14 July 1917– Supply and demand

Shortly after the withdrawal of 46 Squadron on 10 July 1917 for home defence, Major-General Trenchard was informed by the War Office that 24 Sopwith Camels promised to him for the re-equipment of a two-seater Sopwith squadron, and four DH4s for another squadron, would be diverted to Home Defence squadrons. There had been no hint of this in previous discussions and so Trenchard brought the
matter to the notice of Sir Douglas Haig.

The Commander-in-Chief wrote to Sir William Robertson today to complain:

“A serious reduction has been made at the last moment in the supply of aircraft on which I was counting for my operations. I have no information as to the authority on which such an important decision has been arrived at, and I have only learnt of it through these communications, addressed by a Directorate to a General Officer under my command, who has brought them to my notice. You will appreciate, without explanation from me, the unsatisfactory nature of such a method of procedure, and still more the seriousness of my being deprived suddenly and unexpectedly, at the present juncture, of forces on which I was counting to carry through an offensive of such great importance, the preparations for which have reached such an advanced stage that no alteration or modification can now be made without grave disadvantage.”

The War Office replied that the diversion of aircraft for home defence resulted from a War Cabinet decision, and there the matter was allowed to rest.

The consternation at these changes show the wider impact of the German raids. It only took the occasional raid to stir public opinion sufficiently that a significant number of aircraft and personnel were tied up in home defence where they would be mostly inactive unless the enemy actually made a raid.

The real military consequence was the diversion, at a critical time, of significant air strength from France to England. In the longer run however the attacks raised the possibility that a nation might be forced to sue for peace through an air offensive against its most important centres.

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