DH.82A Tiger Moth Mark II, R5130, in flight. This aircraft served with No. 3 Ferry Pilots Pool, the Air Transport Auxiliary and No. 3 Flying Instructors School during the Second World War, before a further eight years service with the RAF in the post-war years. It was finally sold for civilian use as G-APOV in 1953. © IWM (ZZZ 11729)

On 1 June, I will be speaking at a workshop held at the Second World War Research Group of the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London. The subject of the workshop in ‘1940-1942: the Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?’ and I will be speaking on Plan “Banquet,” which was an RAF contingency plan for how the Service’s reserves in the case of invasion. This is a new interest and came up in my review of Sean Feast’s biography of Lionel Anderson. I also have a penchant for odd British codenames having spoken on Operation HADDOCK last year.  Whether this goes any further than just a conference paper remains to be seen; however, a quick look at the papers at Kew show that there is quite a lot of material extent on anti-invasion planning that could form the basis of an exciting project. This is the abstract for my talk:

As the guns opened up over Western Europe in May 1940, the Royal Air Force (RAF) began planning for what might happen if Germany attempted an invasion. This plan, codenamed “Banquet”, became the ongoing basis of contingency planning by the RAF concerning how it might help defend Britain in an ‘extreme emergency.’  However, “Banquet” remains little known and what has been written about it centres on one aspect; the conversion of de Havilland Tiger Moth trainers to carry 20ilbs bombs to attack German troops on the beaches. This image suggests a last-ditch mentality to the problem of defending Britain against invasion. Nevertheless, a deeper examination of planning papers and operational orders illustrate that the RAF examined the challenge of how the Service might make use of its reserves to support any action against an invading force should the worst happen. As such, this paper will suggest that in the period of the so-called ‘fulcrum of the twentieth century,’ the RAF gave considered thought to the challenge of defending Britain. “Banquet” was a plan that was regularly revised, and eventually encompassed each of the RAF’s major metropolitan commands with reinforcement to be provided by training units, such as Operational Training Units. Therefore, this paper will examine the strategic background to the plan, its evolution and the character of the threat assessments used to inform its ongoing development to understand further Britain’s position in this critical period of history.

It is also good to note that several members of The Second World War Military Operations Group will also be presenting.


One thought on “The ‘Cooks and Butchers’ Air Force: The Royal Air Force, Contingency Planning and Plan “Banquet”, 1940-1943

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