Dowding naît à Moffat le . Diplômé de l'Ecole Militaire Royale en servant comme officier d'artillerie en extrême orient jusqu'à son retour en Angleterre en . While attending the Army Staff College, he paid for his own flight instruction, qualifying for his Royal Flying Corps pilots rating.
Dowding vit a Moffat ses 15 premières années. Il part étudier à la faculté de Winchester (Royaume Uni) et rejoint plus tard l'Armée. En sa famille descend en Angleterre, où en Dowding peut remarquer les accomplissements des premiers aviateurs tels que Orville, Wilbur Wright et Louis Bleriot.
Il sert avec distinction en France en tant que commandant d'escadron et d'escadrille et est promu lieutenant-colonel dans les Royal Flying Corps. A la fin de la guerre, le Brigadier Dowding est en charge du commandement de l'ensemble de l'entraînement au vol en Angleterre.
A la formation de la RAF en , il reçoit le grade de Group Captain - servant à des positions de staff and command en Angleterre et dans le Moyen Orient. En , Air Vice Marshal, il est nommé à l'Air Council comme Member for Supply and Research - une position-clé dans laquelle il devait influencer le développement et les politiques d'approvisionnement de la RAF, si vitaux pour ses succès dans la 2nde guerre mondiale. Adoubé chevalier en pour sa performance supérieure, il set out with high purpose et se hâte de développer le Radio Direction Finding System - également connu sous le nom de RADAR - qui contribue tant à la victoire en .
A partir de en tant que premier commandant-en-chef des chasseurs de la RAF - responsable des défenses aériennes de la Grande Bretagne - il met en place le réseau de défense du pays, incluant les premiers radars d'alerte, les Royal Observer Corps, complex command and control facilities, the air interceptors Hurricane and Spitfire, and the welding of the whole into a highly trained cohesive weapons system. Because of his foresight, deep sense of purpose, and leadership, Fighter Command was ready when the call came in . Jusqu'en , seeing two vital years of service lorsque "les quelques" pilotes de chasseurs arrivent dans leurs Spitfires et Hurricanes contre les Messerschmitt 109s et 110s de la Luftwaffe allemande. Il se bat vigoureusement dans les corridors du pouvoir pour l'introduction d'améliorations dans les appareils, les rardars, systèmes de contrôle aérien et les aérodromes. Dowding est comparé à Sir Francis Drake et l'amiral Horatio Nelson en relation avec son rôle-clé dans la défense de la Grande-Bretagne ; comme eux, il a durant sa vie de nombreux détracteurs et supporters.
Dowding's military career goes to show that his foresight and competence were largely responsible for the organisation of an effective air-defence system for Grande-Bretagne. The Luftwaffe had more aircraft with a greater performance, but Dowding had tied visual observation of aircraft together with radar to direct fighters onto attacking formations by using radio. It took the Germans over two years to try to copy this system, which they never completely succeeded in doing. Being at the right place, at the right time, with sufficient force brought to bear, was the key behind RAF success in the Battle of Britain.
The essential humanity of Dowding and his desire to help the rank and file was again manifested in the care given in the postwar period to those disabled by war. Ceci est rappelé à la Maison de Dowding de l'Association de RAF à Moffat, converted from the private school buildings in which his father had taught, and considerably extended. The better-known national memorial is the Dowding Room of the Sussexdown Home in Storrington, Sussex.
La RAF (1914-1942)
Durant le 1ère guerre mondiale de 1914-1918, Dowding sert en France comme membre du Royal Flying Corps, qui deviendra plus tard la RAF. He became a Flight Commander of the Wireless Squadron, air spotting for the artillery, later moving to Brooklands with the Wireless Experimental Establishment. He fully appreciated the importance of developments in aircraft radio, but by had gone onwards and upwards in the RAF and became Air Member for Supply and Research (later, Research and Development). He wanted the rapid development of fast monoplane fighters such as the Spitfire and the Hurricane, and from was encouraging research into radar. For airfields, he wanted hard, all-weather runways, but in this faced opposition from those still wedded to biplanes and grass airstrips.
Le surnom "Stuffy" Dowding lui sera donné suite à un événement du début de sa carrière aérienne. Although this was later used in reference to his attention to detail, in fact it was a reference to an event that occurred in . He protested to a senior officer over the fact that virtually untrained young men were being sent to his Squadron and then ordered into battle and massacred by experienced German pilots. The legendary reply, "Don't be stuffy, Dowding," may have been behind his efforts to care for his men; the RAF pilots of Fighter Command became known as "Dowding's Chicks".
