John Lapsley

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Sir John Hugh Lapsley
Born (1916-09-24)24 September 1916
Died 21 September 1995(1995-09-21) (aged 78)
Deben, Suffolk, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1932–73
Rank Air Marshal
Commands held Coastal Command (1968–69)
No. 19 (Reconnaissance) Group (1967–68)
RAF Wahn (1954–56)
Air Fighting Development Squadron (1949–51)
No. 74 Squadron (1947–49)
No. 125 Wing (1943–44)
No. 274 Squadron (1941)
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Other work Save the Children Fund

Air Marshal Sir John Hugh Lapsley, KBE, CB, DFC, AFC (24 September 1916 – 21 November 1995) was a British fighter pilot of the Second World War and, later, a senior Royal Air Force commander.

RAF career

Lapsely joined the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Apprentice in 1935 later being awarded a cadetship at the RAF College Cranwell.[1] In 1937 he was appointed to a permanent commission and a posting to No. 32 Squadron.[1] By February 1941 he was in command of No. 274 Squadron in Malta, originally with Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters which were soon replaced by the Hawker Hurricane.[1] He was shot down near Tobruk on 19 April 1941 and was repatriated back to England to recover.[1] At first he was only fit for instructional duties but by 1943 he was in command of No. 125 Wing with the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber.[1]

After the war he attended the RAF Staff College, Bracknell and then became Officer Commanding No. 74 Squadron before taking command of the Air Fighting Development Squadron in 1949 and then taking over responsibility for Flying at the Central Flying Establishment in 1951.[1] He went on to be Station Commander at RAF Wahn in 1954, Deputy Chief of Staff at Headquarters Second Tactical Air Force in 1961 and Director of the Defence Operations Staff on formation of the Ministry of Defence in 1964.[1] He became Air Officer Commanding No. 19 (Reconnaissance) Group in 1967 and Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, Coastal Command in 1968.[1] In that capacity he accepted the first Nimrod aircraft into service in October 1969.[2] His last appointment was as Head of the British Defence Staff in Washington, D.C. in 1970 before retiring in 1973.[1]

In retirement he became Director General of the Save the Children Fund.[3]

He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary's at Benhall in Suffolk.

The grave of John Lapsley in the churchyard of St Mary's, Benhall


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Air Marshall Lapsley
  2. ^ Four-jet Sub-Hunter Handover Flight International, 9 October 1969
  3. ^ National Archives
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Paul Holder
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Coastal Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir George Lea
Head of the British Defence Staff in Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
Sir Ian Easton
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