Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Peter Robin Harding, GCB (born 2 December 1933) is a retired Royal Air Force officer who served as a bomber pilot in the 1950s, a helicopter squadron commander in the 1960s and a station commander in the 1970s. He became Chief of the Air Staff in 1988 and served in that role during the Gulf War in 1991. He became Chief of the Defence Staff in December 1992 but resigned after his affair with Lady (Bienvenida) Buck, the wife of Conservative MP Antony Buck, became public.
Sir Peter Harding
|Born||2 December 1933|
Lambeth, London, England
|Service/||Royal Air Force|
|Years of service||1952–94|
|Rank||Marshal of the Royal Air Force|
|Commands held||Chief of the Defence Staff (1992–94)|
Chief of the Air Staff (1988–92)
RAF Strike Command (1985–88)
No. 11 Group (1981–82)
RAF Bruggen (1974–76)
No. 18 Squadron (1966–69)
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath|
Born in Lambeth to Peter Harding and Elizabeth (née Clear), Harding was educated at Chingford High School and commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an acting pilot officer on national service on 3 September 1952 and given a permanent commission in the same rank on 15 October 1952. He was promoted to the substantive rank of pilot officer on 12 August 1953 and posted to No. 12 Squadron flying Canberra bombers in 1954.
Promoted to flying officer on 10 September 1954, Harding became a qualified flying instructor and flight commander at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1957, before being promoted to flight lieutenant on 10 March 1958. In 1960 he was sent to Australia to serve as a pilot with No. 1 Squadron RAAF flying Canberra bombers again. He attended RAF Staff College in 1963 and was promoted to squadron leader on 1 July 1963. In 1964 he started a tour in the Air Secretary's department at the Ministry of Defence. He became Officer Commanding No. 18 Squadron at RAF Gütersloh and then RAF Acklington in 1966, flying the Westland Wessex helicopter and then, having been promoted to wing commander on 1 July 1968, he joined the Defence Policy Staff at the Ministry of Defence in 1970.
After attending the National Defence College at Latimer in 1969, Harding became Director of Air Staff Briefing in 1971. Promoted to group captain on 1 July 1972, he became Station Commander at RAF Bruggen in July 1974. He was appointed aide-de-camp to The Queen on 1 January 1975. Promoted to air commodore on 1 January 1976, he was then made Director of Defence Policy at the Ministry of Defence in 1976 and Assistant Chief of Staff (Plans and Policy) at SHAPE on 18 July 1978.
Harding became Air Officer Commanding No.11 Group on 7 January 1981, and Vice-Chief of the Air Staff with the acting rank of air marshal on 28 August 1982. He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1983 New Year Honours. Promoted to air chief marshal on 1 January 1985, he became Vice Chief of the Defence Staff early that year. Appointed Air Officer Commanding Strike Command on 29 August 1985, he was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1988 New Year Honours. He was made Air Aide-de-Camp to The Queen on 14 November 1988 and became Chief of the Air Staff on the same day. As Chief of the Air Staff he advised the British Government on the deployment of air power during the Gulf War.
Promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force on 6 November 1992, Harding became Chief of Defence Staff on 31 December 1992. However he resigned in March 1994 after it was revealed by Max Clifford and the News of the World that he had an affair with Lady (Bienvenida) Buck, the wife of Conservative MP Antony Buck. Although Harding was a serving officer rather than a politician, the story was especially embarrassing as it coincided with a string of scandals (known, after John Major's slogan of October 1993, as "Back to Basics") associated with members of the Conservative government at that time. Unlike other Marshals of the Royal Air Force who only relinquished their appointments, Harding resigned his commission on 14 June 1994. Consequently, he ceased to be listed in the Air Force List.
After leaving the RAF, Harding was deputy Chairman of GEC-Marconi from 1995 to 1998. He was also Chairman and Chief Executive of Merlyn International Associates from 1997 to 2006 and Chairman of Thorlock International from 1999 to 2000.
In 1955 Harding married Sheila Rosemary May; they have three sons and one daughter.
| Station Commander RAF Bruggen
| Air Officer Commanding No. 11 Group
Sir David Craig
| Vice-Chief of the Air Staff
Sir Peter Herbert
| Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff
January 1985–August 1985
Sir Patrick Hine
Sir David Craig
| Commander-in-Chief Strike Command|
| Chief of the Air Staff
Sir Michael Graydon
Sir Richard Vincent
| Chief of the Defence Staff
Sir Peter Inge
Peter Harding may refer to:
Sir Peter Harding (RAF officer, born 1933) (born 1933), retired Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff, and Chief of Defence Staff
Peter Harding (RAF officer, born 1940) (1940–2013), air vice-marshal
Peter Harding (metallurgist) (1919–2006), RAF reconnaissance pilot, World War II prisoner of war and metallurgist at the Royal School of Mines
Peter Harding (wheelchair rugby) (born 1969), Australian Paralympic wheelchair rugby union player
Peter Harding (climber) (1924–2007), British rock climber
Pete Harding, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series