2 July 1917 – Expansion

Following the German Air Raid on London on 13 June, such is the public outrage that the Government has been discussing over the last few weeks what should be done. On the one hand the German bombing campaign has resulted in Sir John French demanding more aircraft to be dedicated to Home Defence, whilst Sir Douglas Haig warns of the impact on army operations of removing fighting squadrons from the front.

The War Cabinet met on 13 and 14 June and at the second meeting the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Robertson, urged that there should be a large-scale increase in the number of aeroplanes, even at the expense of other weapons. The War Cabinet agreed in principle and ordered the departments concerned to confer together to draw up a scheme for the expansion of the air services.

Various memoranda were prepared, and after the preliminaries had been explored departmentally, a general conference was held at the War Office, under the chairmanship of Lord Derby, on 21 June. Lord Derby began by saying that the War Office proposed to double the Royal Flying Corps, even if it proved necessary in consequence to reduce the supply of tanks and of motor transport. The conference discussed this proposition and the logistics of it and then put it to the War Cabinet

Today, the War Cabinet agreed to the scheme and called:

“for an increase to commence at once, of the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps from 108 to 200 service squadrons, with the necessary aerodromes and establishment, and for a progressive increase in the output of aero engines to 4,500 a month, including certain supplies from overseas”.

and that there should be a “corresponding expansion and increase of the Royal Naval Air Service”.

It was easy to ask for an extra 92 Squadrons, but it was going to be very difficult to resource and man such as large increase given the current difficulties in keeping the existing Squadron’s supplied.

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