Obituary: Air Commodore Colin Cadell

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The Independent Online
That aircraft should have radio controls throughout flight and an approach under radio control to any airport in the world is now taken for granted. But in the late 1940s, and early 1950s, when Air Commodore Colin Cadell was managing director of International Aeradio, this was far from the situation. Cadell went round the world, supervising the installation of novel systems then at the frontiers of technology.

For this internationally important task, he was technically and managerially superbly well qualified. Born at Bonally in the Colinton district of Edinburgh, he was christened Colin after the district by his, then elderly, parents Lieutenant-Colonel and Mrs Cadell of Foxhall. After Merchiston and Edinburgh University, where he studied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Cadell went as a graduate to RAF Cranwell, where he was commissioned in 1926.

Service in Palestine was followed by an opportunity to be the RAF officer who spent a year at the Ecole Superieure d'Electricite, inter alia giving him a knowledge of technical French which was to prove an invaluable help in dealing with the three French air force squadrons, and in supervising the installation, post-war, of radio communications.

In late 1934, Cadell was chosen by Sir Miles Lampson, later first Baron Killearn, ambassador to Egypt, High Commissioner for the Sudan and, de facto, Britain's proconsul in the Near East, as his ADC. The then somewhat shy Cadell enjoyed himself and broadened his horizons.

Lampson's daughter Meg brought out her best friend and flatmate, Rosemary Pooley. The young ADC and the proconsul's daughters and their friends held somewhat surreptitious parties during strict mourning at the Lampson court after the death of King George V. Cadell became engaged to Miss Pooley in 1938; Lampson produced the much-repeated observation that "I had simply no idea that Rosemary had such good taste!" The marriage was to last 57 years and was the bedrock of Cadell's life.

Returning home Cadell was selected for staff college in 1937 and then after a spell at the Air Ministry was given command of 18 Wing in 1940 in Scotland. After serving in the Middle East as Chief Signals Officer, he was brought back to the Air Ministry as Director of Signals in 1944. Professor R.V. Jones remembers him as a straight RAF officer who was in charge at the time the night fighters first confronted the Luftwaffe.

Both the late Ronald Selby Wright, Chaplain to the Forces, and General Sir Michael Gow have remarked that Cadell must be about the only man who worked in intelligence and had not, on a matter of principle, written his memoirs.

A CBE (military division) was poor consolation for not getting the DSO and Bars of some of his contemporaries. Cadell's talents were deemed to be those of a senior technical officer, confined to the ground. It was partly on this account of not being allowed to be a front-line flyer that Cadell, against the advice of his boss and friend John (later Marshal of the RAF Sir John) Slessor, left the Air Force.

After installing radio signalling and take-off and landing facilities in 30 countries from North Africa to Aden, Cadell left Aeradio for eight years on Gavin Astor's Times as a technical consultant. It was an unhappy period, as Cadell was a team player and found his employers wayward and unworkable with.

The autumn of his life was devoted to the Carron Company, where he helped to modernise an ineffective board structure in this ancient iron-founding business, to the Royal Bank of Scotland, to the chairmanship of the Edinburgh Airport Consultative Committee, and to being Vice Lord-Lieutenant of West Lothian, a task which from my first-hand knowledge he performed meticulously. He was a meticulous man.

Colin Simson Cadell, air office officer and businessman: born Edinburgh 7 August 1905; CBE 1944; managing director, International Aeradio 1947- 58; member, Edinburgh Airport Consultative Committee 1972-96, Chairman 1972- 82; Vice Lord-Lieutenant for West Lothian 1972-88; married 1939 Rosemary Pooley (two sons, one daughter); died Edinburgh 29 October 1996.

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