By Williamson Murray
Battle within the Air 1914-1945
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Additional info for War in the Air 1914-1945
After the successes of Arras and Messines, there was some reason for optimism. But neither Haig nor his staff had developed a clear understanding of the major changes that were occurring in the tactics of the war. Moreover, with the help of a sycophantic and dysfunctional staff, Haig had lost touch with the sharp end of war. Thus, as his diary underlines, he had little understanding of the catastrophe that en reloped British forces engaged in the battle of Passchendaele. By 1917 the BEF had not yet reached alevel of tactical sophistication which would bring great operational success.
In 1915, the first objective dominated aircraft employment. Airplanes began the business of spotting artiller~ As early as December 1914 British aircraft had directed artillery fire from aircraft; and some British aircraft already possessed radio telegraphy: By the battle of Loos in September 1915 British fliers had worked out a clock code for calling the artillery shot in on targets. Nevertheless, at best, aircraft could only help in exchanges between a few artillery batteries. Their main purpose was the provision of aerial photographs on which divisional and corps staffs could plan their operations.
Losses remained high throughout the battle, and Britain was still sending out pitifully trained replacements. The sacrifices that Trenchard imposed on his air units were undoubtedly called for because of the importance of the Royal Flying Corps to the ground battle; yet Trenchard made little contribution to improving the haphazard training program at home - and this contributed directly to his high losses in France. By mid November the RFC had lost 308 pilots killed, wounded or missing, while a further 268 had been sent home - a total of 576 from a force that had begun the battle with 426 pilots.
War in the Air 1914-1945 by Williamson Murray