J.M. Spaight after the Second World War

In 2004, War in History published an article by Alaric Searle that posed the question ‘Was there a ‘Boney’ Fuller after the Second World War?’.[1] In short, Searle concluded that Major-General J.F.C. Fuller’s theoretical writing continued after 1945 alongside his historical writing and was not simply a ‘footnote to [his] biography.’[2] Searle’s question is an interesting one and could easily be applied to James Malony Spaight. In the inter-war years, Spaight, a trained jurist, served in the Air Ministry in a civilian role (notably as Director of Accounts) and produced several volumes on air warfare with particular reference to issues such as its legality. As Robin Higham reflected in 1966:

No survey of British airpower theorists in the interwar years would be complete without mention of […] Spaight.[3]

More recently, Peter Gray noted that Spaight’s influence, due to his work within the Air Ministry, went further than just being ‘Trenchard’s good friend,’ as Higham suggested.[4] As Gray noted:

Spaight’s work was a readily available source of legal advice for his colleagues in the Air Ministry, and those who were likely to become staff officers having attended the Staff College at Andover.[5]

Clearly, before the war, Spaight was a critical influence in the development of air power thinking in Britain.

Despite his pre-war influence, what happened after the Second World War? Spaight retired from the Air Ministry in 1937, but continued writing during the Second World War, for example, in 1944 he published Bombing Vindicated in which he argued ‘that the line between military and civilian objectives’ was blurred.[6] Both Higham and Philip Meilinger noted the important books that he published after the Second World War.[7] Specifically, these were the third edition of Air Power and War Rights (1947), The Atomic Problem (1948) and Air Power Can Disarm (1948). However, what else was written? Before the Second World War, Spaight had contributed to journals such as The Royal Air Force Quarterly and the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution. Both are important sources as they were read by officers who emerged into senior positions and thus they would, possibly, have been one influence on their thinking and leadership development. Simply put, after the Second World War, Spaight continued publishing in these journals. This reinforces the idea that Spaight’s writings were not only important in a general sense that he was still writing but, given where these articles were published, they, potentially, helped shape the discourse about air power in the early-Cold War years. However, while Spaight published, what is needed is an examination of the content of these articles so that we can bridge the narrative between his pre-Second World War writings and those produced after. Only by doing this can we consider how, or if, Spaight’s views changed. Broadly speaking the post-war articles are a cross-section of comments on the role of air power in the Second World War, air powers future role in the nuclear age and the international affairs.

So far I have identified the following articles:

  1. ‘The Rio and Brussels Treaties’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 93 (570) (1948);
  2. ‘Sea and Air Power’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 93 (572) (1948);
  3. ‘That Next War’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 1 (1) (1949);
  4. ‘Target for To-morrow’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 94 (576) (1949);
  5. ‘The Ghost of Douhet’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 2 (2) (1950);
  6. ‘Trans-Polar War’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 2 (3) (1950);
  7. ‘Korea and Aggression’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 2 (4) (1950);
  8. ‘Korea and the Atom Bomb’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, (95) (580) (1950);
  9. ‘The End of a Dream’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 3 (2) (1951);
  10. ‘Morale as Objective’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 3 (4) (1951);
  11. ‘Pax Atlantica’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 96 (583) (1951);
  12. ‘Limited and Unlimted War’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 4 (1) (1952)
  13. ‘Why Stalin Waits’, The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal, 4 (3) (1952;
  14. ‘Napalm’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 98 (589) (1953);
  15. ‘Weapns of Mass Destruction’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 99 (593) (1954);
  16. ‘Cities as Battlefields’, Air Power: Incorporating The RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal 2 (3) (1955).

[1] Alaric Searle, ‘Was there a ‘Boney’ Fuller after the Second World War? Major-General J.F.C. Fuller as Military Theorist and Commentator, 1945-1966’, War in History, 11 (3) (2004), pp. 327-57.

[2] Ibid, p. 357.

[3] Robin Higham, The Military Intellectuals in Britain, 1918-1939 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966), p. 230.

[4] Ibid; Peter Gray, The Leadership, Direction and Legitimacy of the RAF Bomber Offensive from Inception to 1945 (London: Continuum, 2012), pp. 54-7.

[5] Gray, Leadership, p. 56.

[6] Phillip S. Meilinger, ‘Spaight, James Molony (1877–1968)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/58055, accessed 5 Jan 2016].

[7] Ibid; Higham, Military Intellectuals, p. 233.

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One response to “J.M. Spaight after the Second World War

  1. Pingback: Research Note – J.M. Spaight after the Second World War – From Balloons to Drones·

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