Marshal of the Royal Air Force Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard GCB OM GCVO DSO (3 February 1873 - 10 February 1956) was a British officer who was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force. He has been described as the Father of the Royal Air Force.
During his formative years Trenchard struggled academically, failing many examinations and only just succeeding in meeting the minimum standard for commissioned service in the British Army. As a young infantry officer, Trenchard served in India and with the outbreak of the Boer War, he volunteered for service in South Africa. Whilst fighting the Boers, Trenchard was critically wounded and as a result of his injury, he lost a lung, was partially paralysed and returned to Great Britain. On medical advice Trenchard travelled to Switzerland to recuperate and boredom saw him taking up bobsleighing. After a heavy crash, Trenchard found that his paralysis was gone and that he could walk unaided. Following further recuperation, Trenchard returned to active service in South Africa.
After the end of the Boer War, Trenchard saw service in Nigeria where he was involved in efforts to bring the interior under settled British rule and quell inter-tribal violence. During his time in Nigeria, Trenchard commanded the Southern Nigeria Regiment for several years.
In 1912, Trenchard learnt to fly and was subsequently appointed as second in command of the Central Flying School. He held several senior positions in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, serving as the commander of Royal Flying Corps in France from 1915 to 1917. In 1918, he briefly served as the first Chief of the Air Staff before taking up command of the Independent Air Force in France. Returning as Chief of the Air Staff under Winston Churchill in 1919, Trenchard spent the following decade securing the future of the Royal Air Force. He was Metropolitan Police Commissioner in the 1930s and a defender of the RAF in his later years. Trenchard is recognized today as one of the first advocates of strategic bombing.
When Hugh Trenchard was two, the family moved to a Courtlands, a farm-cum-manor house three miles from the centre of Taunton. The country setting meant that the young Trenchard could enjoy an outdoor life, including spending time hunting rabbits and other small animals with the rifle he was given on his eighth birthday. It was during his junior years that Trenchard and his siblings were educated at home by a resident tutor. Unfortunately for Trenchard's education, the tutor was neither strict enough nor skillful enough to overcome the children's mischievous attempts to avoid receiving instruction. As a consequence, Trenchard did not excel academically; however, his enthusiasm for games and riding was evident.
At the age of 10, Trenchard was sent to board at Allens Preparatory School near Botley in Hampshire. Although he did well at arithmetic, he struggled with the rest of the curriculum. However, Trenchard's parents were not greatly concerned by his educational difficulties as they had already decided that he should follow a military career. Georgina Trenchard wanted her son to follow her father's profession and enter the Royal Navy. In 1884, Trenchard was moved to Dover where he attended Hammond's, a cramming school for prospective entrants to HMS Britannia. Trenchard failed the Navy's entrance papers and at the age of 13 he was sent to the Reverend Albert Pritchard's crammer, Hill Lands in Wargrave, Berkshire. Hill Lands prepared its pupils for Army commissions and as before Trenchard did not apply himself to his studies.
In 1889, when Hugh Trenchard was 16 years old, his father, who was a solicitor, was declared bankrupt. The young Trenchard then depended upon the charity of his relatives for the remainder of his education at Pritchard's. Trenchard failed the Woolwich examinations twice and was then relegated to applying for the Militia which had lower entry standards. Even the Militia's examinations proved difficult for Trenchard and he failed in 1891 and 1892. During this time, Trenchard underwent a period of training as a probationary subaltern with the Kincardine and Forfar Artillery. Following his return to Pritchard's, Trenchard finally achieved a bare pass in March 1893. At the age of 20, he was gazetted as a second-lieutenant in the Second Battalion the Royal Scots Fusiliers and posted to India.
Young officers stationed in India in the 1890s enjoyed many social and sporting diversions. Although every regiment was required to undertake a period of duty beyond the Khyber Pass, for the most part conditions of peace and prosperity were evident. The fact that Trenchard was not a man of independent means did not prevent him engaging in sporting activities. In early 1894 he won the All-India Rifle Championship. After his success at shooting, Trenchard set about establishing a battalion polo team. Being of the infantry, his regiment had no history of playing polo and there were many obstacles for Trenchard to overcome. However, within six months the battalion polo team was competing and holding its own. It was during a polo match in 1896 that Trenchard first met Winston Churchill, with whom he clashed on field of play. Trenchard's sporting prowess saved his reputation amongst his fellow officers. In other respects he did not fit in, lacking social graces and choosing to converse little he was nicknamed "the camel" as like the beast he neither drank nor spoke.
It was also during Trenchard's time in India that he took up reading. His first choice was for biographies, particularly of British heroes. Trenchard kept the long hours he spent reading quiet but in so doing succeeded in providing himself with an education where the service crammers had failed. However, in military terms Trenchard was dissatisfied. He failed to see any action during his time in India, missing out on his regiment's turn at the frontier as he was in England on sick leave for a hernia operation.
