Adrian Cole (RAAF officer)

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Adrian Lindley Trevor Cole
Three-quarters portrait of aviator with raised goggles in military uniform
Lieutenant Adrian Cole in Palestine, 1917
Nickname(s) "King"1
Born (1895-06-19)19 June 1895
Glen Iris, Victoria
Died 14 February 1966(1966-02-14) (aged 70)
Melbourne, Victoria
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1914–1946
Rank Air Vice Marshal
Unit No. 1 Squadron AFC (1916–17)
No. 2 Squadron AFC (1917–18)
Commands held RAAF Station Laverton (1929–32)
RAAF Station Richmond (1936–38)
No. 2 Group (1939–40)
Southern Area (1940–41)
RAF Northern Ireland (1942–43)
North-Western Area (1943–44)
Battles/wars

World War I

World War II

Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Other work Company director

Air Vice Marshal Adrian Lindley Trevor Cole, CBE, DSO, MC, DFC (19 June 1895 – 14 February 1966) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Joining the army at the outbreak of World War I, he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps in 1916 and flew with No. 1 Squadron in the Middle East and No. 2 Squadron on the Western Front. He became an ace, credited with victories over ten enemy aircraft, and earned the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1921, he was a founding member of the RAAF.

"King" Cole rose to the position of Air Member for Supply in 1933 and gained promotion to group captain in 1935. The following year he was appointed the first commanding officer of Headquarters RAAF Station Richmond. During World War II, he led North-Western Area Command in Darwin, Northern Territory, and held a series of overseas posts in North Africa, England, Northern Ireland, and Ceylon. As Forward Air Controller during the Dieppe Raid in 1942, he was wounded in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Cole served on corporate boards of directors following his retirement from the RAAF in 1946. He died in 1966 at the age of seventy.

Early life and World War I

Adrian Cole was born in Glen Iris, a suburb of Melbourne, to barrister and doctor Robert Cole and his wife Helen (née Hake). He was educated at Geelong Grammar School and Melbourne Grammar School, where he was a member of the cadet corps.234 When World War I broke out in August 1914, Cole gained a commission in the Australian Military Forces, serving with the 55th (Collingwood) Infantry Regiment.5 He resigned his commission to join the Australian Imperial Force on 28 January 1916, intending to become a pilot in the Australian Flying Corps.56

Middle East

Aviator in military biplane with camera mounted on fuselage
Lieutenant Cole in a No. 1 Squadron Martinsyde "Elephant" equipped with a camera for aerial reconnaissance in Palestine, 1917

Posted to No. 1 Squadron (also known until 1918 as No. 67 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps), Cole departed Melbourne aboard HMAT A67 Orsova on 16 March 1916, bound for Egypt.67 He was commissioned a second lieutenant in June and began his pilot training in August.2 By the beginning of 1917, he was flying reconnaissance and scouting missions in Sinai and Palestine.8 He took part in an early example of Allied air-sea cooperation on 25 February, directing French naval fire against the coastal town of Jaffa by radio from his B.E.2 biplane.910 On 20 April, Cole and fellow squadron member Lieutenant Roy Maxwell Drummond attacked six enemy aircraft that were threatening to bomb Allied cavalry, scattering their formation and chasing them back to their own lines.11 Both airmen were awarded the Military Cross for their actions; Cole's citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette on 16 August 1917:12

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. With another officer he attacked and disorganised six enemy machines that were about to attack our cavalry with bombs. The engagement was continued until all six machines were forced to return to their lines. His skill and courage on all occasions have been worthy of the greatest praise.

The day after the action that earned him the Military Cross, Cole was flying a Martinsyde G.100 "Elephant" over Tel el Sheria when he was hit by ground fire and forced to crash land behind enemy lines; after setting his aircraft alight he was picked up and rescued by Captain Richard Williams. On 26 June, following an eight-plane raid on Turkish Fourth Army headquarters in Jerusalem, Cole and another pilot suffered engine seizures while undertaking a similar rescue of a downed comrade; all three airmen were forced to walk through no man's land before being picked up by an Australian Light Horse patrol.13

Western Front

Military biplane on landing ground
S.E.5 of No. 2 Squadron at Lille, November 1918

