Useful Sayings for the D.S.

One of the great joys of my job is getting to look at what is in the archive and library at the RAF Museum. I am always amazed at the gems that I find and, arguably, it illustrates how underused these resources are by researchers, both academics and non-academics alike. Indeed, while I know that the Museum receives a large number of enquiries they are often on similar subjects. As such, sources such as Aircraft Movement Cards and Accident Record Cards are often utilised sources. However, there is so much more in the Museum’s collection. One of my favourite resources in our library is a collection of journals called The Hawk. The Hawk was the independent journal of the RAF Staff Colleges. Originally established in the late 1920s, typically, it published essays written by students from the first Staff College at Andover. After the Second World War, it became the journal for both of the Staff Colleges at Andover and Bracknell. The journal finally stopped in 1995, and, in some respects, RAF Air Power Review is the inheritor to The Hawk and The RAF Quarterly, which itself had stopped publishing the late 1970s. However, APR’s heritage can be traced to the air power sections of Air Clues that had emerged under the editorship of the Director of Defence Studies. Indeed, in 1996 and 1997, Air Clues published a supplement called Air Power that in design and feel replicated the future format of APR. Furthermore, it cannot be ignored that APR was published under the auspices of the Director of Defence Studies.

As well as being a useful indicator about how the RAF thought about its role, The Hawk also included some very helpful personal reminisces about life at the Staff Colleges. Indeed, some of the most interesting pieces that I have come across are small bits of advice about various aspects of life at Staff College. I have been looking at these as I am giving a paper to the RAF Historical Society on the history of the RAF Staff College from its opening in 1922 through to its merger in 1997 with the Army Staff College, Royal Navy Staff College and Joint Service Defence College to form the Joint Services Command and Staff College.

Here is one piece of advice that was published in volume 14 in 1952 and was clearly aimed at current and future Directing Staff.

Useful Sayings for the D.S.

When dealing with hostile, belligerent, constructive, destructive, informed or misinformed criticism of a ‘pinkie’ by students:

“You are quite right of course up to a point, but as a purist, I would say…”

“I have only just glanced at the pink and perhaps you are quite right.”

“Of course, this is an old exercise and it won’t be used again.”

“Of course, this is a new exercise, which was written by the last course, so there are bound to be a few points that need straightening out.”[1]

The piece is signed H.J.H, who was, presumably, Flight Lieutenant H.J. Hillyard MBE, who was a member of the Secretarial Branch and attended No. 42 Staff Course at Bracknell in 1952.[2] Hillyard’s status as a student makes this all the interesting and is, perhaps, based on his experience with DS at Bracknell during his course.

While this makes for an amusing anecdote it probably still has relevance today.

[1] H.J.H., ‘Useful Sayings for the D.S.’, The Hawk: The Journal of the Royal Air Force Staff Colleges, 14 (1952), p. 28.

[2] ‘RAF Staff College Bracknell – No. 42 Staff Course’, The Hawk, 14 (1952), p. 5.


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