Hibbitt & Barnes Family History

The Career Of Air Commodore C. N. Ellen D.F.C. (03233)

C N Ellen Index Page

NOTICE: WANTED - Flying log books and militaria for Air Commodore C N Ellen - if anyone reading this knows the whereabouts of the flying log books, or any other items, for Cyril Norman Ellen, we'd be enormously grateful if you would get in touch.


Name: Cyril Norman ELLEN
Born: 6 Sep 1895, Seaham Harbour, Durham.
Died: 7 Apr 1981, Plymouth, Devon.

Summary of Career

Joined the Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) in the photographic branch in view of previous knowledge of cinematography. Subsequently qualified as Observer, granted permanent commission on the first list in the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.). Qualified as Pilot, qualified as Signals Officer (electricity and wireless). Transferred to the Technical Branch. Accepted appointment with the Control Commission under the Foreign Office, as a Senior Control Officer, and acted as Kreis Resident Officer, and finally as British Resident in Landkreis Warburg in Westphalia.


Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C.
Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C.

Education and Early Career

Schooling: Belmont Road Schools, South Tottenham, N.
1910 - 1912:
1912 - 1915:
Editor of the Eclair Cinema Journal.


Military Service

Dates of Commissions and Promotions

(T) Sub-Lieutenant:
27 Nov 1916,

Chief Petty Officer
(F4179): 23 Apr 1915
(T) (P) Observer Officer: 2 Apr 1917 [27 Nov 1916]
(T) (P) Observer Sub-Lieutenant: 1 Jun 1917 [1 Mar 1917],

Lieutenant 'O':
1 Apr 1918
Lt. (Observer Officer): 1 Aug 1919
Flying Officer:
15 Apr 1921
Flight Lieutenant: 1 Jul 1924
Sqadron Leader:
1 Dec 1933
Wing Commander: 1 Oct 1937
(T) Group Captain: 1 Sep 1940
Acting Air Commodore: 12 Feb 1945
Group Captain (WS): 12 Aug 1945
Air Commodore:
Retained: 14 Aug 1946.

Medal Entitlement

Distinguished Flying Cross, 1918 George V
1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Mention-in-Despatches Oakleaf
India General Service Medal with clasps 'Mahsud 1919-20', 'Waziristan 1919-21' and 'Mohmand 1933'.
(There were a total of 100 IGSM medals with three clasps issued to the RAF and this combination of three is unique.)
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-1945


Mentioned in Despatches (for Salonika)

"For gallant conduct and distinguished services rendered during the Period from September 21, 1917, to February 28, 1918".
(London Gazette Supplement - 7 June 1918)

Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

"Lieut. Cyril Norman Ellen. (Sea Patrol, MEDITERRANEAN)
A keen and exceptionally able observer who for over a year has performed most valuable service in photographic flights at low altitudes and at times under very difficult conditions."
(London Gazette Supplement – 3 December 1918)


23 Apr 1915: Mechanic 3rd Grade, HMS President II. (Volunteered for temporary duties during hostilities).

His RN service number (F4179) indicates that he joined the RNAS from the start of his career. His initial training between April and June 1915 would likely have been at Crystal Palace, where ratings and officers joining the RNAS undertook their basic training.

1 Jul 1915: Observer duties, HMS Riviera (joined the seaplane tender on 30 Jun 1915 at Sheerness).

At this time, HMS Riviera operated with the Dover Patrol. See this blog post recounting two incidents which he was involved in during this period, both regarding Short Admiralty 184 Type Tractor Biplane Seaplanes.

Whilst pursuing a Commission with the RNAS, he initially failed an eye test. He subsequently sought the opinion of an 'eminent eye specialist', L.V. Cargill, F.R.C.S. (Hon. Consultant for Eye cases to Military Hospitals in London and Senior Ophthalmic Surgeon, King's College, Hospital). It was suggested that he rest his eyes for a few weeks as he had been undertaking close-up work.

27 Nov 1916: Appointed to a Temporary Commission in the RNVR.
27 Nov 1916: Probationary Observer Officer.
3 Dec 1916: Observer's duties, Crystal Palace.
14 Feb 1917: Attended Eastchurch Observers' School, Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
2 Apr 1917: Appointed to a Commission as a Temporary Probationary Observer Officer in RNAS.
2 Apr 1917: Sick. (Admitted to Chatham Hospital from 4 - 20 Jun 1917).
26 Jun 1917: Qualified as Wireless Telegraphy Observer.

Passed out 1st on his course. Entitled to W/T skilled pay from 1 Jun 1917.