With the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899, Trenchard applied several times to join his old battalion which had been sent to the Cape as part of the expeditionary corps. Trenchard's requests were rejected by his Colonel and when the Viceroy Lord Curzon, who was concerned about the drain of leaders to South Africa, banned the dispatch of any further officers, Trenchard's prospect for seeing action looked bleak. However, a year or two previously, it had so happened that Trenchard had been promised help or advice from Sir Edmund Elles, as a gesture of thanks after Trenchard had rescued a poorly planned rifle-shooting contest from disaster. By 1900, Elles was Military Secretary to Lord Curzon and Trenchard (by now a captain) sent a priority signal to Elles requesting that he be permitted to rejoin his unit overseas. This bold move worked and Trenchard received his orders for South Africa several weeks later.
Trenchard's company came under the command of the 6th (Fusilier) Brigade which was headquartered at Krugersdorp. During September and early October 1900 Trenchard's riders were involved in several skirmishes in the surrounding countryside. On 5 October the 6th Brigade, including Trenchard, departed Krugersdorp with the intention of drawing the Boers into battle on the plain where they might be defeated. However, before the Brigade could reach the plain it had to pass through undulating terrain which favoured the Boer guerrilla tactics.
The Brigade travelled by night and at dawn on 9 October the Ayrshire Yeomanry, who were in the vanguard, disturbed a Boer encampment. The Boers fled on horseback and Trenchard with his Australians pursued them for 10 miles. The Boers, finding themselves unable to shake off Trenchard's unit, led them into a trap. The Boers rode up a steep slope and disappeared into the valley beyond. When Trenchard made the ridge he saw the Dwarsvlei farmhouse with smoke coming from the chimney. It appeared to Trenchard that the Boers thought they had got away and were eating breakfast unawares. Trenchard placed his troops on the heights around the building and after half an hour's observation, he led a patrol of four men down towards the farmhouse. The remainder of Trenchard's troops were to close in on his signal. However, when Trenchard and his patrol reached the valley floor and broke cover, the Boers opened fire from about a dozen points and bullets whistled past Trenchard and his men. Trenchard pressed forward and reached the sheltering wall of the farmhouse. As he headed for the door, Trenchard was felled by a Boer bullet to the chest. The Australians, seeing their leader fall, descended from the heights and engaged the Boers at close quarters in and around the farmhouse. Many of the Boers were killed or wounded, a few fled and several were taken prisoner. Trenchard was critically wounded and medically evacuated to Krugersdorp.
In December 1900, Trenchard returned to England, arriving by hospital ship at Southampton. He hobbled with the aid of sticks down the gangplank where his concerned parents met him. As a disabled soldier without independent financial means, Trenchard was now at his lowest point. He spent the next fortnight at the Mayfair nursing home for disabled officers which was run by the Red Cross. Trenchard's case came to the attention of Lady Dudley, by whose philanthropic efforts the Mayfair nursing home operated. Through her generosity she arranged for Trenchard to see a specialist who told Trenchard that he needed to spend several months in Switzerland where the air was likely to be of benefit to his lung. Trenchard and his family could not afford the expense and Trenchard was too embarrassed to explain the situation. However, without asking any questions, Lady Dudley presented Trenchard with a cheque to cover the costs.
On Sunday 30 December, Trenchard arrived in St Moritz to begin his Swiss convalescence. Boredom saw him take up bobsleighing as it did not require much use of his legs. Initially he was prone to leave the run and end up in the snow but after some days of practice he usually managed to stay on track. It was during a heavy crash from the Cresta Run that his spine was somehow readjusted, enabling him to walk freely immediately after regaining consciousness. Around a week later, Trenchard won the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club's Freshman and Novices' Cups for 1901; a remarkable triumph for a man who had been unable to walk unaided only a few days before.
On arriving back in England, Trenchard visited Lady Dudley to thank her and then set about engineering his return to South Africa. His lung was not fully healed, causing him pain and leaving him breathless. Furthermore, the War Office were sceptical about Trenchard's claim to be fully fit and were disinclined to allow him to forego his remaining nine months of sick leave. Trenchard then took several months of tennis coaching in order to strengthen his remaining lung. Early in the summer of 1901 he entered two tennis competitions, reaching the semi-finals both times and gaining favourable press coverage. He then sent the newspaper clippings to the doctors at the War Office, arguing that this tennis ability proved he was fit for active service. Not waiting for a reply, Trenchard boarded a troop ship in May 1901, passing himself off as a volunteer for a second tour of duty.
Later in the year, Trenchard was summoned to see Kitchener, who was by then the Commander-in-Chief. Trenchard was tasked with reorganizing a demoralized mounted infantry company, which he completed in under a month. Kitchener then sent Trenchard to D'Aar in the Cape Colony to expedite the training of a new corps of mounted infantry. Kitchener summoned Trenchard for the third time in October 1901, this time sending Trenchard on a mission to capture the Boer Government who were in hiding. Kitchener had received intelligence on their location and he hoped to damage the morale of Boer commandos at large by sending a small group of men to capture the Boer Government. Trenchard was accompanied by a column of so-called loyalist Boers whose motives he suspected. Also with Trenchard were several British NCOs and nine mixed race guides. After riding through the night, Trenchard's party were ambushed the next morning. Trenchard and his men took cover and gave fight. After Trenchard's column had suffered casualties, the ambush party withdrew. Although this last mission failed, Trenchard was praised for his efforts with a mention in dispatches.
