As mentioned last week, I have finally submitted my PhD. This of course does not mean that that project is over. Far from it, I still have the dreaded viva and then I need to look at how I am going to publish it. There are certainly aspects of it that I will be looking to publish in various journals as well as examining how to publish the subsequent monograph that will emerge from the PhD.
Before then I have several other projects that I am working on both at the Royal Air Force Museum and more broadly. In terms of new research projects, I have decided to move into the Cold War era. At a workshop held by the museum last year, Professor Richard Overy commented along the lines that the first 30 years of the RAF’s history occupies about 75 per cent its historiography. This is a fair comment, and even the remaining 25 per cent leans towards a focus on the RAF and nuclear deterrence and more recent counterinsurgency campaigns. Given this, I have decided that my next project will explore the evolution of the RAF’s post-war presence in Germany. I have yet to define the scope of the study but broadly, it will seek to place RAF Germany into the experience Britain’s wider defence establishment. There are some interesting themes to be explored including co-operation with NATO allies and RAF Germany’s influence on operational level doctrine in the British military. Added to this is a very interesting social and cultural story, as RAF Germany was the Service’s largest command outside of Britain. The next few months will see me going back to first principles and producing some research questions and a literature review, though there is very little written on the subject.
At the museum, my key research is currently focused on the RAF’s relationship with the Royal Air Force of Oman. In particular, I am curating my first exhibition entitled, ‘An ‘Enduring Relationship’: A History of Friendship between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Oman’. This is exciting as I am learning a completely new set of skills as have never been involved in the design of an exhibition. To use the text I wrote for the event listing on the museum’s website:
Great Britain and Oman have enjoyed an enduring relationship for over 200 years that stretches back to a Treaty of Friendship in 1798. This broader relationship has been replicated in the close professional co-operation that has developed between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Oman. It is a relationship that continues to develop into the 21st Century with the Royal Air Force of Oman’s purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon from BAE Systems.
Formed in 1959 from a nucleus of Scottish Aviation Pioneers and Hunting Percival Provosts, and manned by Royal Air Force loan officers, the Royal Air Force of Oman (originally named the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force) has grown into one of the most capable air forces in the Middle East. This achievement has been supported throughout by mutual respect, friendship and encouragement between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Oman.
In a brand new exhibition, curated with the support of the Archives Division of the Royal Air Force of Oman, the Royal Air Force Museum tells the story of this enduring relationship through the experiences of officers and men, from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Air Force of Oman and British industry who have played an important part in creating a modern, professional and highly effective air force.
In addition to curating the exhibition, I am also thinking about how to generate research outputs from it. Currently my thinking is leaning towards an article that explores the experience of RAF loan officers who have served with RAFO and it forebears. There is a long tradition of RAF officers serving in Oman, for example, Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup, a former Chief of the Air Staff and Chief of the Defence Staff, served on BAC Strikemasters during the Dhofar War. I have also been very lucky to visit Oman as part of the project and it is great country to visit. Stunning geography, very nice people and I am looking forward to going back. There is also so much more going on here at the museum so there are interesting times ahead!