Archive for the 'Air Power Literature' Category

Some more thoughts on an Air Force Records Society

[Cross posted from Thoughts on Military History]

I have written elsewhere there has been some discussion of whether there is a need for an Air Force Records Society. I have prepared a briefing paper that has been sent round to various people working in the field. However, I thought I would post part of it here to try and gain further ideas on this project. I am interested in any thoughts people may have on this.

Overview

Both the Royal Navy and Army have a Records Society. To date the Naval Records Society, founded in 1893 by leading figures including Professor Sir John Knox Laughton, has published over 150 volumes. The Army Records Society has published thirty-one volumes to date. Both organisations have been successful in promoting the history of their respective services by bringing together collections of documents to highlight the past.

The history of British air power is now more than one hundred years old. An important question exists, should there be a records society that deals with the Royal Air Force. The RAF and its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, have a rich documentary heritage that should be preserved. The society would provide a valuable source for serving officers, scholars and all those interested in British air power history and the development of air power generally.

As noted below publications could include a variety of strands. However, to begin with there are several obvious sources that could be explored. These included the papers of Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson or Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Trenchard. Possible unpublished memoirs include the fascinating work written by Air Marshal Sir Edgar Kingston-McCloughry, which is a refreshing honest and critical work that was never published, and languishes in his papers at the Imperial War Museum. There is also the possibility of publishing significant works that are now out of copyright. In addition, it may be worth looking into the possibility of publishing key volumes from the Air Historical Branch Narrative collection.

Aim of the Society

The object of an Air Force Records Society would be to edit and publish manuscripts relating to the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, and their antecedents’, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, and to reprint works of military interest.

Council/Committee

The society will require a council in order to run it effectively. It should consist of a:

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Editor
  • Councillors’

Members should come from leading figures in the field of air power history. Terms of service and responsibilities will be laid out in a constitution that can only be revised at an annual general meeting.

Membership

Membership should be drawn from anyone who has an interest in the history of the RAF and FAA and their antecedents’. It is hoped that membership will be drawn from members of academia, the Ministry of Defence the heritage sector, students, serving and retired members of the RAF and FAA.

Possible Volumes

As with the NRS and ARS, the society would look to publish one volume per year. The society would aim to publish volumes that deals with the following areas:

  • Personal Papers
  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Unpublished Memoirs/Autobiography
  • Themed Documents Collections
  • Miscellany

Challenges

There are several challenges that will need to be surmounted in order to see an Air Force Records Society come to fruition:

  • Setting up a committee
  • Produce a constitution for the society including terms of service for council members
  • Advertising the society
  • Developing a relationship with relevant archival collections
  • Developing a relationship with a relevant publisher in order to produce volumes
  • Receiving proposals for future publications
  • Developing a website

Thoughts welcomed

Are you an Air Power Studies MPhil/PhD Student?

As I have mentioned previously one of my roles is that I am the Student Representative on the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Air Power Group Committee. In order to help me in this role it would be useful to establish a mailing list for postgraudate researchers working in the field of Air Power Studies so that we may discuss issues that may be taken to the committee. I am also interested in finding out who is currently engaged in doctoral research in order to illustrate the diversity of work that is ongoing. The list would also be a useful way of networking and providing you with information of events and publications that may be of interest. You do not need to be a member of RAeS for this, though membership does give you access to the publications such as the Journal of Aeronautical History.

If you wish to be added to the list, please email me at airpowerstudies@gmail.com with the following details:

Name

Working Thesis Title

Institution

Supervisor

Date of Completion

Email

I would like to hear from as many scholars as possible. Air Power Studies, as a sub-set of the broader War Studies field, encompasses all aspects of History, Strategic Studies, Economics, Law, Ethics, Philosophy and International Relations.

Shock and Awe: A Conference on the History of Aerial Bombing

Details of an interesting conference on bombing at the London School of Economics and Goldsmith College.

A Hundred Years of Bombing from Above

November 2011 marks the centenary of a world-historic event.

An Italian pilot, Guilio Cavotti dropped the first bombs from an aeroplane on to the oasis of Tagiura outside Tripoli.

The development of aerial bombardment was more than just a military revolution.

It changed both war and peace.

It redrew the legal and moral boundaries between civilians and combatants, spread the theatre of war into new environments and expanded the battlefield, making cities into places of mass death and taking warfare into private, domestic spaces.

