Posts Tagged 'Royal Naval Air Service'

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.


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 Possible unpublished memoirs include the fascinating work written by Air Marshal Sir Edgar Kingston-McCloughry, which is a refreshing honest and critical work that was never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.


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 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


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


Naval Wing Good, Military Wing Bad? An Orwellian inspired analysis of British Aviation Doctrine, 1912-1914

Here is the first of the air power related abstract to our fortcoming book, A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792-1945.


In light of the historiographical consensus regarding the innovative dominance displayed by the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (NW), this essay sets out to readdress this position and stress at least one aspect of innovation in which the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (MW) took the lead: the production of doctrine. Undoubtedly, it was not the nature of the doctrine being produced that was innovative; rather it was the philosophy behind its production, reflecting a modern and progressive understanding of the nature and functions of doctrine.

This exploration of British aviation doctrine between 1912 and 1914 begins by briefly examining the historiography before moving to analyse the specific doctrine produced by the separate Wings of the Royal Flying Corps. The diverse approaches of the Wings are then set in the wider context of military and naval attitudes in relation to doctrine. It is argued that, prior to the First World War; the British Army was an organisation possessing a culture that was positive in its attitudes to doctrine. This had a direct impact on the manner in which the MW produced its doctrine. In contrast, the Royal Navy, with its focus on the technical and material, embraced a culture that rejected the production of formal doctrine. Again, this affected the nature of NW attitudes to doctrine.

A concluding section then evaluates the effectiveness of the particular approaches adopted by each Wing. On reflection, there is significant evidence to re-evaluate the historiography and, in particular, it is possible to offer some profound criticisms of Naval Wing policy prior to 1914. It is argued that, as a direct consequence of these differing approaches to doctrine, the MW was better able to integrate air power, materially and philosophically, within its parent service.

Whilst the focus of the essay is aimed at an examination of formal doctrine – i.e. official manuals etc., informal doctrine is not neglected and an assessment of demi-official lectures, essays and articles is also a feature.

By James Pugh, PhD Candidate, Centre for War Studies, University of Birmingham

Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1642 to 1945

I have been working on this event with a couple of fellow PhD student for the past few months. We are now in a position to start advertising it. As you can see there are a f ew air power related papers being delivered on the day…Keep an eye on the blog for similar events. The main web page for the event is here.

Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1642 to 1945

A Symposium for Postgraduate and Early Career Historians

13 April 2011

This symposium, organised by the Centres for First and Second World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, intends to give postgraduate and early career historians the opportunity to examine the process of transformation and innovation in the British military as recent literature on the subject has highlighted a need to evaluate the process from 1642 to 1945. The symposium will be held at the Edgbaston campus of the University of Birmingham.

The symposium will also give delegates the opportunity to present aspects of their research to a wider audience and engage with the academic community in military history. The symposium programme is attached;  it includes eighteen papers on aspects of transformation and innovation in the British military from the early modern period to the  early twentieth century and from a range of perspectives. Professor John Buckley, Chair of Military History at the University of Wolverhampton, will deliver the keynote lecture. Professor Gary Sheffield, Chair of War Studies at the University of Birmingham, will deliver the symposium’s closing address.

The symposium fee, which includes tea & coffee and lunch on the day, is £10 for postgraduate students and Friends/Members of the Centres for First and Second World War Studies and £20 for other interested parties.

If you wish to attend the symposium please print out and return the Symposium Booking Form below and send it by Monday 4 April to:

Ross Mahoney

C/O School of History and Cultures

College of Arts and Law

University of Birmingham



B15 2TT

For informal enquiries please email us at or post a comment below.

Provisional Conference Programme:

8:45 – Registration

9:15 – Introduction and Welcome – Ross Mahoney, Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero

9:30 – Panel 1: Transformation and Innovation in the Early Modern Era, 1642-1815

Chair: Victoria Henshaw (University of Birmingham)

Sara Regnier-Mckeller (University of Essex) – Honour and Manhood in the Armies of the British Civil Wars

Britt Zerbe (University of Exeter) – Amphibious Brotherhood: 1664 or 1755? What Foundation and Establishment mean to Marine Identity

11:00 – Tea

11:15 – Panel 2A: Transformation and Innovation in the 19th Century

Chair: Aimée Fox (University of Birmingham)

Peter Randall (University of Reading) – The Influence of the Napoleonic Wars upon the British Military, 1815-1854

Andrew Duncan (University of Birmingham) – British Army Medicine, 1854-1914 (Title TBC)

Edward Gosling (University of Plymouth) – The Cardwell-Childers Reforms, 1868-1881

11:15 – Panel 2B: Transformation and Innovation at the Fin de Siècle

Chair: Michael LoCicero (University of Birmingham)

Dr Spencer Jones (University of Wolverhampton) – Countdown to the ‘Mad Minute’: The Reform of British Musketry, 1899-1914

Dr Peter Grant (Cass Business School, City University) – Learning to Manage the Army: The Army Administration Course at the London School of Economics

Martin Gibson (University of Glasgow) – The Royal Navy’s Conversion from Coal to Oil, 1900-1914

12:45 – Lunch

13:30 – Keynote Address by Professor John Buckley, Chair of Military History, University of Wolverhampton

14:30 – Panel 3A: Transformation and Innovation in the First World War

Chair: Stuart Mitchell (University of Birmingham)

Paul Harris (King’s College London) – Soldier Banker: Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Lawrence as the BEF’s Chief of Staff in 1918

Simon Justice (University of Birmingham) – Vanishing Battalions: The Reorganisation of British Infantry prior to, and as a result of, the German Spring Offensives of 1918

Dr Jonathan Boff (King’s College London) – Innovation and Victory: The British Army during the Hundred Days Campaign, 1918

14:30 – Panel 3B: Transformation and Innovation in the Second World War

Chair: James Pugh (University of Birmingham)

Neal Dando (University of Plymouth) – From ‘Jock Column’ to Armoured Column: Transformation and Change in British and Commonwealth Unit Tactics in the Western Desert, January 1941 to November 1942

Sarah McCook (University of Durham) – Wartime Communications: British Dispatch Riders and the need for reliable communications during the Second World War

Dr Matthew Ford (University of Hull) – Learning the Lessons of Battle: Organisational Learning, Small Unit Tactics and the Problems with the Force Transformation Literature

16.00 – Coffee

16:15 – Panel 4: Transformation and Innovation in the Third Dimension

Chair: Ross Mahoney (University of Birmingham)

James Pugh (University of Birmingham) – Oil and Water: Military and Naval approaches to Air Power Doctrine and Technological Innovation, 1911-1914

John Alexander (University of Birmingham) – Transformation and Innovation in British Air Defence, 1922-1936

Richard Hammond (University of Exeter) – British Aero-Naval Co-Operation in the Mediterranean and the Formation of RAF No. 201 (Naval Co-Operation) Group

17:45 Closing Address by Professor Gary Sheffield, Chair of War Studies, University of Birmingham


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