Holiday reading

The 19th Military History Carnival has been posted at Military History and Warfare. For my pick from this edition I can't go past the first entry, on the interwar RAF at Thoughts on Military History. It's part of the first chapter of his thesis, and it's a very good overview of the financial and operational problems faced by the RAF. I particularly like Ross's point that the perception that the RAF was all about strategic bombing was never wholly true -- it always devoted brainpower and scarce resources to problems such as army co-operation. And the perception has distorted the historiography since then. If I had to quibble, then it would be with this part:

The RAF also had to deal with the gradually changing geo-strategic situation in Europe. For example, in the mid-twenties, in a period of deteriorating relation with France, the RAF had to deal with the potential threat of what has been described as the French air menace. This, coupled with the emergence of the threat of Germany in the 1930’s led to the materialisation of a distinct home fighter force based around the concept of strategic air defence. This force starting out in 1923 as the Home Defence Air Force with a projected strength of 52 squadrons would eventually emerge as RAF Fighter Command.

There's nothing actually incorrect here, but from my own parochial perspective I'd want to stress that while it is true that HDAF did eventually lead to Fighter Command, in theory it was supposed to be composed of 2 bomber squadrons for every fighter squadron. It was to be a striking force, not primarily an air defence force: it would defend Britain by bombing the enemy. Of course, in practice it had more fighter squadrons than bombers, because they were cheaper to build, and once the supposed French threat disappeared there was no urgency to complete the whole HDAF programme until Hitler came along. But as I say, nothing in what Ross wrote actually contradicts any of that, it's just me being nit-picky :)

Bonus! Because I forgot to nominate anything for the Carnival this time around, here's one I would have nominated from The Bioscope. It's about the 1916 film The Battle of the Somme, which was recently issued on DVD by the Imperial War Museum. A hugely important film and a very illuminating post.

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4 thoughts on “Holiday reading

  1. Brett - Cheers for comments. I agree with your points abou the conception of HDAF and you are quite right. What is your source for that? I may pop it in as a footnote. I am glad that people are slowly, and it is actually quite slow, moving away from the idea that the RAF spent all its time thinking about bombing. Actually both CD22 and AP1300 spend a hugh amount of time discussing the problems of co-operation in other spheres of operations.

  2. Post author

    My go-to source for HDAF is John Ferris, 'Fighter defence before Fighter Command: the rise of strategic air defence in Great Britain, 1917-1934', Journal of Military History 63 (1999): 845-84. (I see you've got a later reference by Ferris for that bit, but unfortunately I haven't read it!)

  3. Cheers Brett. I suspected Ferris but thought I would check. I'm sure I have got that one somewhere too. Which haven't you got? Would you like a photocopy?


  4. Post author

    It's the one called 'Achieving Air Ascendancy'. Thanks for the offer -- I can ILL it though, I just haven't gotten around to it yet! I probably should do that soon ...

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