Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Portal, Sir Charles Frederick Algernon (First Viscount Portal of Hungerford) (1893–1971)

Royal Air Force (RAF) marshal, chief of the RAF Air Staff from 1940 to 1945, and member of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Born 21 May 1893 in Hungerford, England, Charles Portal joined the Royal Engineers as a dispatch rider during World War I. In 1915, he was commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps, qualifying as an observer and then a pilot. He shot down several German aircraft in some 900 sorties that primarily included reconnaissance and artillery fire direction and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. Between the wars, his posts in the RAF included commander of British forces at Aden (1934–1935) and the Imperial Defence College (July 1937). Promoted to air vice marshal in July 1937, he became director of organization and was responsible for developing 30 new RAF bases around Britain. He also served as air member for personnel at the Air Ministry.

Portal became chief of Bomber Command in April 1940, initiating the first RAF raids against Germany. He was knighted that July. On 25 October 1940, Portal was named chief of the air staff and air chief marshal (the highest RAF post; he was the youngest staff chief). In addition to his Air Ministry duties directing the policy and operations of the RAF, Portal participated in all the summit conferences as a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Portal supported Sir Arthur Harris's controversial stewardship of Bomber Command and the policy of area bombing (until it was halted by Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill in March 1945). A strong believer in air power, he saw the role of the RAF and its American Army Air Forces allies as destroying Germany's ability to resist invasion. Portal was made a baron (Lord Portal of Hungerford) in August and served as RAF chief until 31 December 1945. Churchill's verdict on Portal was that he was the "accepted star of the air force."

From 1946 (when he was raised to Viscount) to 1951, Lord Portal was responsible for administering the atomic research facilities at Harwell. He served as chairman of the British Aircraft Corporation from 1960 to 1968. He died 23 April 1971 in Chichester, England. He was one of the few senior wartime leaders to leave no memoirs.

Christopher H. Sterling


Further Reading
Richards, Denis. Portal of Hungerford. London: William Heinemann, 1977.; Terraine, John. A Time for Courage: The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939–1945. New York: Macmillan, 1985.
 

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