Definitions

Air Ministry

Air Ministry

The Air Ministry was formerly a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force.

Organizations before the Air Ministry

The Air Committee

On 13 April 1912, less than two weeks after the creation of the Royal Flying Corps, an Air Committee was established to act as an intermediary between the Admiralty and the War Office in matters relating to aviation. The new Air Committee was composed of representatives of the two war ministries and although it could make recommendations, it lacked executive authority. The recommendations of the Air Committee had to be ratified by the Admiralty Board and the Imperial General Staff and, in consequence, the Committee was not particularly effective. The increasing separation of army and naval aviation from 1912 to 1914 only exacerbated the Air Committee's ineffectiveness and the Committee did not meet after the outbreak of World War I.

The Joint War Air Committee

By 1916 the lack of co-ordination of the Army's Royal Flying Corps and the Navy's Royal Naval Air Service had led to serious problems, not only in the procurement of aircraft engines, but also in the air defence of Great Britain. However, it was the supply problems to which an attempt at rectification was first made. The War Committee meeting on 15 February 1916 decided to immediately establish a standing joint naval and military committee to co-ordinate both the design and the supply of materiel for the two air services. This committee was titled the Joint War Air Committee and its chairman was Lord Derby. It was also at the 15 February meeting that Lord Curzon proposed the creation of an Air Ministry. As with the pre-war Air Committee, the Joint War Air Committee lacked any executive powers and therefore was not effective. After only eight sittings, Lord Derby resigned from the Committee stating that "It appears to me quite impossible to bring the two wings closer together ... unless and until the whole system of the Air Service is changed and they are amalgamated into one service.

Membership

The Joint War Air Committee was composed as follows:

Advisory Members were also appointed as required.

The Air Board

The first Air Board

The next attempt to establish effective co-ordination between the two air services was the creation of an Air Board. The first Air Board came into being on 15 May 1916 with Lord Curzon as its chairman. The inclusion of Curzon, a Cabinet Minister, and other political figures was intended to give the Air Board greater status than the Joint War Air Committee. In October 1916 the Air Board published its first report which was highly critical the arrangements within the British air services. The report noted that although the Army authorities were ready and willing to provide information and take part in meetings, the Navy were often absent from Board meetings and frequently refused to provide information on naval aviation.

The second Air Board

In January 1917 the Prime Minister Lloyd George replaced the chairman Lord Curzon with Lord Cowdray. Godfrey Paine, who served in the newly created post of Fifth Sea Lord and Director of Naval Aviation, sat on the board and this high level representation from the Navy helped to improve matters. Additionally, as responsibility for the design of aircraft had been moved out of single service hands and given to the Ministry of Munitions, some of the problems of inter-service competition were avoided.

Establishment of the Air Ministry

Despite attempts at reorganization of the Air Board, the earlier problems failed to be completely resolved. In addition, the growing number of German air raids against Great Britain led to public disquiet and increasing demands for something to be done. As a result Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, established a committee composed of himself and General Jan Smuts, which was tasked with investigating the problems with the British air defences and organizational difficulties which had beset the Air Board.

Towards the end of the First World War, on 17 August 1917, General Smuts presented a report to the War Council on the future of air power. Because of its potential for the 'devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale', he recommended a new air service be formed that would be on a level with the Army and Royal Navy. The new air service was to receive direction from a new ministry and on 29 November 1917 the Air Force Bill received Royal Assent and the Air Ministry was formed just over a month later on 2 January 1918. Lord Rothermere was appointed the first Air Minister.

The creation of the Air Ministry resulted in the disestablishment of the Army Council's post of Director-General of Military Aeronautics.

Operation

The Air Ministry issued specifications for aircraft that British aircraft companies would supply prototypes to. These were then assessed, if ordered the Ministry assigned the aircraft name. (see List Of Air Ministry Specifications)

Disestablishment

In 1964 the Air Ministry merged with the Admiralty and the War Office to form the Ministry of Defence.

See also

References

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