Trenchard spent the remainder of 1901 on patrolling duties and in early 1902 he was appointed acting commander of the 23rd Mounted Infantry Regiment. During the last few months of the War, Trenchard only once got to lead his Regiment into action. In response to Boer cattle rustling, Zulu raiders crossed the border into the Transvaal and the 23rd Mounted Infantry Regiment took action. After peace terms were agreed in May 1902, Trenchard was involved in supervising the disarming of the Boers and later took leave. In July, the 23rd Mounted Infantry was recalled to Middleburg four hundred miles to the south and after the trek Trenchard occupied himself with polo and race meetings. Trenchard was promoted to brevet major in August 1902.
Trenchard arrived in Nigeria in early December 1903, disembarking at the port of Bonny. He then travelled along the coast by steamer to Calabar where he reported to the commanding officer, Colonel Montanaro. Montanaro was preparing an expedition to quell inter-tribal violence in the interior. On the day before the expedition was due to depart, Montanaro told Trenchard that he would not be accompanying him as he believed that Trenchard, being unacclimatized, would be a liability in the field. Despite Trenchard's protests, he remained behind. By this time General Kemball was in the Gold Coast and Trenchard was able to send a wire to Kemball threatening to return to Great Britain. Kemball contacted Sir Ralph Moore, the Governor of Southern Nigeria who issued instructions for Trenchard to replace Montanaro as leader of the expedition. Trenchard caught up with the expedition several days' march from Itu. After a brief exchange, Trenchard handed Montanaro the text of the Governor's wire, which he accepted. After dealing with discontent from some of the Regiment's officers, Trenchard led the expedition on towards the disturbed area. Several days later, Trenchard's expedition saw evidence of ritual killings and was then ambushed by Ibo tribesmen. After defeating the attackers, Trenchard's men occupied the local village overnight. The next morning the local tribal chief and his men handed in their arms. Trenchard then set about bringing those responsible for the ritual killings to justice and fighting bellicose tribesmen. In time, six more chiefs with a little under 10,000 men surrendered their arms to Trenchard's expedition of around 250 men.
In March 1904, Trenchard headed to the upper Cross River as the tribal revolt in neighbouring German Cameroons was spilling over into Nigerian territory. Trenchard put down the revolt in Aparabong and thousands of tribesmen surrendered firearms to his troops. From summer 1904 to the late summer 1905, Trenchard was acting Commandant of the Southern Nigeria Regiment. During his time in command, Trenchard set about bringing firm discipline to what he considered an unruly unit. Gambling was banned, drunkenness and laziness were punished and action was taken against any soldiers caught with local women.
With the appointment of a new commanding officer, Trenchard presented his plans for bringing the uncharted region 200 miles north-west of Calabar under British control. This region between the Cross and Niger Rivers was around 1200 square miles in area with Bende to the south and Onitsha to the west. Early in the so-called Bende-Onitsha hinterland expedition, a British doctor was captured by Ibo tribesmen and then killed and eaten. Trenchard then fought a pitched battle with the tribesmen and defeated then with the use of his Maxim guns. The chiefs were brought to terms and the doctor's skull and bones recovered. Thousands of Ibo tribesmen were pressed into service as labourers, constructing roads through the jungle. His service during the Bende-Onitsha expedition saw Trenchard awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1906.
Towards the end of Trenchard's 1906 expedition he contracted blackwater fever and was sent back to England on sick leave. On his return to Nigeria, Trenchard became Commandant and spent time completely redeveloping the barracks in Lagos, where the regiment had relocated some months earlier. He also acted as an agent for Harrods, importing goods and undercutting local merchants. From November 1907 to spring 1908, Trenchard led his last expedition, consisting of only four officers, an interpreter, 25 men and three machine guns. During the expedition, Trenchard made contact with the Munshi tribe, sending gifts to their chiefs. Subsequently, roads were built and trade links established with the tribe.
October 1910 saw Trenchard posted to Derry where the Second Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers were garrisoned. Trenchard was reduced from a temporary lieutenant-colonel to major and made a company commander. As before, Trenchard occupied himself with playing polo and he took up hunting. Finding peace-time regimental life dull, Trenchard sought to expand his area of responsibility by attempting to re-organize his fellow officers' administrative procedures which they resented. Trenchard also clashed with Colonel Stuart, his commanding officer, who told Trenchard that the town was too small for both of them.
During his time in Ireland, Trenchard received a letter from Captain Eustace Loraine, urging him to take up flying. Trenchard and Loraine had been friends in Nigeria and on his return to England, Loraine had learnt to fly. After some effort, Trenchard persuaded his commanding officer to grant him three months of paid leave so that he might train as a pilot. Trenchard arrived in London on 6 July 1912 only to discover that Captain Loraine had been killed in a flying accident the day before his arrival. At the age of 39, Trenchard was just short of 40, the maximum age for military student pilots at the Central Flying School, and so he did not postpone his plan to become an aviator.
