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Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Alexander Cochrane, GBE, KCB, AFC, RAF (24 February 1895–17 December 1977) was a British pilot and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise – the famous "Dambusters" raid.
Ralph Cochrane was born on 24 February 1895, the youngest son of Thomas Cochrane, 1st Baron Cochrane of Cults, in the Scottish village of Springfield.
1908: Attended Osbourne/HMS Britannia.
15 Sep 1912: Midshipman, HMS Colossus.
1915: Airship Pilot, Folkestone Airship Station.
Airship Pilot (Trials), Kingsnorth Airship Station.
Staff Officer, Admiralty Airship Department.
Airship Pilot, Pulham Airship Station.
1 Aug 1919: Awarded Permanent Commission in rank of Flight Lieutenant. (gazetted 26 Sep 1919)
22 Jan 1920: Removed from the Navy Lists on being awarded Permanent Commission in RAF
21 Mar 1920: Airship Pilot, RAF Airship Base, Howden.
During the inter-war years, Cochrane served in various staff positions and commanded no. 3 Squadron and no. 8 Squadron.
He attended the RAF Staff College in 1925 and the Imperial Defence College in 1935.
In 1936 Cochrane was sent to New Zealand to assist with the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an independent service from the Army. On 1 April 1937, Cochrane was appointed Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
During the Second World War, Cochrane commanded No. 7 Group, No. 3 Group and from 1943 to 1945 No. 5 Group, all in RAF Bomber Command. Cochrane's outstanding virtue as a Bomber Group Commander was his receptiveness to new ideas and innovations, from whatever source they came. He could be arrogant, but had no professional conceit. 5 Group became the most efficient and elite Main Force bomber group, second only to 8 Group, the 'Pathfinders'.
Cochrane commanded the Dam-Busters raid. There was intense, sometimes openly hostile, rivalry between Cochrane and Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett, who saw Cochrane's experimentation with low-level target marking in 1944 as a direct threat to his specialist squadron's reputation. Cochrane had good claim to be not only the most outstanding group AOC of the war, but the best bomber commander in the RAF.
In February 1945, Cochrane became commanding officer of RAF Transport Command, a position he held until 1947 when he became commanding officer Flying Training Command. During which time he managed the Berlin Airlift. In 1950 Cochrane was appointed Vice Chief of the Air Staff.
Ralph Cochrane retired from the service in 1952. Following his retirement, Cochrane entered the business world notably as director of Rolls-Royce. He was also chairman of RJM exports which manufactured scientific models. Now known as Cochrans of Oxford.