Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford

Royal Air Force air marshal (1893-1971)

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Charles Frederick Algernon Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford, KG, GCB, OM, DSO, MC, DL (21 May 1893 – 22 April 1971) was a senior Royal Air Force officer. He served as a bomber pilot in World War I, and rose to become first a flight commander and then a squadron commander, flying light bombers on the Western Front. In the early stages of World War II, he was commander-in-chief of Bomber Command. In October 1940 he was made Chief of the Air Staff, and remained in this post for the rest of the war.

Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford (1944)




  • [F]or excellent reasons, [the government] has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call 'Military Targets'. I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples!
    • purportedly said in November 1941, circulated as early as 19 October 2017 referring to Portal as "commander-in-chief, British bomber command". This was due to a mis-reading of Selwood's Telegraph article from 2015 quoted below, due to similarity between Portal's title "Chief of the Air Staff" and the "Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command" which was (unspecified by Selwood) Richard Peirse, who has been otherwise credited since at least 2013 as being the origin of this quote.


  • All three [directing officers] were new in their appointments that year [1936]. Of them all, Portal was obviously the clearest thinker and speaker although I cannot remember him exercising any distinct "Air" influence on either his colleagues or on the students.
    • page 121 of 1977 book "Portal of Hungerford: the life of Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Viscount Portal of Hungerford, KG, GCB, OM, DSO, MC" by Denis Richards. Original writer unclear.
  • I cannot remember that he ever did anything that helped us.
  • Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Charles Portal pointed out next day that the aim of bombing had not been "to terrorise the civilian population", and he redrafted the memorandum at Churchill's invitation, removing references to "terror".
  • Chief of the Air Staff Charles Portal had calculated that bombing civilians could kill 900,000 in 18 months, seriously injure a million more, destroy six million homes, and “de-house” 25 million, creating a humanitarian crisis that, he believed, would speed up the war.

See also