The Other Bomber Battle An Examination of the Problems that arose between the Air Staff and the AOC Bomber Command between 1942 and 1945 and their Effects on the Strategic Bomber Offensive
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In addition to the lonely battles fought by Bomber Command crews in the night skies over Germany from February 1942 to May 1945 there was an equally intense if much less bloody struggle in the halls of power between the Air Staff and the AOC Bomber Command, concerning the best employment of the strategic bomber forces. The argument of this study is that the Royal Air Force s contribution to the strategic air offensive was badly mismanaged: that Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Bomber Command, from 22 February 1942 to the end of the war, by ignoring, or often over-riding the Air Staff, affected not only the course but also the duration of the Second World War. Most histories of the bomber war provide the result of the disagreements between the Chief of the Air Staff, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Charles Portal and Harris, but rarely are the problems discussed in detail. This thesis examines the arguments that were raised by the various authorities, together with the refutations presented not only by the major participants, but also by the advisers to those authorities. The significant feature of the disagreements was that while Harris acted unilaterally, the Air Staff reached consensus decisions. Unfortunately, the decisions reached by the Air Staff on major issues were all too frequently either ignored or subverted by the AOC Bomber Command. One significant feature of the refutations presented to Harris was their dependence on the operational experience gained earlier in the bomber war by junior members of the Air Staff. For too long the direction of the war had been left in the hands of senior officers whose previous service had become irrelevant to war requirements in the 1940s. By 1942, comparatively junior officers were thus tendering advice to senior officers who, in the case of AOC Bomber Command, resented the authority which, Harris argued, had apparently been accorded these juniors. Harris was unable to accept that they were advisers and were never in a position to issue orders: orders could only come from Portal. Finally, this thesis provides an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the major participants and argues that, had the war been conducted as the Air Staff required, victory would have been achieved earlier than May 1945.