Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk

Overview


Noted aviation historian Robin Higham has written this comparative study of the evolution of the French and British air arms from 1918 to 1940 to determine why the Armée de l'Air was defeated in June 1940 but the Royal Air Force was able to win the battle over Britain in September. After analyzing the structure, men, and matériel of the air arms, and the government and economic infrastructure of both countries, he concludes that the French force was dominated by the Armée de Terre, had no suitably powerful aero ...
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Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk

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Overview


Noted aviation historian Robin Higham has written this comparative study of the evolution of the French and British air arms from 1918 to 1940 to determine why the Armée de l'Air was defeated in June 1940 but the Royal Air Force was able to win the battle over Britain in September. After analyzing the structure, men, and matériel of the air arms, and the government and economic infrastructure of both countries, he concludes that the French force was dominated by the Armée de Terre, had no suitably powerful aero engines, and suffered from the chaos of French politics. In contrast, the independent RAF evolved into a sophisticated, scientifically based force, supported by consistent government practices. Higham's thorough examination, however, finds the British not without error.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Higham, a doyen of air power history (100 Years of Air Power and Aviation), makes another significant contribution with this comparative analysis of French and British policies and developments between the world wars. Eschewing the conventional emphasis on equipment, doctrine, and strategy, Higham presents a convincing case that the crucial differences were structural. France failed to create administrative and fiscal systems able to match the requirements of modernization. Labor-management relations were fundamentally antagonistic. Engine and airframe designs were developed, but incompletely tested and never ordered in sufficient quantity. “What France needed was a new style of capitalism,” Higham concludes. What it needed as well was more serious thought on how a future war might be waged. Britain, with a broader and more entrepreneurial structure of industry and commerce, was better able to respond to developments in aviation and electronics. Recognizing the profit motive allowed for redundancy. Backups existed for disabled facilities and inadequate material. Britain had stable governments and was able to match policy and funding systematically if not always perceptively. Unlike in France, Higham notes, stability produced a strong leader in Winston Churchill. (June)
From the Publisher

"…Well argued and described…A devastating comparative analysis from which much could be learnt by current defence planners and their political masters."

-- AUSMarine

"Readers will value Higham's book for its pungent judgments of the people involved and its comprehensive summary of the extensive secondary literature on interwar European aviation. Summing up: Highly recommended."

-- Choice, February 2013

"Higham, a doyen of air power history (100 Years of Air Power and Aviation), makes another significant contribution with this comparative analysis of French and British policies and developments between the world wars."

-- Publishers Weekly

"Two Roads to War is immensely readable, but it is also incredibly dense with fact. Robert Higham's firsthand knowledge of the history of the period helps make this book an enduring masterpiece. Buy it; read it!"

-- Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis

"Robin Higham's comparative study of British and French aviation during the inter-war period offers a comprehensive and thoughtful portrait of the efforts of two countries to meet the political, military and industrial challenges posed by a young and rapidly developing technology. Filled with fascinating details, Two Roads to War does not shrink from drawing larger and provocative conclusions about the effectiveness of Britain and France. It is an impressive achievement."

-- Talbot Imlay, Université Laval (Québec, Canada), author of Facing the Second World War: Strategy, Politics, and Economics in Britain and France, 1938-1940

"Robin Higham, sometime RAFVR pilot and attendee at many French Air Force Office of History sessions, has acutely dissected the geographical, historical, economic, and military differences of the French and the British to 10 May 1940 without indulgence. French readers of his book will find him harsh and perhaps unfair. Some, other than historians, will learn that until Hitler's advent, France was the potential enemy of England and Paris a target of Bomber Command. Frenchmen, whatever it may cost them, will know how an American friend can see them."

-- General Lucien Robineau, former Chief, Service Historique de l'Armée de l'Air, Vincennes, France

"In this comparative history Robin Higham evaluates French and British air forces--their development, men and materiel, governmental support, and deficiencies from 1914 to 1940. Higham, a distinguished military historian and World War II combat veteran, adds to our understanding of World War II air forces."

-- Joseph P. Harahan, co-editor, U.S. Air Force Warrior Studies

"At the end of World War I, the French and British air services shared many similarities and were both ostensibly powerful. Yet only twenty years later, when they had to face a rampant Luftwaffe, the Armée de l'Air was pathetic and the Royal Air Force was magnificent. In this brilliant comparative analysis, Robin Higham in effect explains how to construct and sustain a first-class air force. His lucid and engrossing study is arguably the most significant book on air power published in many years."

-- Dr. Alan Stephens, author of The Royal Australian Air Force and The War in the Air 1914-1994

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612510583
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/2012
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,265,725
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Robin Higham, a former RAF pilot, is the author of numerous books on aviation history. A resident of Manhattan, KS, he taught military history at Kansas State University for thirty-five years.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Preface xiii

Introduction: France to 1940 1

Part I Legacies of World War I

Chapter 1 Britain and France 17

Part II The Interwar Years, 1918-1934

Chapter 2 Postwar, 1918-1932 39

Chapter 3 French and British Aircraft Industries, 1918-1934 83

Part III The Road to War, 1932-1940

Chapter 4 From the Advent of Hitler to War, 1933-1940 119

Chapter 5 Technical Infrastructure, 1928-1940 158

Chapter 6 On the Road to War, 1933-1940 207

Part IV War, 1938-1940

Chapter 7 Munich and the Phoney War, September 1938-10 May 1940 251

Conclusions 278

Epilogue 294

Appendix I Presidents, Ministers, Chiefs of Staff, France (1914-1940) 295

Appendix II Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, and Air Ministers ' of Great Britain (1914-1940) 299

Appendix III Structures de I'Armée de I'Air au 1 er Juillet 1934 (5 Régions Aériennes) 301

Appendix IV Organisation Générate de I'Armee de I'Air en Temps de Paix 303

Appendix V Organisation Territoriale 304

Appendix VI Organisation de I'Armée de I'Air au 1 er Juillet 1939 305

Notes 307

Glossary 345

Bibliography 349

Index 399

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