Promoted to captain in August 1917,14 Cole was posted to France as a flight commander with No. 2 Squadron AFC (also known until 1918 as No. 68 Squadron RFC).715 Flying S.E.5 fighters on the Western Front, he was credited with destroying or sending out of control ten enemy aircraft between July and October 1918, making him an ace.11617 In a single sortie over the Lys Valley on 19 August, Cole shot down two German fighters and narrowly avoided being shot down himself immediately afterwards, when he was attacked by five Fokker Triplanes that were being pursued by Allied Bristol Fighters.18 On 24 September, he led into battle a patrol of fifteen S.E.5s that destroyed or damaged eight German fighters over Haubourdin and Pérenchies, claiming one Pfalz D.III for himself.19

Cole was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on 7 October 1918, when he led No. 2 Squadron through "a tornado of anti-aircraft fire" in a major assault on transport infrastructure in Lille.220 During the raid he successfully bombed a goods engine and a troop train, and put several anti-aircraft batteries out of action, before leading his formation back to base at low level.21 The announcement and accompanying citation for his decoration was gazetted on 8 February 1919:22

On 7th October this officer carried out a most successful flying raid on enemy railway lines and stations. The success of the attack was largely owing to his cool and determined leadership, and our freedom from casualties was mainly due to the methodical manner in which he collected and reorganised the machines after the raid. He himself displayed marked initiative and courage in attacking troops and other objectives. Since May Capt. Cole has destroyed four hostile machines.

Between the wars

Poster of aviator's head in goggles, in a biplane, captioned "WORLD'S GREATEST AIR RACE" and "ENGLAND to AUSTRALIA", 1934–35
Poster for 1934 MacRobertson Air Race, deputy chaired by Cole

Returning to Australia in February 1919,6 Cole briefly spent time as a civilian before accepting a commission in the Australian Air Corps, the short-lived successor to the Australian Flying Corps, in January 1920.35 On 17 June, accompanied by Captain Hippolyte De La Rue, he flew a DH.9 to a height of 27,000 feet (8,200 m), setting an Australian altitude record that stood for more than ten years.23 He transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force as a flight lieutenant in March 1921, becoming one of its original twenty-one officers.24 On 30 November, he married his cousin Katherine Cole in St Peter's Chapel at Melbourne Grammar School; the couple would have two sons and two daughters.2 Squadron Leader Cole was posted to England in 1923–24 to attend RAF Staff College, Andover,325 returning to Australia in 1925 to become Director of Personnel and Training.26 Promoted to wing commander, he was in charge of No. 1 Flying Training School (No. 1 FTS) at RAAF Station Point Cook, Victoria, from 1926 to 1929.527 The first Citizens Air Force (reserve) pilots' course took place during Cole's tenure at No. 1 FTS; although twenty-four accidents occurred, injuries were minor, leading him to remark at the graduation ceremony that the students were either made of India rubber or had learned how to crash "moderately safely".2829

Cole held command of RAAF Station Laverton from 1929 until his appointment as Air Member for Supply (AMS) in January 1933.3 The AMS occupied a seat on the Air Board, which was chaired by the Chief of the Air Staff and was collectively responsible for control and administration of the RAAF.30 In March 1932, Cole accepted an invitation from the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to serve as Deputy Chairman of the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia, to celebrate Melbourne's Centenary.131 Provision of the RAAF's radio facilities and technicians was considered a boon for contestants, though Cole later recorded that his role involved "twenty months' hard work, without pay ... with loads of scurrilous and other criticism".31 Promoted to group captain in January 1935,27 he became the inaugural commanding officer (CO) of Headquarters RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales, on 20 April 1936. The new headquarters, which had been formed from elements of two of the base's lodger units, No. 3 Squadron and No. 2 Aircraft Depot, supplanted an earlier arrangement where the CO of No. 3 Squadron had doubled as the station commander.32 Cole was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Coronation Honours of 11 May 1937,33 and attended the Imperial Defence College in London the following year.5 He returned to RAAF Station Laverton as CO in February 1939, taking over from Group Captain Henry Wrigley.34

