10 September 1916 – Wastage

The current British offensive has understandably caused an increased level of casualties. There has however been disagreement amongst the top brass about the level of casualties.

On the one hand, the Officer Commanding Hugh Trenchard remains committed to the strategic offensive and the casualties that come with it. David Henderson, Director-General of Military Aeronautics has expressed concerns about the wastage rates but Trenchard has the full support of General Douglas Haig who share the view that the role of the RFC is to support the army and that casualties are inevitable. Haig confirmed his support for Trenchard in a letter today to Henderson:

“The Air Service under Trenchard has done and is doing invaluable work, and has secured practically complete mastery over the Germans. This could not have been attained, and cannot be maintained, without casualties, which, in my opinion, have been extraordinarily small in proportion to work done and results achieved.”

Nevertheless there is agreement that losses could be reduced with better training. However the current demand results in insufficiently trained pilots being sent to the front.

Perhaps surprisingly, Sefton Brancker, serving as Director of Air Organisation attributes the problem not just to personnel but also to the fact that all new aircraft are going directly to the front. He wrote to Trenchard today noting:

“I am not quite happy about the output of pilots: your demands of late have been big, and we have not quite come up to them. The main reason is that so many machines were sent out to you in the first week of September that training was absolutely starved in war machines.”


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