The Territorial Air Force 1925-1957 – Officer Class and Recruitment
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AuthorsWILKINSON, FRANCES LOUISE
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AbstractLittle has been written about the Territorial Air Force (TAF) as a voluntary military organisation and no sustained analysis of its recruitment and social composition undertaken. Made up of three different parts, the Auxiliary Air Force (AAF), the Special Reserve (SR) and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), these three separate and different groups have not featured significantly in existing literature. Current historiography of the AAF and SR is dominated by the experiences of 600 and 601 Squadrons based in London and presents a popular image of a gentleman's flying club, whilst that of the RAFVR presents an image of a much more egalitarian institution, intended to be a citizens’ air force. This thesis presents new and detailed research into the recruitment and social backgrounds of men serving in both the pre and post-war TAF. It seeks to provide an overview of the social composition of all AAF and SR squadrons and offers a case study of 608 (North Riding) Squadron based at Thornaby Aerodrome between 1930 and 1957. Using primary documents from the National Archives (TNA) and recently digitised press records, it explores the recruitment processes, social backgrounds and social relations of personnel in the TAF. Whilst focusing primarily on officers, it looks too at the experience of non-officer recruits. Its findings indicate that the structures and cultures of the AAF and SR squadrons were indeed similar to the well-publicised London squadrons, whilst those for the RAFVR were much more elite than was expected. Military voluntarism continued to play a key role in the defence of twentieth-century Britain, but the underlying tensions and weaknesses associated with a class-based voluntary culture meant that the TAF had to change in response to new pressures. The thesis charts how these changes began to manifest themselves in the post-war world. Class ceased to be the key determining factor in the recruitment of officers as the organisations faced new challenges. Within both the AAF and the RAFVR the pre-war impression of a gentlemen's flying club finally gave way to a more meritocratic culture in the post-war world.
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.