When Trenchard arrived Thomas Sopwith's flying school at Brooklands, he told Sopwith than he only had 10 days to gain his aviator's certificate. Trenchard succeeded in going solo on 31 July. The course had cost £75, involved a meagre two-and-a-half weeks tuition and a grand total of 64 minutes in the air. Although Copeland Perry, Trenchard's instructor, noted that teaching him to fly had been "no easy performance", Trenchard himself had been "a model pupil."
Trenchard arrived at Upavon, where the Central Flying School was based, and was assigned to Arthur Longmore's flight. Bad weather delayed Longmore from assessing his new pupil and before the weather improved, the School's Commandant, Captain Godfrey Paine RN had co-opted Trenchard to the permanent staff. Part of Trenchard's new duties included those of School examiner and so he set himself a paper, sat it, marked it and awarded himself his 'wings'. Trenchard's flying ability still left much to be desired and Longmore soon discovered his pupil's deficiencies. Over the following weeks Trenchard spent many hours improving his flying technique. After Trenchard had finished his flying course he was officially appointed as an instructor. However, Trenchard was a poor pilot and he did no instructing, instead becoming involved in administrative duties. As a member of the staff, Trenchard set to work organizing training and establishing procedures. It was during his time at the Central Flying School that Trenchard earned the nickname "Boom" either for his stentorian utterances or for his low rumbling tones.
In September 1912 Trenchard acted as an air observer during the Army Manoeuvres. His experiences and actions developed his understanding of the military utility of flying. The following September, Trenchard was appointed Assistant Commandant and promoted to temporary lieutenant-colonel. Trenchard's paths crossed once more with Winston Churchill, who was by then First Lord of the Admiralty and learning to fly at Eastchurch and Upavon. Trenchard formed a distinctly unfavourable opinion of Churchill's ability as a pilot.
In early October 1914, Kitchener sent for Trenchard and tasked him with providing a battle-worthy squadron forthwith. The squadron was to be used to support land and naval forces seeking to prevent the German flanking manoeuvres during the Race to the Sea. On 7 October, only 36 hours later, No. 6 Squadron flew to Belgium, the first of many additional squadrons to be provided.
Later in October, detailed planning for a major reorganization of the Flying Corps' command structure took place. General Sir David Henderson offered Trenchard command of the soon-to-be created First Wing. The next month, the Military Wing was abolished and its units based in Great Britain were re-grouped as the Administrative Wing. Command of the Administrative Wing was given to Lieutenant Colonel E B Ashmore.
In early January 1915, Haig summoned Trenchard to explain what might be achieved in the air. During the meeting Haig brought Trenchard into his confidence regarding his plans for a March attack in the Merville/Neuve Chapelle region. After aerial photographic reconnaissance had been gathered, the Allied plans were reworked in February. During the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March, the RFC (including the First Wing) supported the land offensive. However, the bombing from the air had little effect and the artillery disregarded the information provided by the RFC's airmen. Prior to Haig's offensives at Ypres and Aubers Ridge in April and May, Trenchard's camera crews flew reconnaissance sorties over the German lines. Despite the detailed information this provided and the improved air-artillery cooperation during the battles, the offensives were inconclusive. At the end of this engagement Henderson offered Trenchard the position as his chief of staff. Although Trenchard declined the offer, this did not stop his promotion to full colonel in June 1915.
In late September 1915, Trenchard oversaw the Flying Corps' contribution to the Battle of Loos. The improved artillery cooperation and air-to-ground wireless communications yielded good results for the British. Additionally, the Battle was significant as the first successful tactical bombing operation in the history of military aviation that was carried out by the Flying Corps. Despite this, the battle was inconclusive and Trenchard had hoped that his airmen might have achieved more.
By the autumn of 1915, the Flying Corps had to contend with a new difficulty, the so-called "Fokker Scourge". The recently introduced Fokkers, with their synchronization gears which permitted a machine gun to fire through the arc of the propeller without striking its blades, outperformed the British aircraft. Trenchard struggled to maintain air superiority and the Flying Corps' losses slowly but surely exceeded the replacements. With the land campaign going through a period of limited activity, Trenchard scaled back the air support to land operations. Although the technological edge remained with the Germans, several modifications were made to Trenchard's aircraft such as the introduction of Lewis guns in the BE biplanes and by early 1916 the Flying Corps had received new fighter aircraft types and began to respond to Fokker attacks on more even terms. In December 1915, Haig replaced Sir John French as Commander of the British Expeditionary Force and the Haig-Trenchard partnership resumed, this time at a higher level.
During the early stages of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, Trenchard supplied Lewis guns, bullets and bombsights to the French Air Service which was under the command of Paul-Fernaud du Peuty. Later in the battle, de Peuty switched from a defensive to an offensive air posture, at least in part due to the influence of Trenchard. In March, with the Flying Corps expanding, Trenchard was promoted to major-general.
