Yesterday I found out that the corrections to my PhD had been accepted by my examiners. This, of course, is great news. The changes suggested by my examiners, Dr Peter Lee and Dr Armin Grünbacher, have led to a much improved thesis and hopefully it will make a contribution to our understanding of the early RAF. This is the final abstract for the thesis:

This thesis examines how an officer with so many perceived detractors reached senior leadership positions in the Royal Air Force of the Second World War; that officer is Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Utilising prosopography as a methodology, and grounded in an understanding of leadership theory, though recognising the limitations of applying modern language to historical analysis, this thesis surveys the development processes used by the RAF to nurture officers for senior positions. Furthermore, this thesis argues that the RAF, bounded by the Service’s culture and ethos, took an interest in the leadership development of its officer class as it had a stake in producing able leaders capable of defending its independence. This was done through modern conceptions, such as socialisation, job assignments, action learning and nurturing. These concepts formed the basis of nurtured officers shared experiences, and this thesis illustrates how Leigh-Mallory was representative of the type of officer the RAF wanted to lead the Service. The experiences outlined in this thesis focus on training, education and job assignments, which included aspects, such as the importance of Staff College attendance, command experience and staff duties. Participation in these key shared experiences made officers such as Leigh-Mallory ‘visible’ to those able to further nurture officers careers while giving them the knowledge required to lead at the senior level. By understanding the culture and context of the development of the senior leadership of the RAF of the Second World War, this thesis now allows for a more considered understanding of the effectiveness of officers such as Leigh-Mallory during that conflict.

Once it is available on the Birmingham etheses site, then I will provide a link as I will not be embargoing the thesis. This because I am now in the process  of thinking of the next step, which of course means publishing. At some point I will be having discussions with my now former supervisor, Dr Peter Gray – it feels strange to say that – and Peter Lee about the best way forward. I suspect I will re-work the thesis into an examination of leadership development in the inter-war RAF and then do something separate on Leigh-Mallory. This is why I won’t embargo the thesis because the final book will be different to the thesis, which is no bad thing. Of course, I will need to go back and do some more research on aspects such as the importance of Cranwell, but that should be interesting to do. I should say that I have written about the importance of a good supervisor before, and this really applies to Peter Gray. I could not have had a better supervisor.

All of this is, of course, just the end of the beginning. I am now in the process of looking at my next major research project and I will be moving into the Cold War era. Cold War military history is underdeveloped field unless you write about counter-insurgency or Vietnam. Therefore, I am going to start looking at RAF Germany through a macro lens by looking at the experience of a squadron. Hopefully this will allow me to looking at a number of different themes related tot he place of RAF Germany in the UK’s defence landscape from the 1950s through to the 1990s, such as shifting policy and doctrine through to social of life in Germany during the Cold War. The squadron I have chosen to look at is No. 31 Squadron. I have chosen No. 31 Squadron for two reasons. First, it has a link to Hendon as it was the metropolitan communication squadron based at RAF Hendon in the late 40/early 50s. Second, the squadron deployed to  RAF Laarbruch in 1955 as a reconnaissance unit equipped with the English Electric Canberra and then became a strike asset from 1971 onwards with the Phantom, Jaguar and then the Tornado. Significantly, it was the last RAF flying unit to leave Germany in 2001. As such, it spanned the history of RAF Germany as a functional command as the latter existed from 1959 to 1993, which is useful framework to consider some important issues. Also, No. 31 Squadron also have an active association, which will be very useful for future research.

More soon!


8 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

  1. Congratulations!!!! I applaud your decision to make your thesis accessible. Mine has been open for business (so to speak!) online since my viva. I am ardent supporter of open access, and on a personal level, I felt that the taxpayer should be able to see what they paid for when funding my PhD. Anyways, many many congratulations! 🙂

  2. Cheers. I am supporter of OA too, though if I was publishing the thesis as is then I would consider putting an embargo on the thesis. The key reason I am not is because the book will be quite different from the thesis.

  3. Well done Dr Mahoney! It’s been quite a journey. Didn’t embargo my PhD. The book has some similar themes / content, but covers new ground. Publishers seem much less likely to accept proposals that are effectively word for word versions of the PhD.

    OA is going to become vital with REF 2020. Recent guidance noted that for articles to be considered for submission to REF they must be made available via OA institutional research repositories. It is a Brave New World.

  4. Cheers James. I agree about OA though their are still challenges, such as whether a university can dictate where you publish because they are paying for it to be OA. There are ways around this, but that depends on whether the institution accepts fully fledged diamond route OA.

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