1 November 1916 – “A very serious interference”

The rift between the War Office and the Admiralty over aviation supplies continues to rumble on. This time the Admiralty has revealed rather grandiose plans to develop a large long range bomber force with the plan to join with French forces in bombing Germany directly. The idea for this came from Colonel Bares, representing the French Air Service, who met with the Admiralty on the 22 October 1916 and pleaded the great importance of bombing operations against German towns. This fitted with the RNAS’s current attempts to develop a bombing force in France. The Admiralty considered that such co-operation offered many advantages and put a memorandum put before the Air Board suggesting that “it should be definitely laid down that the Navy should keep an effective force of at least 200 bombers in France (to include Dunkirk)”. To support this force the Admiralty considered that it would need at least 2,000 engines.

On that question Colonel Bares suggested that British engine orders in France should focus on two types—Hispano-Suiza and Clerget Moreover he suggested that the British naval and military air services and the French and Russian air services should combine to place orders for these engines.

At the meeting of the Air Board the following day, Sir David Henderson strenuously resisted the bombing proposal. He did not agree with Colonel Bares views that such bombing would be effective. and he asked that all available aeronautic material should be allotted afresh to take account of current requriements.

Today, Douglas Haig also wrote a strong letter of protest to The Admiralty. He agreed with Henderson that Colonel Bares views were unsound in theory and should not be accepted in practice. He also protested, against any interference by the naval authorities with the British land forces that the projected force would involve.

Haig was unequivocal that the diversion of aviation material into naval bombing missions amounted “to a very serious interference with the British land forces, and may compromise the success of my operations”.

It was not that Haig was against the bombing of Germany, but that he regarded the support of land operations to be the priority and only once these needs were met, any available surplus could then be used directly against Germany.

At this point in time, the bombing question went unsolved. However, the Government agreed to place a general order for 8000 Hispano-Suiza engines in France, with the raw materials to be supplied by Great Britain), These engines will be placed in a general pool with their use to be determined as required.

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