In the days before the Battle of the Somme, Trenchard ordered that reconnaissance sorties be flown and German observation kite balloons be targeted. On the eve of battle, Trenchard had mustered 105 aircraft to the rear of the Fourth Army and with the commencement of the battle, Trenchard brought his squadrons systematically into action. Low-level bombing was a major task for the participating aircraft and many were shot down. Despite the losses, by mid-August the Flying Corps had succeeded in gaining air supremacy in the skies over the Somme. However, by September 1916 the prospects of a German collapse were remote and Trenchard feared that the Flying Corps in its weakened state was vulnerable to a German recovery in the air. Trenchard appealed to the War Office and even to the Admiralty for replacements in number but these were not initially forthcoming. By mid-September the German Air Service had regained some strength and Flying Corps began to take casualties in greater numbers. The Flying Corps' decline in numbers impaired their ability to provide accurate artillery support and although in late October a naval squadron was provided from Dunkirk, the British remained weak in the air.
After the conclusion of the Battle of the Somme, Trenchard's Flying Corps remained in a weakened state and all along the Front, Trenchard's aircraft were still fighting those of the German Air Service. In November 1916, Haig, on Trenchard's urging, sought a further 20 squadrons of fighters and in December, Trenchard travelled to London to appeal in person for additional fighters. With his words failing to produce the desired aircraft, Trenchard repeatedly wrote to Henderson and Brancker and when Trenchard went over Henderson's head to the President of the Air Board Lord Cowdray, Henderson severely reprimanded him.
While the winter weather gave some respite from the struggle in the air, the appearance of better weather in March 1917 brought a fresh offensive from the German Air Service. Trenchard was forced to cut back his offensive activity to a minimum although he continued to provide support to the British infantry as they slowly advanced to the Hindenburg Line. In April the Flying Corps supported the infantry as best it could during the Battle of Arras and engaged the Germans in a fierce air battle in the skies overhead. Overall, from March to May, Trenchard lost 1270 aircraft and coupled with the production crisis in Great Britain this almost resulted in the destruction of the Flying Corps.
By mid-1917 William Weir's actions in getting British aircraft production working had started to bear fruit. The newly supplied S.E.5s, Bristol Fighters and de Havilland 4s enabled Trenchard to dominate the airspace along the Front before and during the Battle of Messines. Although the Flying Corps' reserves remained low, Trenchard and his staff were then able to begin planning for Haig's upcoming offensive at Ypres.
After London was bombed for a second time, the Government tasked General Jan Smuts with investigating the arrangements for governing the British air services. His report was issued by August 1917 and it recommended the establishment of an independent air force which would be managed by its own government ministry. Trenchard received an advanced copy and expressed his disagreement. In Trenchard's view, the disruption that would be caused by merging the two air services and particularly by creating a separate ministry would detract from the vital task of pressing home the recently gained advantages in the air over the Western Front.
From 28 September to 1 October, German Gothas and Zeppelins bombed London once more. The British Cabinet wanted immediate action and Trenchard was summoned from France again. Trenchard arrived by air on 2 October, making an emergency landing at Lympne in Kent after the flight of aircraft carrying him and his staff had been mistaken for a German air raid. On his arrival in London, Trenchard briefed the Cabinet that his first bomber airfield at Ochey near Nancy was ready and Lloyd George urged that the bombing begin as soon as possible. Trenchard's visit to the British capital also afforded him the opportunity of discussing the future of the air services with Smuts. Trenchard stated his concerns, in particular that the planning for a future air force was based upon grossly unrealistic figures for aircraft production.
In London, the propaganda value of the raids was what mattered most to the Government and Trenchard was praised as a commander and organizer of the highest order. Trenchard himself disliked conducting a campaign to satisfy political concerns even though he had the freedom to select targets. More specifically, Trenchard wished to concentrate his forces on supporting the Army rather than divide his limited number of aircraft between two unrelated bombing campaigns.
During December, Trenchard remained GOC the Royal Flying Corps in the Field and spent Christmas at his old headquarters at St. Omer. There had been much discussion about whether Trenchard might continue as GOC whilst simultaneously holding the post of Chief of the Air Staff. In the end it was decided that such an arrangement was impractical and Trenchard was succeeded in France by Major-General John Salmond.
The New Year saw Trenchard made a knight commander of the Order of the Bath and appointed Chief of the Air Staff on the newly formed Air Council. During his first month at the Air Ministry, Trenchard clashed with Rothermere over several issues. First, Rothermere's tendency to disregard his professional advisors in favour of outside experts irritated Trenchard. Secondly, Rothermere insisted that Trenchard claim as many men for the RAF as possible even if they might be better employed in the other services. Finally and most significantly, they disagreed over proper future use of air power which Trenchard judged as being vital in preventing a repeat of the strategic stalemate which had occurred along the Western Front. Despite his differences with Rothermere, Trenchard was able to put in place planning for the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. However, as the weeks went on, Trenchard and Rothermere became increasingly estranged and a low point was reached in mid-March when Trenchard discovered that Rothermere had promised the Navy 4000 aircraft which did not exist. On 18 March, Trenchard and Rothermere exchanged letters, Trenchard expressing his dissatisfaction and Rothermere curtly replying. The following day Trenchard sent Rothermere a letter of resignation and although Rothermere called for Trenchard and asked him to remain, Trenchard only agreed to defer the date until after 1 April when the Royal Air Force would officially come into being.
