Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies

The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies is a programme of lectures organised by the Royal Air Force Museum in conjunction with the University of Wolverhampton and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Logos of the RAF Museum Cosford,the Royal Aeronautical Society and University of Wolverhampton

Next lecture in the series

France under Friendly Bombs, 1940-1945

Vertical aerial photograph of Caen, c. June 1944.

Date: Thursday, 9 March 2017

Time: 6.30pm

Venue: Main lecture theatre (MC001), Millenium City Building, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY

Speaker: Professor Andrew Knapp examines the Allied bombing campaign against targets in France during the Second World War.

‌Pictured: Vertical aerial photograph of Caen, c. June 1944. Railway lines visible in top left corner.

Talk outline

Studies of the Allied strategic bombing offensive during the Second World War have tended, logically, to focus on the main target, Germany. Yet, over one in every five bombs dropped by the Allies on continental Europe during the Second World War fell on France. Although most of the raids were linked, directly or indirectly, to the Normandy landings, the Allies bombed France from June 1940 till April 1945, and they killed over 57,000 French civilians – a figure of the same order as the British civilian death toll from German action in the same period. This lecture, then, offers an overview of a comparatively neglected aspect of the Allied offensive.

The first part of the lecture focuses on the offensive against France from the Allies’ perspective. When and where did most of the raids take place? What were the main target sets? How relevant to France were non-material objectives such as morale? What opposition did Allied aircraft face from the Luftwaffe? What political problems were presented by bombing a friendly people, and how, if at all, did bombing techniques differ between raids on France and the Reich? And, how successful was this aspect of the Allied offensive? The second part of the lecture considers the French reactions to the Allied offensive, from a variety of perspectives including the Vichy state’s efforts to develop civil defence, evacuation measures, and emergency relief; Vichy’s attempts to use the raids for propaganda purposes, and the Allies’ attempts to justify their actions to the French public; the reactions of French public opinion, as shown in intercepted letters and telephone calls; the reactions of the Resistance, both in general and in relation to Allied aircrews. The conclusion will reflect briefly on the wider issue of bombing friendly populations to liberate them and the political costs and benefits entailed.


This lecture is free of charge however; we do ask that you pre-book a free ticket via the RAF MUseum Cosford website, as seats are limited. Booking is quick and easy, we just need some basic contact information.

About Professor Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp is Emeritus Professor of French Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Reading. He has also taught at three Paris universities. His recent publications include Forgotten Blitzes:France and Italy under Allied Air Attack (with Claudia Baldoli: London: Continuum, 2012) and Liberal Democracies at War: Conflict and Representation (edited, with Hilary Footitt: London: Bloomsbury, 2013). In French, he has published Les Français sous les bombes alliées, 1940-1945 (Paris: Tallandier, 2014), and Bombardements 1944: Le Havre, Normandie, France, Europe (edited, with John Barzman and Corinne Bouillot: Rouen: Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2016). He has also worked on documentaries for French television on the subject of bombing, and has written extensively on French political parties (especially the Gaullists) and elections.

The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies are held in conjunction with the Royal Aeronautical Society and RAF Museum Cosford.

Please note that lectures are subject to change.

Next public lectures at University of Wolverhampton

Dates set for the next lectures are:

  • 8 June 2017
  • 9 November2017

All lectures will be from 6pm to 8pm. Watch this page or the RAF Cosford website for further details.

Previous lectures in the series

10 November 2016: The Development of RAF Air Power Doctrine, 1999-2013 - Speaker: Dr Viktoriya Fedorchak - Dr Fedorchak explores the recent development of RAF air power doctrine. Location: University of Wolverhampton

In the recent two decades, military doctrine has returned into the strategic discourse of the British Armed Forces. Much of attention was paid to the role of doctrine in the reorganisation of the Army regarding Bagnall’s reform. It was explored regarding the different operational environment, including PSO and COIN realities. It was examined in relation to a conceptual framework of its development for the Royal Navy. However, it was not fully explored regarding the role of military doctrine in the development of the RAF and the evolution of air power. The offered research examines how RAF environmental doctrine changed in 1999-2013 and which factors influenced it. The main rationale for this inquiry is in need to understand how the RAF has adapted to the post-Cold War strategic environment and what are the recent trends in its development.

This research is conducted regarding historiographic approach and aims at covering the inside story of the preparation of three editions of air power doctrine. Therefore, the changes in strategic discourse, purpose, target audience, functionality in the doctrinal hierarchy are analysed regarding each edition of air power doctrine. In this regard, the degree of influence of the four major factors in doctrine preparation is analysed. They include operational experience, internal politics, the role of academics and doctrine writers. The research concludes that the major driving force for the revision of air power doctrine was the internal factor. Although new campaigns provided operational lessons for each edition, the review process was primarily conditioned by considerations of the internal environment: the stages of the institutionalisation of jointery. Accordingly, the main change in the preparation of environmental doctrine is a shift from a single-service to joint authorship, which resulted in the change of purpose and functionality of an environmental doctrine. Although the role of academics remained relatively the same, the contribution of the authors shifted from a personality-driven to an institutional approach.

Dr. Viktoriya Fedorchak is a graduate of the University of Hull (Ph.D.), Roma Sapienza University, Rome (MA) and Kyiv International University in Ukraine (MA and BA) She recently completed her Ph.D. on the subject of ‘The Development of RAF Air Power Doctrine, 1999-2013,’ which examined factors that influenced the process of doctrine preparation in the Service. She has taught on a range of courses at the University of Nottingham, the University of Hull and Kyiv International University. Her research interests include defence studies, contemporary warfare, air power, and military doctrine.

