Frederick Sykes bigraphy, stories - British Army general

Frederick Sykes : biography

23 July 1877 - 30 September 1954

Air Vice-Marshal The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes GCSI, GCIE, GBE, KCB, CMG (23 July 1877 – 30 September 1954) was a military officer, British statesman and politician.

Sykes was a junior officer in the 15th Hussars before becoming interested in military aviation. He was the first Officer Commanding the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps before World War I and later served as the Flying Corps' Chief of Staff in France during the 1914 and 1915. Later in the War, he served in the Royal Naval Air Service in the Eastern Mediterranean before returning to Great Britain where he worked to organise the Machine Gun Corps and manpower planning. In late 1917 and early 1918, Sykes was the deputy to General Wilson on the Supreme War Council and from April 1918 to early 1919 he served as the second Chief of the Air Staff.

After the War, Sykes was appointed the Controller of Civil Aviation and he continued in this role until 1922 when he entered politics, becoming the Conservative MP for Sheffield Hallam, which he held until 1928 when he resigned. From 1928 to 1931 Sykes was Governor of Bombay, after which time he returned to Great Britain where he involved himself in business and public life. During World War II, Sykes was an MP once more, this time for Central Nottingham. He lost his seat in 1945 and he died nine years later.

Family

In 1920 Sykes married Isabel Harrington, the elder daughter of Andrew Bonar Law; they had one son.

Military career

Sykes was the son of Henry Sykes and Margaret Sykes (née Sykes). Following civilian employment as a clerk and after working on a tea plantation in Ceylon, Sykes enlisted as a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry Scouts regiment of the British Army at the start of the Second Boer War. Following capture, Sykes was forcibly marched across South Africa but was later abandoned and returned to the British forces. In 1900 he was commissioned into Lord Roberts' Bodyguard but suffered a serious wound to the chest which resulted in his being invalided back to Great Britain. On 2 October 1901 he was granted a regular commission as a second lieutenant in the 15th Hussars. He was posted to the West African Regiment and granted the local rank of lieutenant on 7 March 1903. He was promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant on 29 July 1903.

In 1904, Sykes's interest in aviation was first demonstrated when he obtained his ballooning certificate whilst being attached to the Balloon Section of the Royal Engineers. He was restored to the establishment of the 15th Hussars on 22 September 1904. He joined the Intelligence Staff at Simla in India in 1905 before attending Staff College, Quetta in Autumn 1908. He was promoted to captain on 1 October 1908.

In 1910 Sykes commenced flying lessons at Brooklands which led to him being awarded Royal Aero Club certificate No. 96 in June 1911.

On 25 February 1911 Sykes was posted as a staff officer to the Directorate of Military Operations at the War Office. As a firm believer in the importance of wartime aerial reconnaissance, he was chosen to join the sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence which was given the task of investigating the use of aircraft.Probert, p. 5

On 13 May 1912 Sykes was appointed Officer Commanding the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps with the temporary rank of major. His duties included the recruitment and training of pilots. While in command, Sykes solicited suggestions for a new motto for the Corps: Sykes approved J S Yule's suggestion, Per Ardua ad Astra, and it was this phrase which was subsequently adopted by the Royal Air Force as its motto. On 9 July 1913 his role was restyled as Commandant of the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps and he was granted the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. With the outbreak of World War I, Royal Flying Corps squadrons were deployed to France in August 1914. Although the configuration and effectiveness of the deployed forces owed much to Sykes, as a middle-ranking officer he lacked the seniority thought necessary for command in the field. General Henderson became the General Officer Commanding the Royal Flying Corps in the Field and Sykes acted as his Chief of Staff from 5 August 1914.

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