After the Germans overran the British Fifth Army on 21 March, Trenchard ordered all the available reserves of aircrew, engines and aircraft be speedily transported to France. Reports reached Trenchard on 26 March that concentrations of Flying Corps' machines were stopping German advances. On 5 April, Trenchard travelled to France, inspecting squadrons and updating his understanding of the air situation. On his return, Trenchard briefed Lloyd George and several other ministers on air activity and the general situation.
On 10 April, Rothermere informed Trenchard that the War Cabinet had accepted his resignation and Trenchard was offered his old job in France. Trenchard refused the offer saying that replacing Salmond at the height of battle would be "damnable". Three days later Major-General Frederick Sykes replaced Trenchard as Chief of the Air Staff. On the following Monday, Trenchard was summoned to Buckingham Palace where King George listened to Trenchard's account of the events which caused him to resign. Trenchard then wrote to the Prime Minister stating the facts of his case and pointing out that in the course of the affair, Rothermere had stated his intention to resign also. Trenchard's letter was circulated amongst the Cabinet with a vindictive response written by Rothermere. Around the same time, the question of Rothermere's general competence as Air Minister was brought to the attention of Lloyd George. Rothermere, realizing his situation, offered his resignation which was made public on 25 April.
Trenchard cited many reasons for not accepting any of the posts which he saw as being artificially created, of little value, or ill-conceived. On 8 May Trenchard was sitting on a bench in Green Park and overheard one naval officer saying to another "I don't know why the Government should pander to a man who threw in his hand at the height of a battle. If I'd my way with Trenchard I'd have him shot." After Trenchard had walked home, he wrote to Weir accepting command of the as yet unformed Independent Air Force.
In September 1918, Trenchard's Force indirectly supported the American Air Service during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, bombing German airfields, supply depots and rail lines. Trenchard's close co-operation with the Americans and the French was formalized when his command was redesignated the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force in late October 1918. When the November armistice came, the Independent Force was dissolved and Trenchard returned his squadrons to Salmond's command. Trenchard departed France in mid-November and returned to Great Britain to take a holiday.
During the first week in February, Trenchard was summoned to London by official telegram. At the War Office, Trenchard met with Churchill, who asked him to come back as Chief of the Air Staff. Trenchard replied that he could not take up the appointment as Sykes was currently in post. After Churchill indicated that Sykes might be appointed Controller of Civil Aviation and made a knight grand cross of the Order of the British Empire, Trenchard agreed to consider the offer. Churchill, not wanting to leave matters hanging, asked Trenchard to provide him with a paper outlining his ideas on the re-organization of the Air Ministry. Trenchard's brief written statement of the essentials required met with Churchill's approval and he insisted that Trenchard take the appointment. Trenchard returned to the Air Ministry in mid-February and formally took up post as Chief of the Air Staff on 31 March 1919.
For most of March Trenchard was unable to do much work as he had contracted Spanish flu. During this period he was visited by Katherine Boyle (née Salvin), the widow of his friend and fellow officer James Boyle, whom he knew from his time in Ireland. When Trenchard's health returned, he proposed marriage to Boyle, who refused his offer. Trenchard remained in contact with Boyle and when he proposed marriage again, she accepted. On 17 July 1920, Hugh Trenchard married Katherine Boyle at St. Margaret's Church in Westminster.
By the autumn of 1919, the budgetary effects of Lloyd George's Ten Year Rule were causing Trenchard some difficulty as he sought to develop the institutions of the RAF. He had to argue against the view that the Army and Navy should provide all the support services and education, leaving the RAF only to provide flying training. Trenchard viewed this idea as a precursor to the break-up of the RAF and in spite of the costs, he wanted his own institutions which would develop airmanship and engender the air spirit. Having convinced Churchill of his case, Trenchard oversaw the founding of the RAF (Cadet) College at Cranwell as the world's first military air academy. Later, in 1920, Trenchard inaugurated the Aircraft Apprentice scheme which provided the RAF with specialist groundcrew for over 70 years. In 1922, the RAF Staff College at Andover was set up to provide air force-specific training to the RAF's middle ranking officers.
Late 1919 saw Trenchard created a baronet and granted £10,000. Although Trenchard had attained a measure of financial security, the future of the RAF was far from assured. Trenchard judged that the chief threat to his service came from the new First Sea Lord, Admiral Beatty. Looking to take the initiative, Trenchard arranged to see Beatty, meeting with him in early December. Trenchard, arguing that the "air is one and indivisible", put forward a case for an air force with its own strategic role which also controlled army and navy co-operation squadrons. Beatty did not accept Trenchard's argument and Trenchard resorted to asking for a 12 months amnesty to put in plans into action. The request appealed to Beatty's sense of fair play and he agreed to let Trenchard be until the end of 1920.
