Helen Renton

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Helen Renton
Birth nameHelen Ferguson Renton
Born(1931-03-13)13 March 1931
Died2 June 2016(2016-06-02) (aged 85)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1954–1986
RankAir Commodore
Service number2826287
Commands heldWomen's Royal Air Force
Battles/warsCold War
Falklands War

Air Commodore Helen Ferguson Renton, CB, ADC (13 March 1931 – 2 June 2016) was a Scottish Royal Air force officer. From 1980 to 1986, she served as Director of the Women's Royal Air Force.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Renton was born on 13 March 1931[3] in Denny, Falkirk, Scotland, to John Paul Renton and Sarah Graham Renton (née Cook).[1][2] She was educated at Stirling High School, a state high school in Stirling.[1] She studied at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an undergraduate Master of Arts degree (MA Hons).[2] She remained at Glasgow to undertake one year of postgraduate business studies.[2]

Military career[edit]

Renton joined the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) in 1954, and then underwent two months of officer training.[2] On 9 June 1955, she was commissioned into the Secretarial Branch as a pilot officer.[4] Having completed an accounting course, she was posted as a junior accounts officer to RAF Spitalgate in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.[2] She was promoted to flying officer on 9 June 1957.[5] She served in the United Kingdom between 1955 and 1960.[1] On 1 April 1960, she was promoted to flight officer with seniority in that rank from 9 March 1960.[6] From 1960 to 1962, she served in Cyprus.[1]

Renton returned to the United Kingdom in 1963.[1] She spent 1967 as a member of the HQ staff of Royal Air Force Germany.[1] On 1 January 1968, she was promoted to squadron officer as part of the half-yearly promotions.[7] From 1968 to 1971, she worked at the Directorate of the WRAF in London.[1][2] On 1 July 1971, she was promoted to wing commander as part of the half-yearly promotions.[8] She then moved to Cyprus where she served as the most senior WRAF officer at the headquarters of the Near East Air Force.[2] From 1973 to 1976, having returned to the United Kingdom, she was based as RAF Training Command.[1] From 1976 to 1978, she was a staff officer at the Ministry of Defence.[1] On 1 January 1977, she was promoted to group captain as part of the half-yearly promotions.[9]

On 16 February 1980, Renton was appointed Director of the Women's Royal Air Force in succession to Joy Tamblin, and made an acting air commodore.[10] On 1 July 1980, she was promoted to air commodore as part of the half-yearly promotions.[11] She was head of the WRAF during the Falklands War, and although no WRAF personnel were directly involved in the conflict, they played a supporting role from bases in the United Kingdom.[2] She retired on 13 March 1986.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Renton never married, nor did she have any children. She believed "children and military life are incompatible".[2]

Renton died on 2 June 2016, she was aged 85.[2]


On 16 February 1980, Renton was made an Honorary Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to Queen Elizabeth II;[10] she relinquished this appointment on 31 January 1986.[13] In 1981, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree by the University of Glasgow, her alma mater.[1] In the 1982 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "RENTON, Air Cdre Helen Ferguson". Who's Who 2017. Oxford University Press. November 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Davison, Phil (8 July 2016). "Obituary – Helen Renton, former head of the Women's Royal Air Force". The Herald. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  3. ^ Though the Indpendent for many years gave 31 March as her birthday.
  4. ^ "No. 40545". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 July 1955. p. 4301.
  5. ^ "No. 41097". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 June 1957. p. 3507.
  6. ^ "No. 42205". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 November 1960. p. 8146.
  7. ^ "No. 44493". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1967. p. 84.
  8. ^ "No. 45417". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 July 1971. pp. 7208–7210.
  9. ^ "No. 47117". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 January 1977. pp. 371–373.
  10. ^ a b "No. 48116". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 March 1980. p. 3430.
  11. ^ "No. 48294". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 September 1980. pp. 12375–12377.
  12. ^ "No. 50495". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 April 1986. p. 5522.
  13. ^ "No. 50426". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 February 1986. p. 1974.
  14. ^ "No. 48837". The London Gazette. 30 December 1981. p. 3.
Military offices
Preceded by
Joy Tamblin
Director of the Women's Royal Air Force
1980 to 1986
Succeeded by
Shirley Jones