was commissioned in July 1941 and left for the Middle East, where he
established a school at Amman, in Transjordan, to train ground gunners. On
the formation of the RAF Regiment on February 1 1942 he was automatically
transferred to that Corps and soon afterwards left for the Western Desert,
with responsibility for the ground and low-level air defence of a forward
fighter wing. In April 1943, at Castel Benito, he formed one of the new RAF
Regiment squadrons (No 2932) in the light anti-aircraft role and commanded
it for the rest of the war.
Following the Axis defeat in Tunisia in May 1943 Pocock and his squadron
were redeployed to Syria as part of Operation Turpitude, a move intended to
divert German attention and to help persuade Turkey to declare for the
Allies. The success of the Normandy landings in June 1944 led to the
abandonment of Turpitude and No 2932 was sent to Italy to provide air
defence at the major airfields of Foggia and Bari.
In October Pocock took his squadron to Vis, an island off the coast of
Yugoslavia, to provide air defence for the RAF's base and Tito's rear
partisan HQ established there. Almost immediately the squadron was
incorporated into a joint raiding group of Army, Royal Marines and RAF
Regiment commandos which operated from Vis against enemy forces on the
Yugoslav mainland. These raiders inflicted many casualties on the enemy.
Pocock's squadron also provided boarding parties in naval vessels engaged
against enemy shipping in the Adriatic, their role being to capture as many
enemy sailors as possible for interrogation.
After the German capitulation the squadron moved to Austria for occupational
and disarmament duties. On promotion to wing commander Pocock took command
of No 1328 Wing. When this disbanded in March 1946 he was posted to Aden to
raise and command a new wing (battalion equivalent) of Aden Protectorate
Levies (APL), an indigenous land-fighting force.
When the Palestine Mandate ended and war broke out in 1947, centuries of
co-existence between Arabs and Jews in the Yemen and neighbouring
territories came to an end. The indigenous police could not contain rioting
in Aden Colony, and Pocock's wing was called in from the hinterland, with
other APL units, to restore order.
It was unprecedented for the tribal Levies to be deployed in the colony, but
whilst some Levy units mutinied and attacked the Jews, Pocock succeeded in
maintaining discipline among his troops. A distinguished civilian eyewitness
described his immense relief at the sight of Pocock's powerful, commanding
figure dominating a chaotic scene and bringing order to it. As a result,
casualties were minimised. With RAF Regiment reinforcements sent from Egypt,
the ring was held and the APL returned to their up-country garrisons. Pocock
finally returned to Britain in 1948 after seven unbroken years overseas,
much of it on active service.
Donald Arthur Pocock was born in London on July 5 1920 and educated at
Crouch End School. As a youth he devoted most of his spare time to the
Territorial Cadet Force (later Army Cadet Force) and rose steadily through
the ranks, eventually being commissioned as a cadet officer. In July 1940 he
enlisted in the RAF as a ground gunner, but was very quickly identified as
On his return from overseas Pocock served at HQ Transport Command
identifying methods to make RAF Regiment units "air portable". He attended
the RAF Staff College before a succession of staff and command appointments
in British and Nato HQs at home and overseas, including Cyprus and, during
the Confrontation in Indonesia, in HQ Far East Air Force, Singapore.
Shortly before this latter post, in 1965, he had led a working party at
joint RAF/USAF talks in Washington to discuss possible RAF Regiment
assistance to the USAF, which was suffering severe damage to its air assets
on the ground in Vietnam. The talks resulted in a successful officer
exchange programme which has continued uninterrupted to this day.
Pocock commanded the RAF Regiment Depot at Catterick and was an aide-de-camp
to the Queen from 1967 to 1970. He was then promoted to air commodore and
appointed to the MoD as Director of Ground Defence.
Two years later he assumed the top job in the RAF Regiment, a post he held
for three years. During this five-year period the force underwent
significant changes and developments, many of which form the foundations of
A feature of the period was an increasing awareness of the need to bolster
the defences of operational airfields and key installations against the air
and ground threat posed by the forces of the Warsaw Pact. This crucial role
fell to the RAF Regiment field and air defence squadrons.
Pocock was at the centre of plans to expand the force to meet this essential
requirement, which involved the creation of new field squadrons and the
introduction, in 1971, of the highly capable and successful British-built
Rapier short-range air defence missile system.
With the potential air threat likely to be from low-flying aircraft, the RAF
Regiment-manned Rapier squadrons became a key component of the air defence
system at RAF airfields in Germany and the United Kingdom.
Pocock's time as the Commandant-General was often difficult. As he strove to
improve the RAF Regiment's capabilities, he also had to contend with defence
cuts and redundancy schemes initiated by Harold Wilson's government.
However, his strong and forceful leadership ensured that the Regiment
remained a crucial part of the RAF's wide-ranging operational capability. He
took particular pride in having brought the Regiment into the missile era.
He retired from the RAF in 1975.
He was appointed OBE in 1957 and CBE in 1975.
A dynamic and charismatic leader, Pocock's enduring legacy to the RAF was
his absolute belief in the indispensability of organic local defence of air
resources, an approach greatly influenced by his service during the Western
Desert campaign; it is a doctrine which the parent RAF has reviewed
regularly over the past 66 years, always to return to the same conclusion.
After retiring from the RAF, Pocock joined the British Aircraft Corporation
Guided Weapons Division as air defence adviser.
He was subsequently appointed general manager for a large contract to supply
and support the sale of the Rapier missile system to Iran, where he remained
until the 1979 revolution that deposed the Shah. He then became director of
the British Metallurgical Plant Constructor's Association.
He finally retired in 1986 and took up voluntary appointments with the RAF
Association and St John Ambulance.
He was chairman of the League of RAF Regiment Associations.
Donald Pocock died on July 30. He married, in 1947, Dorothy Griffiths. She
died in 2006, and he is survived by their two sons and three daughters.
|[W-OBITS] POCOCK: Donald Arthur Pocock 2008 by "Peter McCrae" <>|