A long time ago, I wrote a juvenile article about the RAF and Britain’s war effort. I called it an industrial history of strategy because it took issue with R. J. Overy’s “production history of strategy" (the which he did not call it ) The Air War, 1939—45. As I conceived it, Corelli Barnett was already in the business of writing industrial histories of strategy. It’s just that his were terrible. There you have it: a neat little thesis. As you might guess from this blog, it turned into a 72 page screed, and bless the Journal of Military History for nursing it into print.
I had my reasons for prolixity. There were just so many people saying such silly, wrong things in print about the air war. I wanted to make an impression. Apparently, I might as well have been butting a brick wall.
Why care? Let's, by all means, ramp up the stakes. The idea of an Air Ministry was laid out in 1911, and it was created in 1918, on the basis of what British politicians, civil servants, industrialists, and trade unionists thought was the solid model of the Royal Navy. While the Ministry wasn't swimming in either money or manpower, it was the largest and best funded air force of the interwar years. (You'll have to take my word for it; the numbers are laid out in my article, but they're just collated from the British state papers on the one hand, and a life of Admiral Moffat on the other.) When I got my anorak on, I counted some sixteen thousand aircraft delivered by the British industry during the interwar. That's a lot more than anyone else ordered, even taking the German surge of the late 30s into account. If policy failed in the face of this relative generosity of resources and thought about the problems of policy, we have reason to be pessimistic about the possibilities for public policy in general.
And, no, I don't think that the RAF got it wrong.