16 Jul 1917: Leave. (Received inoculations on 5 and 14 July 1917).
23 Jul 1917: Observer, No 2 Wing, RNAS, 'D' Flight (Stavros). This became D Squadron in late 1917 and on 1 Apr 18 (upon the creation of the RAF) it became 221 Squadron, 62 Wing RAF. HMS Ark Royal.

Travelled partway to Greece onboard the despatch ship and fleet messenger, HMS Isonzo, and caught up with HMS Ark Royal at Mudros on 8 Aug 1917. Was discharged from the ship to Stavros by M.28 (Monitor 28) on 13 Aug.

Visited the Akte Peninsula, Greece, between 24 and 29 Jun 1918 for a few days sightseeing with Lt. W R Glenney.

Requested to learn to fly on 25 Sep 1917, denied on 4 Oct, requested again on 7 Feb 1918, presumably denied once again as he remained an observer until 1921.

Awarded the MiD and DFC for his service in Stavros during WW1.

Aug - Nov 1918: Attended Adjutants' Course.
25 Nov 1918: Leave.

Took the paddle-steamer, S.S. Barryfield, to Salonika on 22 Nov 1918 and then continued across Italy  and France to reach England.

25 Jan 1919: Awaiting disposal, Midland Area, Somerset House, Clarendon Road, Leamington.
28 Jan 1919:

Observer/Adjutant, No. 5 Training Depot Station at Easton on the Hill in Northamptonshire, now RAF Wittering. (Admitted to Wothorpe Hospital on 2 Feb 1919 with bronchitis.)

14 Mar 1919: Observer/Adjutant, No. 59 Wing. 59 (Training) Wing was part of 12 (Training) Group, RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
25 Mar 1919: Observer/Adjutant, No. 12 Group (Cranwell). Carried out the duties of SO3 (Personnel) for five months.

Required to attend Buckingham Palace on 24 July 1919 to receive his D.F.C. See blog post.

1 Aug 1919: Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Lieutenant (Observer Branch).
17 Nov 1919: Attached to HQ Middle East for service in India.

Set off for India on 17 Nov 1919 on S.S. Huntsend. Disembarked at Bombay on 11 Dec 1919.

15 Dec 1919: Observer, No. 31 Sqn. India.

During this period, he would have earned his India General Service Medal together with the Mahsud 1919-20 and Waziristan 1919-21 clasps.

15 Mar - 9 Apr 1920: Attended Mountain Warfare School, Abbottabad. (1st Course of Instruction).

Course Report:
1st COURSE. Observer Officer C.N. Ellen 31st Squadron R.A.F.
"The work was quite new to him, but he understood the necessity of knowing how the other arms worked and worked really hard. His notes were especially good and he took great interest in the schemes, demonstrations etc."

18 Sep 1920: HQ Middle East awaiting disposal.

Left Mhow, India, by train on 15 Sep 1920 and embarked for Bombay on 17 Sep.

2 Oct 1920: Under Training Pilot, Egypt Group.

Based at Head Quarters, Egyptian Group, Royal Air Force, Almaza, Cairo, Egypt. Almaza Air Base was known by the RAF as RAF Heliopolis. 45 Sqn. moved from Cairo to Iraq (RAF Hinaidi) on 21 Feb 1921.

1 Apr 1921: Pilot, No. 45 Sqn.
13 April 1921: Authority to wear "Wings".
15 May 1922: Transferred from Middle East to Iraq Command (No. 45 Sqn).

Flew Vickers Vernons (usually J 6871) with No. 45 Squadron on the Cairo to Baghdad Airmail route which was established by the RAF in 1921. At least three forced landings made; 15 Apr 1922 and 22 Aug 1922 in J 6871, 20 Oct 1922 in J 6873. On 4 Sep 1922, whilst flying J 6871, both petrol pumps and gravity supply failed.

11 Feb 1923: Supernumerary (non-effective - sick and leave), RAF Depot, Uxbridge.

Stay in RAF British Hospital, Baghdad, beforehand. Left Baghdad, via Basrah, for the UK on 7 Feb 1923. Disembarked in the UK on 19 Mar 1923.

1 Sep 1923 - 26 Jul 1924: Attended Long Wireless Telegraphy & Signals Course, Electrical and Wireless School, Flowerdown, Winchester.

Passed 82.2%. Remarks by Commandant, "Will prove to be a reliable and conscientious Signals Officer".

25 Aug 1924: Signals Officer, RAF Base Leuchars, Fife, Scotland.
16-28 Feb 1925: Attended Practical Short-Wave Telephony (Ground & Air) Course, Electrical and Wireless School, Flowerdown.

