The RAF and the Development of Air Power Leadership: A Study of the Career of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory

It has been a while since I have written anything on my blog. The reason for this is that I spent most of June in the US where I attended both the Society for Military History’s annual conference and West Point’s Summer Seminar in Military History. I would not hesitate to describe both of these events as defining moments in my academica career. I plan to write something more detailed on my experience in the US but suffice to say that if you ever get the oppurtunity to go to either of these then do it as you will not regret it. However, now that I am back in the UK it is back to the grind and I have a pile of work that had backed up and I need to clear!

In addition to the pile of work I need to do I have just heard that I am delivering a paper at the British Commission for Military History’s Summer Conference in August. This years theme is right up my street; ‘War in the Air in the Twentieth Century’. The conference is to be held at the RAF College at RAF Cranwell which will be an excellent experience as I have never been to Cranwell. I have seen the list of speakers which will includes some of the UK’s leading Air Power historians as well as some up and coming specialists. I am delivering a paper based on my research into Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Here is the paper abstract:

This paper will examine the development of air power leadership in the RAF in the period 1918-1945. It will do this by charting the career of one of the service’s most controversial commanders, Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. It will examine the endogenous and exogenous factors that impacted on the development of air power leadership in this period by looking at the issue of education, experience and training and how these factors affected Leigh-Mallory’s development as an air power leader.

It will consider the state of air power education at the RAF Staff College during the inter-war years and illustrate how the traits methodology based on the study of great men shaped the RAF’s view of leadership in this period. It will then scrutinize the RAF’s views on leadership, command and morale, which provided the educational framework for its officers. It will then compare Leigh-Mallory’s own rise to Air Rank in comparison with his peers in order to examine whether or not the idea that only those interested in bombing reached high rank. It will show that this is not the case but that a unifying concept of ‘Control of the Air’ was at the heart of the RAF’s organisational culture in this period and that Leigh-Mallory was part of this culture.

Finally this paper will look at the two of the key areas of controversy surround Leigh-Mallory’s leadership; the Battle of Britain and his leadership of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. In examining these episodes it will look at issues such as cohesion, managing relationships, morale, persuasion and coercion, and ultimately the issue of combat power as outputs of effective leadership. This analysis will produce an understanding about the nature of RAF leadership in this period and the impact that its education had upon the operational level of war.

This is an excellent oppurtunity for me to devliver some of my ideas with regards to Leigh-Mallory and his place in the historiography of air power history. If you can make it to the conference I think you should as it will be an excellent oppurtunity to mix with some of the experts in the field.

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