Promotion on to Air-Officer Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command allowed Dowding to concentrate on Air Defence, but it also marked a period of hard work in the face of Hitler's re-armament of Germany. The obvious and necessary preparation of the Royal Air Force to resist German air power took place against complaints about expense and provocation. There was only the embryo of a radar system, fourteen incomplete fighter squadrons, an incomplete Anti-Aircraft Division and the understaffed volunteer Observer Corps. His report on the 'Ideal' solution of , wanted 45 fighter squadrons, 1200 anti-aircraft guns, 5000 searchlights, radar, radio control of aircraft and a massive expansion of the Observer Corps. Unwisely, the report was ignored until after the folly of the Munich Crisis of , when Neville Chamberlain held up 'a piece of paper' and spoke of 'peace in our time'.
Moffat had only a modest place in Dowding's arrangements, but it is worth noting that from October 1939 there was at Beattock the Observer Post K1 of the No. 32 Carlisle Observer Group, on watch for all air movements. From then until the end of the war in Europe, the Post had to be constantly manned. The site was kept in peacetime, moving twice in line with operational needs. Observer Corps posts saved many lives by monitoring movements of Allied aircraft, releasing warning flares to warn those approaching high ground. Later, the Royal Observer Corps Post at Beattock was built to monitor the effects of nuclear weapons, an underground concrete box where two or three men and women would monitor the effects of nuclear attack by missiles. It may be a far cry from monitoring aircraft, but up till 1991 the Royal Observer Corps gave the faithful service Dowding had required from its volunteers.
Hugh Dowding did look into the pay needs even of the lowly Observers, who despite his best efforts received no more than £ 3 per week for on duty in all weathers and in any hour of the day or night. However, his main concern was for the effective operation of systems of radar and observer reporting to allow his control rooms to vector (guide in) fighters to enemy planes as fast as was possible. After some sad mistakes, the system was working well enough by 3rd to respond thereafter to attacks by the Luftwaffe. It is ironic that the first bombs fell on Scottish soil and waters at Rosyth on . Dowding a deux convictions de base : la première, que la RAF would need to be desroyed before an invasion of Britain could be attempted, la seconde, que ses observateurs were there to provide the RAF with intelligence on aircraft movements over land, where radar was less effective. History shows he was absolutely correct.
Dowding's pre-occupation with radar and the Observers ensured that Britain had a good defensive network, but his care was not respected in high places. To further complicate matters, his Group Commanders Park and Leigh-Mallory argued bitterly over tactics; whilst Dowding was working up the vital Night Fighter Force, their contention did Dowding considerable damage. Night fighters had initially limited successes, although Dowding had set them up on the right lines, but that combined with disputes to make Churchill replace him. Le 25 novembre 1940, he handed over his Fighter Command to Air Marshal Sholto Douglas. This was on the eve of the victory that should have crowned his career. Others (notably and unfortunately, including Churchill), felt that Dowding had missed opportunities to bring the Luftwaffe to battle, and that his Observers were 'Stone Age'. In fact, he had kept away the enemy and made it possible to gather forces to attack the Luftwaffe on its own ground, as well as ensuring that Britain did not commit too many aircraft overseas and so lose all its own means of active air defence. --> The epic Battle of Britain en , , et - the only battle in the history of the world to be fought entirely in the air - with Hugh Dowding leading his charges day and night by his sagacious employment of limited resources, had saved England from certain destruction. The eloquent words of Winston Churchill - "Never was so much owed by so many to so few" - will forever remind the world of sacrifice and valor of "the few" and their indomitable leader Hugh Dowding. Commandant en chef des chasseurs de la RAF durant la bataille d'Angleterre.
Durant 2 ans, Dowding sert aux USA pour le Ministère de la Production Aérienne, mais part en retraite en à sa propre demande. Belatedly made Lord Dowding of Bentley Priory, he was left to watch as others reaped the success due his preparations. Churchill eventually acknowledged that Dowding had been correct, remarking "We must regard the generalship here shown as an example of genius in the art of war". At Dowding's Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey on 12th March 1970, the term 'Architect of Deliverance' was used. The ashes of Lord Dowding now lie very fittingly in Westminster Abbey, one of those buildings his Fighter Command helped preserve from destruction.
Le , Dowding déclare dans le Sunday Dispatch :
Plus de 10000 observations ont été rapportées, dont la majorité ne peut être liée à une explication "scientifique"... Je suis convaincu que ces objets existent et qu'ils ne sont construits par aucune nation sur Terre. Je ne vois donc d'autre alternative que d'accepter la théorie selon laquelle ils sont d'origine extraterrestre.
Il décède le 15 février 1970 dans le Kent.