The Next Stage…

Well it is time to move onto the next step for me. I finished my MPhil, though I am still waiting on my results, two months ago. I have always intended to continue onto my PhD and I was originally intending to do it part-time while working as an ‘A’ Level Lecturer, however, I was lucky enough to be offered voluntary redundancy package by my college. I know in time like this it sound odd that this was lucky but all I can say is that the package I was offered worked for both parties and that the sum involved means and can contemplate doing the PhD full-time. This means my application is currently going through the red tape and bureaucracy. All going well I will start in January, therefore, I will join the ranks of PhD bloggers like Jakob and Robert. I made a decision to stay at Birmingham and continue to work with my MPhil supervisor, Professor Gary Sheffield. I have mentioned before the importance of the good working relationship with your supervisor and this I feel I have with Gary. I will also have a second supervisor in the guise of Air Commodore (ret’d) Peter Gray. Peter is a Senior Air Power Research Fellow at the university and an expert in Air Power History and Leadership Theory, which is important, as you will see.

In terms of the subject matter, I have decided to move away from purely operational military history and have a look at leadership in the RAF. In particular, I am going to be researching the career of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Leigh-Mallory has often been given short shrift by most historians as being a career driven egotist who was at worst incompetent. This is, I believe, not strictly the case and I am going to attempt to examine Leigh-Mallory’s leadership effectiveness through the use of contemporary leadership theory, hence the importance of Peter as one of my supervisors. I am hoping to evaluate his decision-making through he use of contemporary sources and place his choices in their operational context. Here is the summary of the proposal that I have submitted:

The Leadership Effectiveness of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory

On 14 November 1944, an Avro York took of from RAF Northolt carrying Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, his Wife and Personal Staff Officer on the first leg of a journey that was to take Leigh-Mallory to his new command in South East Asia. Just after midday, the aircraft hit a mountain ridge some fifteen miles east of Grenoble killing all on board the aircraft. The impact of this avoidable accident was that unlike other contemporaries Leigh-Mallory has left no viable papers, memoirs or an autobiography. This has led to Leigh-Mallory place in the historiography of the Second World War being overlooked by most historians. Interpretations of Leigh-Mallory’s career had tended to examined through the prism of his role in the Battle of Britain and operation OVERLORD. Therefore, this thesis will seek to make a clear and objective analysis of Leigh-Mallory contribution using contemporary leadership theory. This methodology will allow the use of various sources in order to ascertain the effectiveness of Leigh-Mallory’s leadership capability. It will seek to examine how people viewed Leigh-Mallory and how self-aware he was of his own competence. Thus, the thesis will take a truly inter-disciplinary approach to examine one of the Second World War’s most misunderstood commanders.

It is an exciting prospect to start this. If there is one area that concerns me, it is the leadership aspect. I am going to have to get to grip with the theory and exploring different ideas on measure command competencies. Therefore, if anyone has any good ideas I am all ears. I am not sure how far I will take these aspects. I can see it going two ways. One is to go all out and synthesise a theory/model for the purpose. This will push the thesis away from a historical one but may offer some interesting insights. The other is to find a methodology and use it a conceptual model for examining Leigh-Mallory. This arguably, will allow the thesis to remain grounded in history much more. One thing that I want to avoid is a purely biographical essay of Leigh-Mallory.

Now I plan examine Leigh-Mallory’s leadership at the operational and strategic level of war i.e. from Group command up to his time as AOC-in-C of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. I do want to have a look at the tactical level but this may be problematic in terms of the theory. However, I will be researching his command of No. 8 Squadron and his inter-war service in order to contextualise his career.

More soon…

P.S. Any thoughts on sources?

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4 responses to “The Next Stage…

  1. Ross, I did a quick search at the US Air Force Historical Research Agency (http://airforcehistoryindex.org/) for Leigh-Mallory and received 15 hits. Some are just pictures, but other files might be worth your time. Might be interesting getting the American perspective of his leadership since he was supposed to be the Allied Commander of the Tactical Air Force.

  2. Hi Jay

    Thanks for that. I am hoping to go to the states in the course of my research. In particular I want to look at the papers of some of the senior US commanders such Bradley, Eisenhower, Spaatz etc. People who Leigh-Mallory worked with in this period.

  3. This looks like a really interesting topic. One thing to look out for might be whether some people applied double standards to leadership because of political factionalism, personal animosity or whatver. This was endemic in the English Civil War because of the factional infighting on both sides and it’s had a huge influence on the historiograohy. Malcolm Wanklyn has only recntly rescued the Earl of Manchester, and there’s still a lot that could be done for the Earl of Essex. Then in the First World War there’s Haig getting French sacked and Snow getting Stuart-Wortley sacked. Did the big wing controversy lead to some similar things for the RAF in WW2?

  4. Cheers Gavin. I think there is an element of that. I am just reading Vincent Orange’s bio of Tedder and read that in January 1942 it was proposed that Leigh-Mallory go out to the Middle East as his deputy, at this time Tedder was in danger of losing his position, however, Tedder refuses this and cites what he considers to be Leigh-Mallory unsavoury character as the reason. I also think Leigh-Mallory’s problem is that he ends up, partly because of this decision by Tedder, not being one of the in-crowd when in comes to Normandy. If you think about the command set-up for D-Day the vast majority were Med veterans and Leigh-Mallory did not fit into this. I personally feel this is the root of most of his problems at the time.

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