Saturday Day School and my Thesis…

Saturday saw me attend the Centre for First World War Studies Summer Day school. This event was billed as a tribute to Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Professor Tony Mason, who has just retired his personal chair at the University of Birmingham. I think anyone who has an interest air power history will know the name as he has been the UK’s leading air power advocate for many years. It was interesting to hear him relate that when the RAF created the position of Director of Defence Studies (RAF) in 1977 there was really only him in the UK advocating the subject, hence why he was the first person to hold the position. Therefore, he was pleased to see that by 2010 Air Power Studies, within the wider and emerging field of War Studies, had not only established itself firmly within military circles but now with the advent of an MA at the University of Birmingham it has also established itself with academia too.

The day school concentrated on the subject of High Command, of course with a particular slant towards air power. Four papers were delivered by noted historians, first, Dr David Jordan discussed Trenchard in Peace and War, second, Dr Christina Goulter discussed the Arthurian Tales, the career of Harris and Tedder, third, Seb Cox discussed some of the issues surrounding the Harris-Portal Controversy in 1944, finally Peter Gray discussed the problems of air power as an operational art and its implications for strategy and command. While individual each paper was very interesting for me it was a great chance to take on board some of the points raised and think about how they apply to my thesis.

Some of the questions that it raised for me was:

  • How does Leigh-Mallory’s role as an Army Co-Operation specialist in the 1920’s fit into the context of the early problems in the survival of the RAF as a service?
  • How does his disprove the argument that the RAF is fixated on strategic bombing?
  • Was L-M a people person? How? Different ways
  • How do we square relationships in organisations with their leaders and antagonists?
  • Does L-M get the best out of the people who worked for him?
  • Do the people who L-M worked for get the best out of him?
  • What role does succession planning and promotion policy play in L-M’s rise to high command?
  • At what level of war does L-M command?

These are just a few of the things that I have now got to go away and think about. There are some more theoretical discussion I have got to have too, such as command and leadership at the different levels of war. Are they different? If so what traits are important?

Other than this the thesis is going well, even though I have become very busy recently doing various projects. All of which have been interesting. For example, I have been helping with the creation of the reading lists for the new MA in Air Power. This has been a great academic exercise as I have had to investigate texts in areas that are not necessarily my area of expertise, all very interesting. There are also a few more interesting projects in the wings that I will talk about soon.

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