World War II

As part of the RAAF's reorganisation following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, No. 2 Group was formed in Sydney on 20 November, with Cole in command.35 He was raised to temporary air commodore in December, and took charge of Southern Area Command when it was established in the new year.236 In September 1941, he was sent to North Africa as Officer Commanding No. 235 Wing RAF of the Desert Air Force, where he helped establish a new anti-submarine warfare unit, No. 459 Squadron RAAF.37 Posted to England with Headquarters No. 11 Group in May 1942, he served as Forward Air Controller of the Dieppe Raid on 19 August, responsible for co-ordinating Allied air cover off the French coast aboard HMS Calpe.3738 In doing so, he was seriously wounded in the jaw and upper body when German fighters strafed the ship; he required plastic surgery and spent several weeks recuperating.238 His gallantry during the action earned him the Distinguished Service Order,39 the announcement being published in a supplement to the London Gazette on 2 October 1942.40 The same month, he was made Air Officer Commanding (AOC) RAF Northern Ireland, with the acting rank of air vice marshal,2 though the command was described in the official history of Australia in the war as a "backwater".41

Three-quarters portraits of two men in tropical military uniform
Air Vice Marshal Cole (left) as Air Officer Commanding North-Western Area at Adelaide River, Northern Territory, September 1943

In May 1943, Cole returned to Australia, taking over as AOC North-Western Area Command from Air Commodore Frank Bladin in July.542 Based in Darwin, Northern Territory, he was responsible for regional air defence, reconnaissance, protection of Allied shipping and, later, offensive operations in the New Guinea campaign.43 Cole found the command in "good shape" but considered its air defence capability inadequate, recommending augmentation by long-range fighters such as the P-38 Lightning. He nevertheless had to make do with the three squadrons of Spitfires already on his strength, and the possibility of calling on the USAAF's Fifth Air Force for reinforcements as necessary.42 During August and September, he reduced regular reconnaissance missions to "increase bombing activity to the limit", following a request from General Douglas MacArthur to provide all available support for Allied assaults on LaeNadzab. North-Western Area B-24 Liberators, Hudsons, Beaufighters and Catalinas carried out raids to destroy Japanese bases and aircraft, and divert enemy forces from Allied columns.43 Through March and April 1944, Cole had thirteen squadrons under his control, and was supporting amphibious operations against Hollandia and Aitape.44 In May, he directed bombing from North-Western Area on Surabaya as part of Operation Transom.45

Cole handed over North-Western Area to Air Commodore Alan Charlesworth in September 1944.46 He took up an appointment as Air Member for Personnel (AMP) in October,5 but was removed soon afterwards following an incident at RAAF Headquarters, Melbourne. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal George Jones, received an anonymous letter alleging that Cole had become drunk and lost control at a mess meeting on 8 November. Investigating the matter, Jones was unable to establish whether or not Cole had been drunk but was satisfied that he had not behaved appropriately, and issued him a warning without charging or otherwise disciplining him.47 Under pressure from the Federal government, Jones dismissed Cole from the position of AMP and posted him to Ceylon in January 1945 as RAAF Liaison Officer to South East Asia Command.547 Cole served in this role until the end of the war, taking part in negotiations for the Japanese capitulation and acting as Australia's senior representative at the formal surrender ceremony in Singapore on 12 September 1945.2

Retirement and legacy

Five men in World War II military uniforms, standing on an airfield
Cole (far left) as RAAF Liaison Officer to South East Asia Command, with Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park (centre) and Air Marshal Sir Hugh Saunders (far right), near Penang, c. August 1945

Cole was summarily retired from the RAAF in 1946, along with several other senior commanders and veterans of World War I, primarily to make way for the advancement of younger and equally capable officers. In an earlier minute to the Minister for Air, Arthur Drakeford, regarding post-war command prospects, Air Vice Marshal Jones had assessed Cole as having failed to display "certain of those qualities expected to be possessed by senior officers of such rank". In any case, his role overseas was redundant.4849 Cole, for his part, later wrote to the Melbourne Herald that he considered the RAAF's administration during World War II to be "weak", and that as a consequence he felt "a lot happier to serve most of the War with the Royal Air Force".50

Ranked substantive air commodore and honorary air vice marshal,2 Cole was officially discharged from the RAAF on 17 April 1946.51 He resented being forcibly retired, and stood for election as the Liberal Party candidate for Drakeford's seat, the Victorian Division of Maribyrnong, in the federal election that year. Cole stated that his candidacy was "an endeavour to bring some sense and stability to Government administration" but was unsuccessful, and Drakeford retained the seat.52 Cole subsequently served as a director with Pacific Insurance and Guinea Airways. He died in Melbourne of chronic respiratory disease on 14 February 1966. Survived by his wife and four children, he was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, Victoria, following a funeral at RAAF Base Laverton.2

