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PAF s' Chief of the Air Staffs

Air Vice Marshal Leslie William Cannon, RAF

After Atcherley, an unaccustomed calm descended upon the RPAF with the arrival of Air Vice Marshal L W Cannon to take charge as commander-in-chief of the RPAF. Grapevine intelligence reaching Pakistan ahead of his arrival had it that his strong point was ‘org & admin’ (organisation and administration); this generated a flurry of activity in Air Headquarters’ offices to bring all files and other paperwork up-to-date – an aspect for which Atcherley had had little time, or regard.

Leslie William Cannon (April 9, 1904 - January 27, 1986) was commissioned in the RAF in 1925. As a pilot officer he served in No 2 Squadron and also flew with No 441 Flight, Fleet Air Arm at China Station. After a flying instructors course in 1928 he was selected for engineering training at RAF Henlow and then posted as the engineer in charge at RAF MT Depot at Shrewsbury in the rank of flight lieutenant; this sort of sequence was normal practice for GD officers of that period. He returned for a tour as an instructor at RAF Cranwell between 1932 and 33.

His next five years were spent in India on various assignments, the first one being that of staff engineering officer at Air Headquarters. Next in 1935 he went on to more operational duties as flight commander No 60 Squadron at Kohat; for his actions there he was mentioned in dispatches. He was promoted to the rank of squadron leader in 1937 when he took over command of No 5 RAF Squadron.

During WWII some of his important assignments were: chief technical officer of No 21 Operational Training Unit, officer commanding of a bomber station and, as an air commodore, the Air Officer i/c Administration at Headquarters No 2 Bomber Group. After the war he was posted to Germany as AOC No 85 Group and returned to England in 1948 to becomes first the assistant and then commandant of RAF Staff College, Andover. His last assignment before proceeding to take charge of the RPAF was an Director of Organization (Establishment) at the Air Ministry.

Soon after his arrival in Karachi at the age of 47, cannon demonstrated that, while his background may have leaned towards administration, he was no pen pusher. Having discovered that Atcherly and tuned up the flying and operations machinery fairly well, cannon set about streamlining the administrative support network by filling potentially dangerous lacunane in rules and regulations and by removing organizational anomalies at Air Headquarters and at the bases. Amongst the new measures he implemented which were to prove of enormous benefit in the years to follow were the institution of Air Board meetings, the system of officers’ promotion examinations and introduction of special purposes short service commissions.

Cannon’s other area of special interest was further augmentation of training facilities in order to make the RPAF less and less dependent on foreign institutions. He brought to completion the project concerning the PAF’s two public schools, and established two new training institutions of a fundamental character: a Flying Instructors School (FIS) and a Ground Instructors School (GIS).

Air Marshal Cannon will perhaps best be remembered for his even handed settlement of contentions issues, his mild mannered but surprisingly firm style of command and his dignified approachability in the social context. He died in England in January 1986.

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