Brothers in Arms
Brothers in Arms
The Admiralty, the Air Ministry, and the Battle of the Atlantic
During the Second World War, there were intense disputes between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry over the provision of air support for the Battle of the Atlantic. This was not mere inter-service squabbling but the product of deep and long-standing differences about the nature and conduct of war. The Admiralty, fully appreciating the central role of air power in attacking and defending sea communications, repeatedly asked for reinforcement of the under-resourced Coastal Command. The Air Staff, however, consistently and strenuously resisted these requests due to the overwhelming priority it placed on the strategic air offensive against Germany. This chapter by Tim Benbow examines these disputes between 1940 and 1943, assessing the arguments presented by the Air Staff and by the Admiralty. It maintains that the Air Staff was dogmatically fixated on demonstrating that bombing could win the war on its own, despite ample evidence to the contrary, and failed to allocate aircraft appropriately. As a result, the war at sea did not receive the support that its strategic importance justified. It further asserts that Churchill and his government failed to adjudicate effectively on this vital issue as a result of their sloppy and inconsistent approach to setting priorities.
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