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Holmwood, Raymond Arthur (1911–1941)

by Alan Stephens

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Raymond Arthur Holmwood (1911-1941), air force officer, was born on 7 December 1911 at Newcastle, New South Wales, second child of native-born parents Arthur Percy Holmwood, public schoolteacher, and his wife Mabel Alice, née Burgmann. After gaining his Intermediate certificate, on 15 February 1928 Raymond entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal Capital Territory, as a staff cadet nominated by the Royal Australian Air Force. He undertook the 'A' course at No.1 Flying Training School, Point Cook, Victoria, graduated with his 'wings' in December 1931 and was commissioned in the following month.

Having been posted to No.1 Squadron, Laverton, in February 1932 Holmwood joined No.3 Squadron at Richmond, New South Wales, where he quickly demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. He earned respect for his professional competence, possessed a highly developed sense of duty and was a first-class athlete. These attributes were complemented by his fine appearance: he was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, weighed 10 st. 11 lb (68.5 kg), and had straw-coloured hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. With his 'aquiline features [and] strong chin . . . he made a most romantic figure'. On 21 September 1934 at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, Sydney, he married Margaret Alice, daughter of (Sir) Thomas Gordon.

Holmwood's appointments began to reflect his potential for high command. From December 1935 to February 1936 he was adjutant of No.3 Squadron; in 1936-37 he commanded the Cadet Squadron at No.1 F.T.S.; and he performed staff duties at Air Force Headquarters, Melbourne, in 1937-39. Promoted acting squadron leader, he took over the Intermediate Training Squadron at No.1 F.T.S. in July 1939 and became the squadron's chief flying instructor in April next year when it was expanded and transferred to No.1 Service Flying Training School.

In July 1940 Holmwood was sent to England to serve on exchange with the Royal Air Force. Disembarking in October, he completed an operational conversion course on fighter aircraft, then flew with No.64 Squadron, R.A.F. On 18 December he was appointed commanding officer of No.615 Squadron, based at Kenley, Surrey, and was thus the first R.A.A.F. officer to lead a British squadron in World War II. His appointment was the more meritorious because No.615 had distinguished itself in earlier fighting and its honorary air commodore was Prime Minister (Sir) Winston Churchill. Holmwood was promoted temporary wing commander in January 1941.

On 26 February 1941, during an engagement with enemy aircraft over Waddenhall, a rural district near Petham, Kent, Holmwood's Hurricane was shot down; he baled out of his aircraft but his parachute caught fire. The members of his unit regarded him as 'the very finest type' and his death cast a gloom over Kenley. Survived by his wife and four-year-old son, he was buried in Whyteleafe (St Luke's) churchyard, near Caterham, Surrey.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Orde, Pilots of Fighter Command (Lond, 1942)
  • Aircraft (Melbourne), 19, no 5, Feb 1941, p 14
  • Age (Melbourne), 3 Jan, 3 Mar 1941
  • Herald (Melbourne), 1 Mar 1941.

Citation details

Alan Stephens, 'Holmwood, Raymond Arthur (1911–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/holmwood-raymond-arthur-10529/text18691, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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