Following on from General Smuts report on August, the War Cabinet accepted the formation of a separate Air Ministry in principle on 24 August, and then set up the Air Organisation Committee under General Smuts to work on the practicalities with Sir David Henderson leading the work.
At the same time there were misgivings in the War Office about the whole approach Sir Douglas Haig believed that one of the contentions on which the whole argument for a separate air service was based – that the war could be won in the air as against on the ground – was a mere assertion unsupported by facts.
‘An Air Ministry with civilian head uncontrolled by any outside naval and military opinion, exposed as it would inevitably be to popular and factional clamour, would be very liable to lose its sense of proportion and be drawn towards the spectacular, such as bombing reprisals and home defence, at the expense of providing the essential means of co-operation with our naval and military forces.’
However, in his formal response to the report issued today, he confined his remarks to what was necessary to ensure the efficiency of the air service under the new structure, as the principle of the formation of a separate Air Service had already been approved by the War Cabinet.
He had, he said, carefully studied the report, and he found that some of the views put forward about future possibilities went beyond anything justified by his experience. He thought that a full examination of the problems associated with long-distance bombing would show that the views expressed by the committee required considerable modification, and he desired to point out the ‘grave danger of an Air Ministry, charged with such ‘powers as the Committee recommends, assuming control ‘with a belief in theories which are not in accordance with ‘practical experience’.
After reviewing the difficulties associated with long-distance bombing from aerodromes in French territory, Sir Douglas Haig had much to say about the supply of aeroplanes and trained personnel.
“After more than three years of war our armies are still very far short of their requirements, and ‘my experience of repeated failure to fulfil promises as ‘regards provision makes me somewhat sceptical as to the large surplus of machines and personnel on which the Committee counts in . . . its report. . . . Nor is it clear ‘that the large provision necessary to replace wastage has ‘been taken into account.”