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Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland CB., K.B.E.

Born May 30 1920, Sheffield, England, died July 30 2013. Age 93.

Following his war service, Harland was one of the first RAF engineer officers to specialise in guided missiles, spending two years at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough as project officer for the Thunderbird ground-to-air missile . For the next two years he was at the Ministry of Supply working on air-guided weapons.

In May 1958 he was the first British liaison appointed to the staff of General Bernard Schriever, of the USAF’s Air Research Development Command. Schriever, described as the architect of the USAF’s space and missile programme, had established the division a few months earlier, soon after the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik.

Harland was thus intimately involved both in the early development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) – such as Thor (later procured for the RAF), Atlas, Titan and Minuteman – and of the Mercury programme which put men in space.

Reginald Edward Wynyard Harland – educated at Stowe and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the University Air Squadron and took a First in Mechanical Sciences. He was mobilised in September 1940.

His first appointment was to No 295 Squadron, supporting the Army’s airborne forces. In late 1942 he joined No 241 Squadron as it deployed Hurricane ground attack aircraft to support Operation Torch. For 18 months he was the squadron’s engineering officer as it moved forward to rudimentary advanced landing grounds in support of the First British Army. When the squadron re-equipped with Spitfires, Harland moved with it to Italy. He then joined the invasion of the South of France before finishing the war with a field maintenance HQ in Naples.

Identified as one of the few engineering officers likely to reach senior rank, after the war Harland trained as a pilot and, having been awarded his wings, became chief engineering instructor at the RAF College, Cranwell.

On his return from the United States in July 1960 he was put in command of the RAF’s central servicing and development unit . Two years later he was appointed senior technical officer at HQ No 3 Group, which controlled all Valiant and Victor aircraft of the ‘V’ Bomber force.

After a three-year spell as air officer in charge of engineering with the Far East Air Force, Harland went to the Ministry of Technology as project director for the Harrier, playing a key role in the introduction of the aircraft into RAF service. He insisted on design changes to facilitate overseas sales (in particular to the United States) and to allow the Harrier to operate from aircraft carriers.

Harland subsequently became Air Officer Commanding No 24 Group, responsible for training all airmen and women, including apprentices.

In June 1973 he became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Maintenance Command, and was later responsible for all the logistical and maintenance support requirements of the RAF.

He was appointed CB in 1972 and KBE in 1974.

After retiring from the Service in 1977 he became technical director with the engineering company WS Atkins. He was also president of the Society of Environmental Engineers from 1974 to 1977 and a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers . In the 1983 and 1987 general elections he stood for the Social Democrats in Bury St Edmunds.

Harland’s eye for detail extended to teaching his sons how to make airworthy paper aeroplanes: the balance had to be right, with no yaw, roll or pitch . At the time of his death he was working on his memoirs and on a book about his great-uncle, the shipbuilder Sir Edward Harland. He had recently published The Complete Surgeon, a biography of his father-in-law, WHC Romanis.

A competitive and highly successful sailor, Harland raced a Fireball dinghy. He also enjoyed playing golf, chess and bridge.

Reggie Harland married, in 1942, Doreen Romanis, who died in 2011. He is survived by two sons and a daughte, a son and a daughter predeceased him.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.

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 • Last Modified: 08 August 2014, 13:30