DAVIS ARNOLD - Khan you believe it?

Fighter Command supremo Hugh Dowding believed he had been a Mongol chieftain in a previous life.
Fighter Command supremo Hugh Dowding believed he had been a Mongol chieftain in a previous life.

During the Battle of Britain

the Spitfire pilot Trevor “Wimpy” Wade I wrote about last week came under the ultimate command of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswell Tremenheere Dowding, head of RAF Fighter Command.

Dowding is acknowledged as the mastermind who made the RAF victory in 1940 possible.

Without Dowding’s pre-war powers of persuasion, the Hurricane and Spitfire, the two aircraft that triumphed for Britain in the air over Sussex and Kent in the summer of 1940, would have been built in far fewer numbers. Dowding’s influence effectively suppressed a very strong lobby arguing for bomber construction to be given priority over that of fighter planes.

Dowding has an enduring link to our county through the Dowding Room in Sussexdown House in Storrington. He helped establish it as a home for injured RAF men and women in need of long-term care. Sussexdown House still exists although the care criteria have changed down the years and non-RAF people can now reside there.

Hugh Dowding was nicknamed “Stuffy”, somehow appropriate for a man who at face value was a pillar of the establishment. But then came a revelation that blew me away!

By extraordinary coincidence it turns out that Hugh Dowding was a member of the Ghost Club, the same body to which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle belonged as I recently recounted in this column.

True to the mores of the Ghost Club, Dowding subscribed to Spiritualism. He also believed absolutely in reincarnation. After becoming a widower in 1920, he met his second wife after claiming he had spoken to her dead husband through a medium.

In later life, he became convinced he had been a Mongol chieftain in a previous life. Perhaps “Stuffy” should retrospectively be made an honorary chief of the Waterloo Bonfire Society. This Lewes - based group feature Genghis Khan’s warriors as their premier pioneers!