The Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War Volume II, 1942–1943

Vol 165 (2018), Ben Jones

This is the second of three volumes covering the transformation of the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. As the subtitle of this volume ‘The Fleet Air Arm in Transition’ suggests, the years 1942-1943 marked a stepping stone between the small pre-war cadre operating from a small number of carriers to a naval air arm flying modern aircraft types from a large number of ships and as will be seen in Volume III capable of operating a number of Fleet Carriers in the Pacific Ocean for sustained periods. Whereas the majority of Volume I dealt with operations, this volume has a much more even balance covering planning and policy on the one hand and operations on the other.
This reflects the crucial nature of this period as the development and expansion of the Fleet Air Arm gathered pace, whilst an increasingly diverse range of operations took place with those in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic reaching a climax. The reader will gain a clear appreciation of the growing importance, indeed primacy, of the aircraft carrier within the proposals for the future composition of Royal Navy’s surface fleet together with the nature of the Fleet Air Arm’s expansion programmes. Such expansion programmes were hindered by the constraints of aircraft production and the acquisition of sufficient shore facilities for the formation of new squadrons and the continued support of others.

Some of the Fleet Air Arm’s most famous operations occurred during these years such as the escort of the ‘Pedestal’ convoy to Malta, air cover for the landings in North Africa, Sicily and at Salerno and the gallant, but ill-fated attack of 825 Squadron during the Channel Dash. The increasing role played by the Fleet Air Arm aircraft operating from Escort Carriers and Merchant Aircraft Carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic during 1943 is also apparent. The documents in this volume will bring to life the difficulties of operating aircraft at sea, the nature of air combat and the complexities involved in expanding an organisation such as the Fleet Air Arm under wartime conditions. As such it will enhance our understanding of the history of the Royal Navy’s air arm during the Second World War.


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About Ben Jones

Ben Jones is a Senior Lecturer in the Portsmouth Business School based at the RAF College, Cranwell and specialises in naval history and British defence policy. Current research interests include maritime air power, naval logistics during the Second World War and defence policy East of Suez in the post-war period.  Dr Jones previously worked at the Air Power Studies Division, King’s College London, between 2006-2012. The first of his series of three volumes for the Navy Records Society on The Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War was published in 2012 and his next book Air Power in the Maritime Environment: The World Wars, co-authored with David Gates, is due for publication in 2016. He has been General Editor since 2013.