[Cross-posted at The Aerodrome]
A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a panel discussion on the future of Air Power Studies at the Air Power Workshop held at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Birmingham. I was given the task of talking about some of the issues facing students working in the area of Air Power Studies and entitled it, ‘Air Power Students in an Age of Uncertainty’. A couple of the key issues I raised related to the problems of publishing for emerging scholars in the air power field. The first issue related to the demise of the Air Power Studies series that was published by Frank Cass/Routledge and whether or not there is a future in resurrecting a similar series. Hopefully there may well be.
The other issue I raised was whether or not there was a need to start an Air Force Records Society. Both the Army and the Royal Navy has a records society and given that the history of British Air Power is now more than 100 years old has not the time come for such an endeavour? I think it has. The RAF and its predecessors, the RFC and RNAS, have a rich documentary heritage that should be preserved. If we look at the mission of the Army Records Society this could be easily applied to an air force equivalent:
the object of the Army Records Society is to edit and publish manuscripts relating to the Army and to reprint works of military interest
In terms of the manuscript part of this there are plenty of papers that could be reprinted such as the Papers of Major General Sir David Henderson, which would be an interesting first volume. Of course an obvious volume would be on the papers of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Trenchard. With regards to works of interest there is a fascinating memoir written by Air Marshal Sir Edgar Kingston-McCloughry which is a refreshing honest and critical work that was never published and languishes in his paper at the Imperial War Museum. There are also plenty of interesting works that could be republished under the auspicious of the society. Given the both the Army and Navy Records Society only tend to publish one volume a year I do not think there is an issue of critical mass with regards to it only being a short-lived enterprise. The other key issue is whether or not there would be enough interest from interested parties.
So the question remains has the time come try to start such an organisation? Would you be interested? I think it has and we must try to preserve the history of the third service.