Passed. Remarks by Officer Commanding, "Was very keen and carried out satisfactory R/T communication with ground and inter-machine".

17 Apr 1925: Signals Officer, HQ No. 7 Group, Andover. Attached to No. 13 (AC) Squadron.

In May and June 1925, he investigated the tragic death of Flight-Sergt. Frank Lowry O.B.E. who was in an aeroplane, engaged in wireless tests, when he was electrocuted. After re-examining the machine, he found four faults in the wireless apparatus and gave evidence at the inquest.

Leave taken between 28 Sep - 31 Oct 1925, during which he married Gladys Lily Gardner on 3 Oct at St James' Church, Muswell Hill, Middlesex.

12 Apr 1926: Senior Signals Officer, HQ No. 22 Group/Wessex Bombing Area.

No. 22 Group formed on 12 April 1926 at South Farnborough, on the disbandment of No. 7 Group, Andover. As a result, No. 13 (AC) Squadron moved over to No. 22 Group.

1 Oct 1926: Signals Officer, RAF Cadet College, Cranwell, Lincolnshire. (Stay in Princess Mary's RAF Hospital, Halton, Buckinghamshire, between 15 Nov - 5 Dec 1928.)

In charge of wireless training at the college. Wrote a book of lectures during 1927 to cover a two year wireless course for the Cadets whereby the syllabus was revised as a result. This was one reason, amongst several, why he did not achieve the requisite amount of flying time for 1927 and twice requested to be sent on a refresher course, both in 1928 and 1930.

24 Sep 1929: Administrative duties, Electrical and Wireless School, Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
7 Oct - 5 Dec 1929: Attended Aircraft Electrical Course, Electrical and Wireless School. (Passed 88%).
10 Nov - 19 Dec 1930: Attended Central Flying School, RAF Wittering. (Refresher course).

Aeroplanes flown on the course: Avro 504N, DH9A, Atlas, DH Moth. Flying times: Dual 9.30 hours, Solo 17.10 hours. Course report remarks on flying, "This officer has shown maked [sic] keeness [sic] on his course; he has regained his full confidence and has developed into an average pilot on the two seater type. With added experience he should be really good".

19 Dec 1930: Administrative duties, Electrical and Wireless School, Cranwell, Lincolnshire.

Required to vacate Junior Officers' Married Quarter No. 5 at the end of his posting on 20 March 1931.

23 Mar 1931: Flight Commander, No. 26 (AC) Sqn. Catterick, North Yorkshire.

'B' Flight located at Leuchars, 22 May 1931 - 4 Aug 1931, for air co-operation annual training with Scottish Command. Flew Atlas machines.

26 May 1932: Flight Commander, No. 20 (AC) Sqn. Peshawar, British India.

Departed Liverpool on 26 May 1932 on the S.S. "Elysia". Travelled 1st Class and arrived at Bombay on 19 June. Then took a train that evening, arriving at Peshawar on 21 June. In order to join him, his wife and young daughter embarked from Southampton on 3 October 1932 on HM Troopship "Somersetshire", bound for Karachi. Their deferment was due to families not being allowed to travel during the hot season.

Took over command of RAF Station Peshawar on 8 June 1933 before handing back to Sqn. Ldr. Hollinghurst, (as he was then, later Air Chief Marshall) on 3 Sep. It would be during some of this period he would have earned the Mohmand 1933 clasp on his India General Service Medal.

15 Nov 1933: Officer Commanding, supernumerary pending command, No. 5 (AC) Sqn. Quetta.
21 Nov 1933: Officer Commanding, No. 5 (AC) Sqn. Quetta, British India.

Officer Commanding the Annual Flight through Mekran in Nov 1934 to inspect and photograph various landing grounds and to demonstrate aerial co-operation with a number of Mekran Levy Corps Posts. Carried as passenger, the Agent to the Governor General & Chief Commissioner in Baluchistan, The Honourable Mr. B J Gould, C.M.G., C.I.E, I.C.S.

On Leave between 15 Dec 1934 and 28 Feb 1935.

Survived, together with his wife and child, the enormous earthquake which occurred on 31 May 1935 at Quetta, Balochistan, British India (now part of Pakistan). This article documents the episode.

15 Jul 1935: Supernumerary, No. 5 (AC) Sqn.
20 Jul 1935: Supernumerary - non-effective (sick), RAF Depot.

Flown from Quetta to RAF Drigh Road, Karachi, on 20 Jun 1935. Sailed from Bombay with his family on 20 July 1935 on the S.S. Narkunda and arrived at Tilbury, London, on 9th August.