The conference Shock And Awe: a hundred years of bombing from above will mark this anniversary and explore important elements of the century of bombing that followed the fateful attack on Tegura.

This multi-disciplinary event brings together internationally renowned critics, sociologists, geographers, philosophers and historians to reflect on all aspects of a hundred years of bombing from above.

It will develop a conversation between very different historical experiences and cases of bombing and establish a cosmopolitan conversation about these difficult issues.

The conference will be held at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Goldsmiths, University of London.

More details, including the registration details and programme, can be found here.

A Short Critique of Vincent Orange

[Cross posted from Thoughts on Military History]

One of the key authors I have to engage with in my PhD is Dr Vincent Orange. What follows is a short critic of his work as it appears in the introduction to my thesis. It may seem that I am being harsh but I feel that are some important structural and historiographical issues with his works. They tend to lean towards the hagiographical and need to be read with care and with an understanding of the context of both the period and of the RAF.

Orange has written several key biographies of RAF airmen. In general, these works have been well received and undeniably, Orange has added valuable accounts to the historiography of the RAF. As Air Commodore (ret’d) Henry Probert, the former head of the RAF’s Air Historical Branch, noted in his review of Orange’s work on Air Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Mary’ Coningham in 1990 there had been few biographies of RAF commanders.[1] Thus, this work was a welcome addition to the field. This is a situation that to a large degree still exists to this day, though Orange himself has added several important works since writing his Coningham biography; however, it should be noted that works dealing with combat pilots rather than high commanders of the RAF remain an ever-popular genre with the publishing houses.

However, while Orange’s works have been lauded an important issue must be considered when utilising these works. This is the issue of bias that is inherent in all of his works, but notably his biographies of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park and Air Chief Marshal Baron Dowding. The issue can be described as the ‘Park View of History, in effect his works are biased to the view of Park when viewing contentious events; it should be noted that Orange’s first biography was his work on Park and his affinity to this important airmen is noticeable in his writings. This especially notable in sections of his works that deal with the Battle of Britain but this bias is also inferred in sections of dealing with the issues surrounding the use of air power in the Normandy Campaign. Even in his work on Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor, a book that is generally positive about this airmen’s contribution to air power history, we can see this bias emerge where the subject turns to events that include Park or officers involved in the contentious events of 1940. For example, in discussing, the decision to replace Slessor with Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Douglas of Kirtleside at Coastal Command at the start of 1944 Orange describes the RAF’s posting system as random and that it was the wrong decision for the forthcoming role that the command would play in preparations for OVERLORD.[2] However, Orange’s criticism is wrong, as it was not unusual to post officers to new commands in order for them to gain further operational experience. In addition, the change in command for Slessor, and indeed Douglas, did not significantly affect the conduct of the war. In reality, the decision to send Slessor to the Mediterranean aided in the conduct of complex political issues that affected operations in theatre; Slessor undoubtedly had the skills need for dealing with the political of coalition operations.[3] In addition, Douglas fitted in with the command team then being gathered together for OVERLORD through his experience of working with these officers in the Mediterranean in 1942 and 1943. In addition, to argue that he had a lack of experience is to ignore his time as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff where he would have been fully cognizant with the problems facing Coastal Command.[4]

Perhaps Orange’s bias, in particular towards those officers involved in the debates of 1940, can be best summed up by comments made in his review of John Ray’s work The Battle of Britain, New Perspectives: Behind the Scenes of the Great Air War in the Journal of Military History.[5] In this review, Orange concludes by noting that ‘Dowding and Park were right, Douglas and Leigh-Mallory were wrong.’[6] This simplistic analysis of the debates of fighter tactics in 1940 and 1941 highlights the partisan nature of Orange’s work. He sees himself as the defender of Park’s, and latterly Dowding’s reputation. In doing so, he has sought to denigrate the role and impact of their contemporaries. In doing this, he ignores the difficulties of fighter operations as a whole but rather concentrates on daylight defensive operations.