During the early 1920s, the continued independent existence of the RAF and its control of naval aviation were subject to a series of Government reviews. The Balfour report of 1921, the Geddes Axe of 1922 and the Salisbury Committee of 1923 all found in favour of the RAF despite lobbying from the Admiralty and opposition in Parliament. On each occasion Trenchard and his staff officers worked to show that the RAF provided good value for money and was required for the long-term strategic security of the United Kingdom.
Trenchard also sought to secure the future of the RAF by finding a war-fighting role for the new Service. In 1920 he successfully argued that the RAF should take the lead during the operation to restore peace in Somaliland. The success of this small air action then allowed Trenchard to put the case for the RAF's policing of the British Empire and in 1922 the RAF was given control of all British Forces in Iraq. The RAF also carried out imperial air policing over India's North-West Frontier Province. More controversially, in early 1920, he wrote that the RAF could even suppress "industrial disturbances or risings" in Britain itself. The idea was not to Churchill's liking and he told Trenchard not to refer to this proposal again.
Since the early 1920s Trenchard had supported the development of a flying bomb and by 1927 a prototype, code-named "Larynx", was successfully tested. However, development costs were not insignificant and in 1928, when Trenchard applied for further funding, the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Cabinet discontinued the project. Following the British failure to win the Schneider Trophy in 1925, Trenchard ensured that finances were available for an RAF team and the High Speed Flight was formed in preparation for the 1927 race. After the British won in 1927, Trenchard continued to use Air Ministry funds to support the race, including purchasing two Supermarine S.6 aircraft which won the race in 1929. Trenchard was criticised by some in the Treasury for wasting money.
On 1 January 1927, Trenchard was promoted from air chief marshal to marshal of the Royal Air Force, becoming the first person to hold the RAF's highest rank. The following year Trenchard began to feel that he had achieved all he could as Chief of the Air Staff and that he should give way to a younger man. He offered his resignation to the Cabinet in late 1928, although it was not initially accepted. Around the same time as Trenchard was considering his future, the British Legation and some European diplomatic staff based in Kabul were cut off from the outside world as a result the civil war in Afghanistan. After word had reached London, the Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain sent for Trenchard who informed Chamberlain that the RAF would be able to rescue the stranded civilians. The Kabul Airlift began on Christmas eve and took nine weeks to rescue around 600 people.
Trenchard continued as Chief of the Air Staff until 1 January 1930. Immediately after he had relinquished his appointment, Trenchard was created Baron of Wolfeton in the County of Dorset, entering the House of Lords and becoming the RAF's first peer.
One of Trenchard's early reforms was the abolition of the scheduled beat system and in 1933 he instigated changes for the improvement of police residences known as section houses. In May 1932, Trenchard first annual report as Commissioner was published. The report proposed sweeping changes and indirectly called into question the reliability of the police in a major emergency. After adverse reactions in the press and questions in Parliament, the Home Secretary Sir John Gilmour stated that Trenchard's report would be published as a White Paper, giving MPs an opportunity to debate the issues. In very quick order the White Paper was turned into a Government Bill. The first two clauses of the Bill, which proposed to increase the number of assistant commissioners from four to five and lower the age of retirement for senior officers, did not prove too controversial. However, the clauses which set out limitations on membership of the Police Federation were hotly debated and characterized by left-wing politicians as "fascist". Additionally, the proposed introduction of ten-year employment terms for some new constables was met with considerable opposition. The bill was enacted in 1933 as the Metropolitan Police Act.
Perhaps Trenchard's long-lasting achievement during his time as Commissioner was the establishment of the Police College at Hendon. Not long after his appointment, Trenchard decided that the recruitment and training methods of Metropolitan Police were not conducive to developing senior leaders from within the Force. He therefore envisaged a Metropolitan Police college that could help to produce such leaders by training the best selected from the ranks, as well as directly recruited educated men from school and university. Trenchard also wanted to create a new police rank of junior inspector to which Hendon's graduates would be promoted before later going on to the rank of Inspector. Although Trenchard's plans were criticized as a militarizing step, the Hendon College was opened in 1934. Today, the College principally provides initial training to police recruits as opposed to only those selected for advancement to the higher ranks. In November 1935, Trenchard departed the Metropolitan Police, having wanted to relinquish his post the previous year. He was succeeded by Air Vice-Marshal Sir Philip Game, whom Trenchard nominated as his preferred replacement.
Trenchard developed a negative view of Hankey whom he saw as being more interested in maintaining unanimity amongst the service heads than dealing with the weaknesses in British defence arrangements. Trenchard began to speak privately against Hankey who, for his part, had no liking for Trenchard. By 1935, Trenchard privately lobbied for Hankey's removal on the grounds that the nation's security was at stake. Following his departure from the Metropolitan Police, Trenchard was free to speak publicly. In December 1935 Trenchard wrote in The Times that the Committee of Imperial Defence should be placed under the chairmanship of a politician. Hankey responded by accusing Trenchard of "trying to stab him in the back. By 1936, the idea of bolstering the Committee of Imperial Defence had become a popular point of debate and Trenchard presented his arguments in the House of Lords. In the end the Government conceded and Sir Thomas Inskip was appointed as the Minister for Coordination of Defence.
