Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


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Expansion Schemes - pre World War 2


Background

Following the end of World War One, the RAF was drastically reduced in both manpower and equipment. The application of a 'Ten Year Rule" in which the British Government foresaw no war being fought in the next ten years resulted in minimal defence expenditure through the 1920's.  These same budgetary constraints also resulted in many squadrons having to struggle on through the same period with aircraft originally designed during WW1, such as the DH9A and Bristol F2B Fighter.

Each year the the 'Ten Year Rule" was extended until the early 1930's when it at last became apparent that Germany was developing expansionist and aggressive tendencies the British Government and Air Ministry began to develop plans of their own to expand and develop the Royal Air Force.  A number of plans where approved by the cabinet, but each one was often replaced by a revised one before the original could be completed.

The plan approved by the cabinet on 31 July 1934 was as follows: -

“(a) To approve the Interim Report by the Ministerial Committee on Defence dealing with Air Defence (C.P.193(34)) the recommendations of which are summarised in the last paragraph as follows:-

(1)   The provision of 41½ new Squadrons for the Royal Air Force for the following services:-

(a)    33 Squadrons for Home Defence, making, with the existing 42 Squadrons, a total of 75 Squadrons.

(b)    4½ Squadrons for the Fleet Air Arm.

(c)    3 Squadrons for Singapore

(d)    1 Squadron for the Far East, exclusive of Singapore.

(2)   The above forces to be provided with five years from 1934, at a total cost estimated at £20,000,000.  The suggested annual instalments of the programme and their approximate cost are shown in the Appendix.  (See attached table 1B.).

(3)   In order to test the suitability of the Fleet Air Arm to co-operate directly in Home Defence, and of Home Defence units to co-operate with the Fleet Air Arm, in case of necessity, the Admiralty and Air Ministry should concert experiments in training one or two Squadrons form the Fleet Air Arm and the Home Defence Force respectively to undertake the dual role, and should report on the result to the Committee of Imperial Defence within a period not exceeding two years.  In addition, the two Departments should examine the question of interchangeability in all aspects, including that of design of aircraft.

(4)    The decision as to the final destination of the Squadron recommended for the Far East apart from Singapore should be postponed until the Committee of Imperial Defence, advised by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee, has been consulted.

(5)   Our Defence position ought to be kept constantly under review, and the programme recommended should be adjusted form time to time in the light of new factors in the situation.  In particular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not blind himself or his successors to find the additional sums mentioned in this Report within five years or in the particular years to which they are allotted.

(b) That the intention of the Cabinet is to provide the aircraft required for the Cruisers of the 1933-37, 1934-35, 1935-36 programme, as well as for the Carrier, and that the dates at which they are to be furnished should be settled by arrangement between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air, subject to the agreement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

(c) That, in considering the final destination of the Squadron to be sent to the Far East apart from Singapore (Conclusion (a) (4) above), the Committee of Imperial Defence should also examine the possibility and desirability of providing landing-grounds at some or all of the ports concerned (Hong Kong, Penang, Ceylon ports, Aden), with a view to a possible scheme of emergency reinforcement, if, when the emergency arises, aircraft can be made available form elsewhere.”

Estimate by the Air Ministry of approximate addition to the 1934 Estimates necessary to provide 41½ new Squadrons by 1938-39

Year

Cost £

Squadrons to form.

Home Defence

Fleet Air Arm.

Singapore and Far East.

1934

Provided in Air Votes, 1934

2

…*

1

1935

£2,500,000

8

2

1936

£4,900,000

6

 1/2

1

1937

£5,900,000

8

1

1938

£6,700,000

9

1

1

 

£20,000,000

33

3 1/2

4

 * The figures of cost do not include additional expenditure falling on Navy Votes through the Fleet Air Arm Grant-in-Aid to make good “deficiencies” for existing aircraft carriers and other ships – 51 aircraft, of which 23 are being provided in 1934.  This expenditure would be approximately. 

 

£

1935

370,000

1936

110,000

1937

100,000

1938

310,000

Total 1935-38

890,000

From this point the expansion plans took the form of a number of schemes which were constantly being revised in the light of developments around the world as follows: -

Scheme To CID Approved Completion Date HDF on completion FLS on completion
A Nov 1933 Jul 1934 31 Mar 1939 1,252 aircraft 1,544 aircraft
C Apr 1935 May 1935 31 Mar 1937 (Home)

31 Mar 1939 (Overseas)

1,512 aircraft 1,804 aircraft
F May 1935 Feb 1936 31 Mar 1939 1,736 aircraft

225% reserves by 1941

2,204 aircraft
H Jan 1937 Feb 1937 (a) 31 Mar 1939

(b) as soon as possible thereafter

(a) 2,422 aircraft

(b) 2,492 aircraft

(a) 2,770 aircraft

(b) 2,960 aircraft

J Oct 1937 Dec 1937 Front Line  - Mar 1939

Reserves - Mar 1941

2,387 aircraft 3,021 aircraft
K Jan 1938 Mar 1938 Front Line  - Mar 1939

Reserves - Mar 1941

2,305 aircraft 2,773 aircraft
L Mar 1938 Apr 1938 Mar 1940 2,378 aircraft 2,863 aircraft
M   17 Nov 1938 Mar 1942 2,549 aircraft 3,185 aircraft

CID = Committee for Imperial Defence, HDF = Home Defence Force, FLS = Front Line Strength

The breakdown of type for each scheme is given below: -

  Scheme A

AIR 8/177

Scheme C

AIR 8/186

Scheme F

AIR 8/204

Scheme H

AIR 8/215

Sqns FLS Sqns FLS Sqns FLS Sqns FLS
Heavy Bombers 8 80 20 240 20 240 85 1,589
Medium Bombers 8 96 18 216 48 350
Light Bombers 25 300 30 360 - -    
Torpedo Bombers 2 24 2 24 2 32 2 42
Fighters 28 336 35* 420 30* 420 34* 476
Recce and Army Co-op 13 124 18 252 24 296 24 315
Overseas 27 292 27 292 37 468 27 348
Fleet Air Arm 27 213 16.5 213 26** 312    
                 

 

  Scheme J

AIR 8/222

Scheme K

AIR 8/226

Scheme L

AIR 8/237

Scheme M

AIR 8/240

Sqns FLS Sqns FLS Sqns FLS Sqns FLS
Heavy Bombers 60 896 77 1,360 47 752 85 (57 by 31 Mar 1939) 1,360  (812 by 31 Mar 1939)
Medium Bombers 30 546 26 600 - -
Light Bombers                
Torpedo Bombers                
Fighters 38* 532 38* 532 38* 608 50* (40 by 31 Mar 1939) 800 (638 by 31 Mar 1939)
Recce and Army Co-op 30 413 30 413 30 413 28 389
Overseas 45 644 37 468 39 490 49 636
Fleet Air Arm                
                 

*Included 10 squadrons for allocation to the Field Force (BEF)

**Rising to 40 squadrons by 1942 (504 aircraft)

This page was last updated on 09/06/17 using FrontPage 2003©

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