In 1917 the Sopwith Camel bi-plane joined in hostilities against the Germans a year before the founding of the RAF. (1)
Hugh Trenchard born Today in 1873 had joined the army in 1893, but after taking flying lessons became Brigadier-General of the Royal Flying Corps by 1914, then part of the army. He advocated the separation of the Air and Army forces being chiefly responsible for the formation of the RAF in April 1918 when the air force had expanded to nearly 300,000, more than there had been soldiers in 1914.
The other two services tried to kill off the upstart RAF and the bomber was used by Trenchard in his move in securing the future of the service, strategists claiming the bomber would always get through. The Zeppelin raids on East Anglia and London in the First War had caused alarm of airborne forces when Britain realised we were no longer an island immune from attack.
By 1933 the RAF’s fully operational home bomber force comprised five night bomber squadrons and 6-day squadrons, however it did lose the Fleet Air Command to the Admiralty and its aircraft carrier force.
Trenchard’s promoted strategic air power theories, which proposed attacks not just on military and industrial targets but also civilian to undermine moral later to be used in the Second World War.
Inter-war he was the instigator of ‘Air Control’ when as the first Chief of Air Staff he promised Churchill that he could suppress Iraqi rebellion through air power alone. However, troops had to be sent, and a local militia recruited locally to pacify the region.
Trenchard unlike Churchill and Sir Horace Rumbold our Berlin Ambassador thought that the Germans could be persuaded to disarm, especially if we strengthened our Air Force, but when the political tide started to turn in 1935 he was sacked.
Today a statue to Lord Trenchard is to be found opposite the old Air Ministry in Whitehall.
(1) Many small companies were building aircraft in the early days such as Norwich’s Boulton and Paul with its Sopwith Snipe and Mann-Egerton’s (under licence) Short’s Bomber. Robert Robey of Lincoln, boiler engineers built Sopwith planes in 1916 and Short’s Sea-Planes.