With Hankey and his ban on inter-service disputes gone, the Navy once again campaigned for their own air service. The idea of transferring the Fleet Air Arm from Air Ministry to Admiralty control was raised and although Trenchard opposed the move in the Lords, in the Press and in private conversations, he lacked the influence to prevent the transfer, which took place in 1937. Outside of his political work, Trenchard took on the chairmanship of the United Africa Company. In 1936 Trenchard was upgraded from Baron to Viscount Trenchard.
From late 1936 to 1939 Trenchard spent much of his time travelling overseas on behalf of the companies who employed him as a director. During one visit to Germany in the summer of 1937, Trenchard was hosted at a dinner by Hermann Göring, the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. Although the evening started in a cordial fashion, it ended with Göring telling Trenchard that "one day German might will make the whole world tremble" and Trenchard replying to Göring that he "must be off his head". In 1937 Newall was appointed Chief of the Air Staff and Trenchard did not hesitate in criticising the new air chief. As an ardent supporter of the bomber, Trenchard found much to disagree with in the air expansion programme and its emphasis on defensive fighter aircraft. Trenchard took to writing directly to the Cabinet and eventually Newall was reduced to imploring Trenchard to exercise some discretion. Trenchard offered his services to the Government on at least two occasions but they were not accepted.
Just after the outbreak of World War II, Chamberlain summoned Trenchard and offered him the job of organizing advanced training for RAF pilots in Canada, possibly as a pretext to remove Trenchard from England. Trenchard turned Chamberlain down, saying that the role required a younger man who had up-to-date knowledge of training matters. Trenchard then spent the remainder of 1939 arguing that the RAF should be used to strike against Germany from its bases in France. It was clear to the Government that Trenchard was dissatisfied and early in 1940 he was offered the job of co-ordinating the camouflaging of England. Trenchard flatly refused this job. Without an official role, Trenchard took it upon himself to spend the spring of 1940 visiting many RAF units, including those of the Advanced Air Striking Force in France. In April, Sir Samuel Hoare, who was once again Secretary of State for Air, unsuccessfully attempted to get Trenchard to come back as Chief of the Air Staff.
In May 1940, after the failure of the Norwegian Campaign, Trenchard used his position in the Lords to attack what he saw as the Government's half-hearted prosecution of the war. When Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister, Trenchard was asked to organize the defence of aircraft factories. Trenchard declined this offer on the grounds that he was not interested in helping the general who already had the responsibility. Towards the end of the month, Churchill offered Trenchard a job that would have seen him acting as a general officer commanding all British land, air and sea forces at home should an invasion occur. Trenchard responded by bluntly stating that in order to be effective, the officer with such responsibility would need the military powers of a generalissimo and political power that would come from being Deputy Minister of Defence. Churchill was virtually reduced to apoplexy and did not grant Trenchard the enormous powers he sought.
Notwithstanding their disagreement, Trenchard and Churchill remained on good terms and on Churchill's 66th birthday (30 November 1940) they took lunch at Chequers. The Battle of Britain had recently concluded and Churchill was full of praise for Trenchard's pre-War efforts in establishing the RAF. Churchill made Trenchard his last job offer, this time as the reorganizer of Military Intelligence. Trenchard seriously considered the offer but declined it by letter two days later, chiefly because he felt that the job required a degree of tact which he would have been unable to supply.
From mid-1940 onwards, Trenchard realized that by his rash demands in May he had excluded himself from a pivotal role in the British war effort. He then took it upon himself to act as an unofficial Inspector-General for the RAF, visiting deployed squadrons across Europe and North Africa on morale-raising visits. As a peer, a friend of Churchill's and with direct connections to the Air Staff, Trenchard championed the cause of the Air Force in the Lords, in the Press and with the Government.
During the war, the Trenchard family suffered tragedy. Trenchard's elder stepson John was killed in action in Italy and his younger stepson Edward was killed in a flying accident. His own first-born son, also called Hugh, was killed in North Africa. However, Trenchard's younger son Thomas did survive the war and frequently visited his parents when he was able.
After World War II, Trenchard continued to set out his ideas about air power. He also supported the creation of two memorials. For the first, the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey, Trenchard headed a committee with Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding to raise funds for the furnishing of the chapel and for the provision of a stained glass window. The second, the Anglo-American Memorial to the airmen of both nations, was erected after Trenchard's death in St Paul's Cathedral. Trenchard died one week after his 83rd birthday on 10 February 1956 and was buried on 21 February in the Battle of Britain Chapel he helped to create. Trenchard's viscounty passed to his son Thomas.
Trenchard's work in establishing the RAF and preserving its independence have led to him being described as the Father of the Royal Air Force. For his own part, Trenchard disliked the description, believing that Sir David Henderson deserved the accolade. During his life, Trenchard strongly argued that the bomber was the key weapon of an air force and he is recognized today as one of the first advocates of strategic bombing.
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