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

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

by Robin Higham
 

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Two Roads to 1940 is a comparative study of the French and British air arms, from 1918 to 10 May 1940. Higham seeks the answer to the question “Why was the Armée de l’Air defeated in June 1940 whereas the Royal Air Force won the Battle Over Britain in September?”

To reach a conclusion, the structure, the men and matériel, the

Overview

Two Roads to 1940 is a comparative study of the French and British air arms, from 1918 to 10 May 1940. Higham seeks the answer to the question “Why was the Armée de l’Air defeated in June 1940 whereas the Royal Air Force won the Battle Over Britain in September?”

To reach a conclusion, the structure, the men and matériel, the government, and the economic infrastructure were analyzed. The story reveals that the French, dominated by the Armée de l’Terre, was hypnotized by “1918”; in contrast, the independent RAF evolved in the interwar years into a sophisticated, scientifically based force, which got the Air Defence of Great Britain (1924-1936) ready, was supported by government practices and consistency, as well as the necessary technical support for Fighter Command (1936-). Thus in 1940 the RAF could meet the Luftwaffe challenge.

But the RAF also suffered from three major errors; no Air Officer Commander-in-Chief to control all the air commands, the almost fatal miscalculations of the power of Bomber Command, and the Army Ordnance’s refusal to develop the .50-caliber machine-gun instead of the .303.

Serious historians and buffs should find the story salutary, as well as a detailed explanation of why air forces fail

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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612510859
Publisher:
Naval Institute Press
Publication date:
04/15/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Robin Higham: was born in the UK and educated there and in the US. He served in the RAF as a pilot. He is the author of numerous books and articles in the field of aviation history. He was Professor of Military History at Kansas State University for 35 years.

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