Monday, 17 December 2012

The formation of RAF Bomber Command

RAF Bomber Command came into existence on 14 July 1935. When it was born it had a strange mixture of aircraft, organisation and objectives. Almost at once things got worse when five bomber squadrons were removed from Bomber Command and sent off to Egypt as a result of aggressive posturing by Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini – Italy at that time owned Libya and areas of Somaliland.

The first head of Bomber Command was Sir John Miles Steel, a former naval officer who had learned to fly and joined the RAF on its formation in 1918. His duties in the World War I had included bombing raids and he was a keen advocate of air power. It was clear by this date that the most likely opponent in a major war would be Germany, and the RAF was planning to be ready to face Hitler’s rearmed Luftwaffe by 1942.

A key component of being ready was knowing what tasks the RAF should, and could, undertake. Until 1934 it had been generally assumed that bombers would be used primarily to attack strictly military targets fairly close to base. The idea was drawn from experience of World War I when bombers had attacked enemy artillery, troop concentrations and supply dumps no more than a few miles behind the static front lines of the Western Front. There was, however, added to this the need to have a credible long range bombing force that could hit Germany itself. This was intended merely as a deterrent to stop the Germans from bombing British cities, as they had done with limited success in the closing months of World War I.

One of Steel’s first priorities was to get it agreed what his command should do in the event of war with Germany. In 1937 a conference was held between the various armed forces and government. Interestingly Steel sent as his chief representative a staff officer named Arthur Harris, of whom much would be heard in future years. The conference covered many aspects of a prospective war against Germany, but its conclusions about Bomber Command was that the force should prepare itself to carry out three main tasks. How it would carry those out was another question entirely. 

from "RAF Bomber Command at War"  by Rupert Matthews

Book Description

30 Nov 2010
Bomber Command of the RAF fought one of the longest, most gruelling and thankless campaigns of the Second World War. More than 55,000 men and women were killed serving with the Command and the bombers inflicted severe and ultimately crippling damage to the German war effort. In this powerful book Rupert Matthews, the son of a Bomber Command veteran, takes a new look at the exploits of the RAF's strike force during the Second World War. By looking at the conflict from the viewpoint of those serving in Bomber Command, he reveals the why and the how of the Bomber Command campaigns. The abilities of the aircraft and aircrew are outlined, and the limits this put on operations explained. This book will help the reader understand the conditions under which the men of Bomber Command fought, lived and - tragically - so often died.

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