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In the 1920s, the advent of air power stimulated a vigorous debate about Britain’s defence policies. While the army faced greater challenges the establishment of the RAF also put pressure on the navy, as the two services tussled over the defence of coastal waters and oceanic trade. While economy – saving the nation money – was always one of the airmen’s main arguments, they also claimed that air power was more direct and certain than surface power. Some even proposed that flying boats would prove to be more effective weapons systems than aircraft carriers. While that idea was clearly never going to prevail, it makes a useful lens through which to view the wider debate.
Neil Datson is a graduate of the University of Oxford. He is a working farmer in the Cotswolds and an independent researcher with a particular interest in naval history and a longstanding supporter of the King’s Maritime History Seminars. He is the author of The British Air Power Delusion, 1906-1941, to be published in September 2023.