9 June 2016: Tactical Air Power Development in Britain, 1940-1943, Speaker: Dr Matthew Powell (Independent Scholar) - Dr Powell will examine the development of air power in Britain during the early years of the Second World War. Location: MC001, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY

World War 2 aircraftThe history of tactical air power development in Britain during the Second World War has mostly neglected the work done by Army Co-operation Command. The Command was influential in developing the theoretical air support system that would be used to such effect in the Western Desert, North Africa and Europe. The Command was responsible for the codification into the doctrine of experiments conducted in the wake of the Battle of France, 1940. They also worked closely with the army’s School of Artillery to develop the Air Observation Post Squadron, which would be used to great effect in several different theatres of the Second World War.

This history of Army Co-operation Command also demonstrates the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) attitude to the development of tactical air power in Britain. The RAF had neglected the development of tactical air power during the inter-war period and this impacted on their ability to provide this support. The army’s experiences in the Battle of France and the subsequent investigations, which placed the blame firmly on the shoulders of the RAF, forced the hand of the RAF regarding taking tactical air power development more seriously. To demonstrate this, they created Army Co-operation Command. It was set up to be as toothless as possible while appearing to be what the army wanted.

Tactical air power development moved at a fast pace in 1942 when a new formational was discussed: the Army Air Support Group (AASG) and the rise of Fighter Command in this area. There was a great argument between the Air and General Staffs over the correct command the AASG should be placed into Fighter or Army Co-operation Command. This argument ran for the whole of the spring and summer of 1942 and was only resolved by Winston Churchill.

Army Co-operation Command was disbanded in 1943, the new formation created to replace it was, however, an upgraded Army Co-operation Command with the responsibilities it had been denied its existence.

10 March 2016: Planned Development or Haphazard Evolution? No. 617 Squadron, 1943-45. Dr Robert Owen, the Official Historian of the No. 617 Squadron Association, discussed the backstory to the unit's operations during the Second World War.

617 Squadron - picture courtesy of RAF Museum

Location: Main lecture theatre (MC001),  University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY

Following their breaching of the German Dams in May 1943, No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was maintained as a specialist precision bombing unit. For the remainder of the Second World War the Squadron carried out precision attacks using new and unconventional weapons, culminating with Barnes Wallis’s deep penetration bombs, ‘Tallboy’ and ‘Grand Slam’.  

The numerous accounts written detailing the Squadron’s history fail to take into account many of the factors that determined the its role and concentrate on the operational record and the weapons used. The result is a distorted and incomplete perception of the Squadron’s development and a misconception of its full contribution to the bomber offensive.

This lecture will identify the various policy and decision making bodies and examine their role in selecting weapons and targets for the Squadron. It will explore the issues which determined the role played by the Squadron:  changes in Air Staff policy for Bomber Command, choice of targets, the development and production of weapons, and tactical requirements. Comparison is made between the planners’ original intentions for the Squadron and the final operational record.

Visit the RAF Cosford website for more information

29 October 2015: The Trick Cyclists: Neuropsychiatry and the Management of Aerial Warfare, 1939-1945 by Lynsey Shaw (University of Oxford). Location: No 4 Hamilton Place, Royal Aeronautical Society, London. Visit the Royal Aeronautical Society website for further details about this lecture.

19 November 2015: Drone Wars: The Politics and Ethics of Remote Operations - at the University of Wolverhampton

Presented by Dr Peter Lee of Portsmouth Business School at the RAF College Cranwell. Location: University of Wolverhampton

A Reaper RPAS of No. 39 Squadron (Courtesy of the Air Historical Branch)

This presentation examined how Predator and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (drones) with lethal strike capability – as opposed to drones whose use is limited to intelligence gathering or surveillance – came to occupy such a ubiquitous place in recent conflicts: the Afghanistan War; America’s wider war against Al-Qaeda from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia; and the war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Drawing on a chapter from his recent book Truth Wars: The Politics of Climate Change, Military Intervention and Financial Crisis, Peter compared three distinct applications of drone capability in the operations of three separate institutions: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF). The arguments of opponents and proponents of the technology were examined, highlighting how competing claims about Reaper and Predator are contested in political, military and morality discourses: all with the aim of influencing the attitudes and behaviour of observers and gaining their support.

Find out more about this event on the RAF Cosford website

25 June 2015: The Royal Air Force and Losing Air Superiority in the Far East, 1941-1942 at the University of Wolverhampton.

Presented by Dr Peter Preston-Hough (University of Wolverhampton)

Air power in the Far East

(Photograph used by kind permission of the RAF Museum, Hendon)

Between December 1941 and May 1942, the Allies lost command of the air in Malaya and Burma to the Japanese. Usual historical thinking gives the reasons for the Allies losing air superiority as possessing poor aircraft and an inadequate early warning system. However, the actual explanation is much more complex involving an inter-relationship between aircraft, aircrew, early warning facilities and superior Japanese aircraft and aircrew. This paper will explore each of these elements to show how air superiority was lost and will provide new insights into why the Far East was left unprotected against Japanese air attack in December 1941.

Read a press release about the event in the Warbirds News

19 March 2015: 'Official squeamishness’ and the Bomber Offensive of the Second World War’, presented by Air Commodore (ret’d) Dr Peter Gray
Location: University of Wolverhampton‌ - Dr Gray’s lecture examined the attitudes prevalent in the Air Ministry during the Second World War towards the Strategic Air offensive Against Germany. Using the Bomber Command Campaign Medal saga and the publicity the campaign received at the time as case studies, the talk will look at the thinking at all levels and seek to establish just how ‘squeamish’ they were.

21 May: Tedder, Intelligence and Operation CRUSADER by Sebastian Cox (Head, Air Historical Branch. Location: No 4 Hamilton Place, Royal Aeronautical Society, London.