Cole Street and the Cole Street Conservation Precinct at Point Cook Base, RAAF Williams, are named for Adrian Cole.53 His decorations were held by the Naval and Military Club, Melbourne, where he had been a long-standing member.354 In July 2009, following the club's dissolution, the medals were to be auctioned along with other memorabilia. This action was challenged by Cole's family, who argued that his decorations were only on loan to the club, and should be donated to the Australian War Memorial (AWM).54 As the Supreme Court of Victoria deliberated on the case, the parties involved negotiated a settlement whereby Cole's medals would be transferred to the AWM.55

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Newton, Australian Air Aces, p. 29
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eaton, Australian Dictionary of Biography, pp. 459–460
  3. ^ a b c d e Knox, Who's Who in Australia 1935, p. 123
  4. ^ Malvern, a neighbouring suburb of Glen Iris, has also been given as Cole's birthplace, for example in Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 466
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Dennis et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 136
  6. ^ a b c Adrian Trevor Cole at The AIF Project. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  7. ^ a b Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 9
  8. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 52–54
  9. ^ Australian Naval Aviation – Part 1 at Naval Historical Society of Australia. Retrieved on 14 July 2009.
  10. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 56
  11. ^ Recommendation for Adrian Trevor Cole to be awarded a Military Cross at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 6 April 2009.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30234. p. 8389. 14 August 1917. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  13. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 63, 66–67
  14. ^ AWM Collection Record: P01034.050 at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  15. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 69
  16. ^ Shores et al., Above the Trenches, p. 112
  17. ^ Shores et al., Above the Trenches Supplement, p. 18
  18. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 349–350
  19. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 363–364
  20. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 365–367
  21. ^ Recommendation for Adrian Trevor Cole to be awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 6 April 2009.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31170. p. 2037. 7 February 1919. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  23. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 23
  24. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 16
  25. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 90
  26. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 712
  27. ^ a b Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 467
  28. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 37
  29. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 238
  30. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 54
  31. ^ a b Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 401
  32. ^ Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 46, 113
  33. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34396. p. 3088. 11 May 1937. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  34. ^ RAAF Historical Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 144–145
  35. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 67
  36. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 91–92
  37. ^ a b Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 237
  38. ^ a b Herington, Air War Against Germany and Italy, p. 351
  39. ^ Recommendation for Adrian Trevor Cole to be awarded a Distinguished Service Order at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 4 April 2009.
  40. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35729. p. 4331. 2 October 1942. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  41. ^ Herington, Air Power Over Europe, p. 278
  42. ^ a b Odgers, Air War Against Japan, pp. 104–105
  43. ^ a b Odgers, Air War Against Japan, pp. 111–112,121
  44. ^ Odgers, Air War Against Japan, pp. 215–219
  45. ^ Odgers, Air War Against Japan, p. 229
  46. ^ Odgers, Air War Against Japan, p. 246
  47. ^ a b Helson, Ten Years at the Top, pp. 187–190
  48. ^ Helson, Ten Years at the Top, pp. 234–237
  49. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 179–181
  50. ^ Helson, Ten Years at the Top, p. 246
  51. ^ Cole, Adrian Lindley Trevor at World War 2 Nominal roll. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  52. ^ Coulthard-Clark, Soldiers in Politics, p. 132
  53. ^ Phillips, The Heritage Homes of the Australian Defence Force, p. 46
  54. ^ a b Hornery, Andrew (11 July 2009). "Air Force Gongs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  55. ^ Gregory, Peter (21 July 2009). "Truce in battle over flying ace's medals". The Age. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 

References


Military offices
Preceded by
Air Vice Marshal John Cole-Hamilton
Air Officer Commanding RAF in Northern Ireland
1942–1943
Succeeded by
Air Vice Marshal Donald Stevenson
Preceded by
Air Commodore Frank Bladin
Air Officer Commanding North-Western Area
1943–1944
Succeeded by
Air Commodore Alan Charlesworth
Preceded by
Air Vice Marshal William Anderson
Air Member for Personnel
1944
Succeeded by
Air Commodore Frederick Scherger








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