[1] Henry Probert, ‘Coningham by Vincent Orange (Book Review)’ Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, Vol. 135, No. 2 (Summer: 1990) p. 81

[2] Orange, Slessor, p. 123

[3] For a more positive view of Slessor’s impact both at Coastal Command and the Meditteranean Allied Air Forces see; Corvin Connelly, ‘Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cottesworth Slessor and the Anglo-American Air Power Alliance, 1940-1945’ PhD Thesis (Texas A&M University, 2001) pp. 193-271

[4] Lord Douglas of Kirtleside with Robert Wright, Years of Command: The Second Volume of the Autobiography of Sholto Douglas, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, GCB, MC, DFC (London; Collins, 1966) p. 246

[5] Vincent Orange, ‘The Battle of Britain, New Perspectives: Behind the Scenes of the Great Air War by John Ray (Book Review)’ Journal of Military History, Vol. 59, No. 2 (1995:Apr.) pp.348-349

[6] Orange, ‘The Battle of Britain (Review)’ p. 349

TOC – RAF Air Power Review

As I have started over on the Birmingham “On War” site I am going to post TOCs for various journals. Of course here they will be air power specific.

First up is the Royal Air Force Air Power Review, which is the flagship publication of the RAF and comes out through the RAF Centre for Air Power Studies.

Autumm/Winter 2010, Vol. 13, No. 3

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Air & Space Power after the SDSR

Air Commodore (ret’d) Peter Gray, The Gloves Will Have To Come Off: A Reappraisal of the Legitimacy of the RAF Bomber Offensive Against Germany

Joel Hayward, “The Qu’ran and War: Observations on Islamic Just War”

Peter Lee, Christianity, the West and Just War in the Twenty-First Century

Group Captain Clive Blout, Prevention is better than Cure: What is the Utility of Air Power in Conflict Prevention?

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe, ‘Pink’s War’ – Applying the Principles of Air Control to Waziristan, 9 March to 1 May 1925

Group Captain Alistair Byford, False Start: the Enduring Air Power Lessons of the Royal Air Force’s Campaign in Norway, April-June 1940

The Principles of War

[Cross-posted at Thoughts on Military History]

Given the title of the post I suspect many of you are expecting a diatribe on strategy, well not quite. I spent yesterday going through the papers of Air Marshal Stephen Strafford, who in 1944 served as Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory‘s Chief of Operations and Plans at the Allied Expeditionary Air Force.

In his papers I came across an interesting pamphlet entitled, More Asp Ad Astra: The Lighter Side of Ten Years ‘Hard’, 1938-1948. This is a collection on light-hearted poems and verses written by various officers including Air Chief Marshal Dowding. In it I found this great poem on the principles of war.

By day and night we sit and plan,

Devising means whereby we can,

Forget all we have learned of yore,

And flout the principles of war.

Napoleon, at the crucial spot,

Might concentrate all he had got,

Napoleon’s dead; his teaching’s worse;

Disperse, we say, disperse, disperse,

The why should we maintain the aim

And think on Monday just the same

As we had thought on Friday night?

Variety is always right.

Mobility to us implies

Some wild and hare-brained enterprise.

Wherein our meager forces are

Sent furthest from the real war.

‘The air force weapon is the bomb’;

So says our manual, but from

Such horrid thought we always shrink

And only of the fighter think

One principle alone we heed –

To mystify and mislead;

The only folk we don’t surprise

Are those we term our enemies

This was written by Air Vice Marshal E B C Betts and despite it lighthearted nature it actually really explores the problems of strategy and the confusion it brings to even those at the highest levels. His comments on the importance of the bomb seem especially pertinent.

By Ross Mahoney

Aimpoint

The Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Power Development Centre has just launched a new newsletter on their website. Entitled Aimpoint, its aim is to:

The intent of this newsletter is to provide members of the RAAF, the ADF and the public with a quick and easy means of remaining current with worldwide developments relating to air power and to stimulate discussion on Australian air power. These newsletters also provide an update on APDC activities such as air power conferences and seminars, links to APDC products such as air power doctrine, books and Pathfinders, and noteworthy air power articles from around the world.

Of particular interest in this first newsletter are the latest Pathfinder papers produced by the centre. These are:

No. 133 – Defining Air Power: Part I – Evolution of the Term

No. 134 – The RAAF in Non-military Operations

Also of interest is the latest issue of the Australian Defense Forces Journal, which concentrates on the subject of Joint Professional Military Education.


Welcome

Welcome to The Aerodrome, the unofficial blog of the Air Power Studies students at the University of Birmingham.

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