Posts Tagged 'Royal Navy'

British Aero-Naval Co-Operation in the Mediterranean and the Formation of RAF No. 201 (Naval Co-Operation) Group

[Cross posted from Birmingham “On War”]

Created in October 1941, RAF No. 201 (Naval Co-operation) Group existed as an independent unit until February 1944, with a complex mechanism of control shared between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This article examines British aero-naval co-operation in the Mediterranean during the Second World War and the role of 201 Group within this. It incorporates the conflicting policies and strategies of both services, along with the roles of the major personalities involved from each of them, in what was yet another aspect of friction between the junior and senior services.

By taking the debate over the establishment of an overseas RAF Coastal Command, and the subsequent formation of 201 Group, as a case study, it demonstrates that British aero-naval co-operation in the theatre was a compromise between strategies that satisfied neither party. The group itself did make an immediate contribution to relations between the services in the Mediterranean and had an impact upon the maritime war there. Successes were limited though, and the Group could potentially have achieved much more with greater priority in the allocation of resources. However, the greatest innovation regarding 201 Group was not its creation and subsequent operations, but rather its legacy. The article will conclude by showing how it laid the foundations for important innovation in aero-naval co-operation overseas, influencing later and much larger multi-national commands and operations, in both the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

By Dr Richard Hammond, University of Exeter

(This is an abstract from our forthcoming book on transformation and innovation in the British Military)

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.

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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

Has the time come for an Air Force Records Society?

[Cross posted at Thoughts on Military History]

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a panel discussion on the future of Air Power Studies at the Air Power Workshop held at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Birmingham. I was given the task of talking about some of the issues facing students working in the area of Air Power Studies and entitled it, ‘Air Power Students in an Age of Uncertainty’. A couple of the key issues I raised related to the problems of publishing for emerging scholars in the air power field. The first issue related to the demise of the Air Power Studies series that was published by Frank Cass/Routledge and whether or not there is a future in resurrecting a similar series. Hopefully there may well be.

The other issue I raised was whether or not there was a need to start an Air Force Records Society. Both the Army and the Royal Navy has a records society and given that the history of British Air Power is now more than 100 years old has not the time come for such an endeavour? I think it has. The RAF and its predecessors, the RFC and RNAS, have a rich documentary heritage that should be preserved. If we look at the mission of the Army Records Society this could be easily applied to an air force equivalent:

the object of the Army Records Society is to edit and publish manuscripts relating to the Army and to reprint works of military interest

In terms of the manuscript part of this there are plenty of papers that could be reprinted such as the Papers of Major General Sir David Henderson, which would be an interesting first volume. Of course an obvious volume would be on the papers of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Trenchard. With regards to works of interest there is a fascinating memoir written by Air Marshal Sir Edgar Kingston-McCloughry which is a refreshing honest and critical work that was never published and languishes in his paper at the Imperial War Museum. There are also plenty of interesting works that could be republished under the auspicious of the society. Given the both the Army and Navy Records Society only tend to publish one volume a year I do not think there is an issue of critical mass with regards to it only being a short-lived enterprise. The other key issue is whether or not there would be enough interest from interested parties.

So the question remains has the time come try to start such an organisation? Would you be interested? I think it has and we must try to preserve the history of the third service.

Thoughts and opinions wanted.


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