12 Aug 1935: Supernumerary - leave, RAF Depot.
10 Nov 1935: Chief Signals Officer, HQ No. 22 (Army Co-operation) Group, South Farnborough.

Attended the 21st Anniversary Dinner for No. 13 (AC) Squadron on 7 Feb 1936 at the RAF Club.

4 Jan 1938: Chief Signals Officer, HQ Training Command, Market Drayton, Shropshire.
27 Feb - 8 Mar 1939: Attended Course at GPO, Dollis Hill.
18 Sep 1939: Chief Signals Officer, HQ Combined Forces in France.
6 Dec 1939: Supernumerary - non-effective (sick), No. 1 RAF Depot. (Stay in RAF Hospital, Halton.)
12 Dec 1939: Supernumerary - non-effective (sick), No. 1 Recruit Centre.
26 Feb 1940: Chief Signals Officer, HQ Training Command.

Training Command was the RAF's command responsible for flying and ground training from 1936 to 1940 and again from 1968 to 1977. From 27 May 1940 to 1 June 1968, Training Command's functions were split into Flying Training Command and Technical Training Command.

24 Apr 1940: Transferred to the Technical Branch.
27 May 1940: Temporary Duty, Directorate of Training, Air Member of Training.
10 Jun 1940: Officer Commanding, No. 3 Electrical & Wireless School. Compton Bassett, Wiltshire.

Started and organised this school to hold 4000 trainees, with a weekly turnover of 300.

President of the Court of Inquiry, in 1941, on Consolidated Liberator Mk.I AM915 (British Overseas Airways Corporation) which flew into Arinarach Hill near Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland, killing ten crew and passengers.

Nominated for a C.B.E. both in the New Year and Birthday Honours Lists for 1942. (10th on the lists submitted.)

17 May 1942: Officer Commanding - designate, No. 1 Signals School.
24 May 1942: Officer Commanding, No. 1 Signals School (capacity 5000). Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
1 Jan 1943: Officer Commanding, No 1 Radio School. Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
12 Jan 1943: Supernumerary - non-effective (sick), No. 1 Radio School.

No. 1 Radio School had a number of name changes from The Electrical & Wireless School, to No. 1 Signals School, until finally becoming known as No. 1 Radio School in 1943, when all radio and signal schools were called radio schools.

25 Jan 1943: Officer Commanding - designate, No. 7 Radio School.
1 Feb 1943: Officer Commanding, No. 7 Radio School (capacity 1500). South Kensington Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London.

The commands of No. 1 Signals and No. 7 Radio Schools were at schools already running but at which difficulties had occurred, and it was his task to correct. At these three schools (including No. 3 E & W School) tens of thousands of technical trainees, men and women, passed through his hands. Awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by Technical Training Command on 24 Feb 1944.

Nominated for a C.B.E. in the 1943 Birthday Honours Lists. (8th on the submitted list.)

Invited to open the Calne and District "Wings for Victory" Week in June 1943 and took the salute, even though he had moved on from Compton Bassett some time before.

15 Nov 1943: Air Ministry Unit pending posting as Deputy Director of Technical Training.
13 Dec 1943: Deputy Director of Technical Training (Signals).

Nominated once more for a C.B.E. in the 1944 New Year Honours List. (9th on the submitted list. In the event, he never received an honour from the King.)

12 Feb 1945: Signals duties, Control Commission, Military Section (Germany).
1 Apr 1945: Director of Signals, Air Division, Control Commission Germany.

Completed his Signals task in Feb 1946 and was transferred to assist the Deputy Chief of Air Division in Berlin on all matters until retirement.

31 May 1946: No. 1 Personnel Holding Unit, pending retirement.
14 Aug 1946: Placed on the RAF Retired List.

Placed on the retirement list in order to meet the contraction in the strength of the RAF and to make way for younger officers.


Foreign Office

Nov 1946 - Jan 1947: Commanded Kreis Group HQ Paderborn (during demobilisation of Commander).
Feb 1947-Jan 1950:

British Resident, Landkreis Warburg, Westphalia.


He worked for three years in this isolated post as British Representative, acting also as Honorary Game Warden and Remand Magistrate.

Was employed with the Control Commission for Germany (British Element) from 30 Sep 1946 to 13 Apr 1950 when he left due to an overall reduction in the strength of the Commission.


After Retirement

Aug 1950: Took the salute at the Weston-Super-Mare "Battle of Britain" Week March Pass.



C.N. Ellen's service record.
Various public repositories.
The Ellen Collection of Personal Papers (Private Family Archive).



C N Ellen Index Page

C N Ellen & G L Gardner Page in Barnes Family Tree