Air Marshall (Retired) Sir Richard Bruce Bolt, KBE, CB, DFC, AFC (pff).
son of George Bruce Bolt, OBE and Mary Bolt (nee Best) born 16 July 1923 Auckland, New Zealand died 27 July 2014 Wellington, New Zealand.

The son of George Bolt, one of New Zealand’s greatest air pioneers, Richard Bruce Bolt was born in Auckland on 16th July 1923 and educated at Nelson College. He joined the RNZAF aged 18 and completed his basic flying training at Wigram before sailing to Britain.

Bolt arrived in England in 1943 to complete his training as a bomber pilot. On the first of a number of operations over Germany with No 51 Squadron, his Halifax suffered more than 50 shrapnel hits. He then volunteered for the Pathfinder Force, converting to the Lancaster and joining No 35 Squadron to attack targets deep into Germany. By the end of the war he had completed 37 operations.

In April 1945 Bolt flew during Operation Manna, dropping food parcels to the starving Dutch population — “For once,” he observed, “we were not killing anyone.” He also flew one of three Lancasters on a night-time low-level sortie dropping medical supplies into a PoW camp north of Berlin, then joined Operation Exodus bringing PoWs back to Britain. At the end of the war he was awarded a DFC.

Post-war, Bolt returned to New Zealand and joined No 2 Squadron ferrying Mosquito aircraft from Britain to his homeland. He held a series of staff appointments until 1953, when he became a flight commander on a transport squadron supporting operations during the Malayan Emergency. Two years later he was given command of No 40 Squadron, flying the Hastings on routes in the Far East and Pacific .

By July 1955 he was back in Britain, commanding the RAF’s No 24 (Commonwealth) Squadron, also equipped with the Hastings. The post alternated between RAF and Commonwealth squadron commanders, and Bolt was the first New Zealander to fill the appointment. Two years later he returned home as the Transport Wing Training Officer, and in 1959 he was awarded an AFC. He went on to fill important staff jobs, including Air Adviser to the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra, before completing the Imperial Defence College Course in London.

Clearly destined for higher things, Bolt was given command of the RNZAF’s Operations Group, which included strike aircraft as well as maritime patrol, transport and helicopter squadrons. In 1972 he was the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Support) and two years later became head of the RNZAF as the Chief of Air Staff. This was followed by promotion to air marshal and Chief of Defence Staff. At the time inter-service relations were not good, but Bolt’s experience, confidence and communication skills enabled him to steer a Defence White Paper that brought an increase in the overall defence budget.

Bolt retired in 1980, but retained a close interest in the RNZAF. Never afraid to be outspoken, he was deeply concerned about successive defence cuts and, in 1985, he was joined by 17 other retired service chiefs who warned the then Labour government about the declining capability of the country’s defence forces. In response, the Prime Minister, David Lange, branded them “geriatric generals”.

In 2001 the government introduced swingeing cuts to the RNZAF, which included scrapping its combat air capability and disbanding its strike squadrons. Bolt again protested forcefully, and was not surprised when the government accused him and other defence chiefs of trying to “refight the Second World War”.

Bolt returned to London in 2012 to attend the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial by the Queen.

He was appointed CBE in 1973, CB in 1977 and KBE in 1979.

Sir Richard Bolt was twice married. He is survived by his second wife and by a son and daughter of his first marriage.

The Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) is an internationally-renowned institution and component of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. It was formerly called the Imperial Defence College. The College is led by a Commandant, currently Vice Admiral Charles Style, CBE, and senior directing staff are two-star officers from the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, and civil service.

RCDS owes its origins to the recommendation of a cabinet committee in 1922 presided over by Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. The college was founded in 1927 and was located at 9 Buckingham Gate until 1939. Its work in those days was chiefly concerned with defence of the Empire, with a population of 25 Members drawn from the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Seaford HouseThe experience of the Second World War proved the benefits of such an institution for training senior service officers and governments and services of the Commonwealth for the college to resume its work. In 1946 the college reopened at its site at Seaford House, Belgrave Square. This was the first time members from the United States attended the course.

The college was renamed to "Royal College of Defence Studies" in 1970. The course composition has been progressively widened to include members from over 33 different countries, including in recent years China, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Pakistan, the Slovak Republic and Nepal.

In 2007 the college celebrated its 80th Anniversary. The occasion was marked by a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Royal College of Defence Studies Mission is: "To prepare senior officers and officials of the United Kingdom and other countries and future leaders from the private and public sectors for high responsibilities in their respective organisations, by developing their analytical powers, knowledge of defence and international security, and strategic vision".


60cm x 76cm.
Oil on canvas
by artist Andrew Moon