Editoriali

 

4/2008

 

1.   Father of The Royal Air Force

RAF, 1/4/2008

 

Jarrod Cotter highlights how one man – Lord Trenchard – battled all sides to keep the RAF in existence and to give the Service an enduring sense of pride that continues today.

 

 

Shortly before World War One, and by then a Major, he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and he learned to fly at the age of 39. His supreme organisational and leadership qualities had long been noted and he was appointed Deputy Commandant of the Central Flying School. He was later given command of the Royal Flying Corps on home soil, at the time the air arm embarked for France in the summer of 1914. That November he was posted to take command of 1 Wing on the Western Front, and by the following summer he had been appointed General officer Commanding of the RFC in France.His leadership was tested to the full during the ensuing years in this post, when the life expectancy of a front-line pilot could at times be just three weeks.When the RAF was established on 1 April 1918, General Trenchard,as he was by then, was the obvious choice to become the first CAS.However, due to differences with the new air Minister, Lord Rothermere,his tenure was short. Trenchard resigned, and was appointed CO of the Independent Force, based in France, near Nancy.With the war over, a new air Minister in post, and Winston Churchillby then Secretary of State for War and Air, it was agreed that difficulttimes lay ahead for the RAF. an urgent need for massive reductions indefence spending and wholesale demobilisation of manpower made the infant RAF extremely vulnerable to suggestions from the Army and Royal Navy that large-scale savings could be made by abolishing a separate air Force.

 

 

Trenchard was deemed to be the best man toguide the service through this period and he once again took up the position as CAS.The RAF’s continued independent existence beyond its first birthday on 1 April 1919, faced many threats from hostile military chiefs in Whitehall. Trenchard needed to quickly establish a deeper understanding of the potentially revolutionary role of air power in war.If the RAF was to survive it would have to establish its own stature in the overall defence plan. Trenchard set about “making a sound framework on which to build a service which, while giving us now the few essential squadrons, adequately trained and equipped, would be capable of producing whatever time may show to be necessary in the future”.He soon imprinted his own personality on the RAF, not least by establishing the service’s great training institutions – the Cadet College at Cranwell, the apprentice School at Halton, and the Staff College at Andover. In 1920 he also advocated the first RAF Tournament at Hendon to promote public awareness of the Service and its pride in its high standards and training.His initiatives also included establishing the Auxiliary Air Force and the University Air Squadrons. It says much for Trenchard’s foresightthat so much of what he set in place to establish the RAF in its own right continues to this day.

 

 

In 1922, an economic review proposed significant cut backs inpublic spending. Its findings supported the retention of the RAF andi t was decided that it should continue as an independent service. It had been Lord Trenchard’s conviction and strength of character that had safely brought the Service through its many battles for survival –hardly surprising that he gained the affectionate title ‘Father of the Royal Air Force’.Stepping down as CAS in 1930, he later took up the position of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, mirroring his work for the RAF by introducing many initiatives to raise the Force’s status and morale and establishing the Police College at Hendon. In 1935 he joined the United Africa Company, where he served for 17 years in senior management. He was knighted in 1936. Lord Trenchard’s enduring determination for the RAF was wholly justified with the onset of World War Two. He died on February 10,1953, at the age of 83. on the 21st of that month, he was buried with all due honours in the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster abbey.