By the middle of 1918 the British Army had successfully mastered the concept of ’all arms’ warfare on the Western Front. This doctrine, integrating infantry, artillery, armoured vehicles and - crucially - air power, was to prove highly effective and formed the basis of major military operations for the next hundred years. Yet, whilst much has been written on the utilisation of ground forces, the air element still tends to be studied in isolation from the army as a whole. In order to move beyond the usual 'aircraft and aces' approach, this book explores the conceptual origins of the control of the air and the role of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) within the British army. In so doing it addresses four key themes. First, it explores and defines the most fundamental air power concept - the control of the air - by examining its conceptual origins before and during the First World War. Second, it moves beyond the popular history of air power during the First World War to reveal the complexity of the topic. Third, it reintegrates the study of air power during the First World War, specifically that of the RFC, into the strategic, operational, organisational, and intellectual contexts of the era, as well as embedding the study within the respective scholarly literatures of these contexts. Fourth, the book reinvigorates an entrenched historiography by challenging the usually critical interpretation of the RFC’s approach to the control of the air, providing new perspectives on air power during the First World War. This includes an exploration of the creation of the RAF and its impact on the development of air power concepts.

chapter 1|13 pages

‘By attacking and by continuing to attack’

The Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force and the control of the air over the Western Front – an introduction 1

chapter 2|28 pages

From birth to battle

The Royal Flying Corps and control of the air, 1911 to 1914

chapter 3|28 pages

‘The essence of fighting in the air is to attack first’

RFC doctrine, policy and practice on the Western Front, August 1914 to November 1916 1

chapter 4|41 pages

‘An even more vigorous offensive’

The RFC and the control of the air on the Western Front, 1917 and 1918 1

chapter 5|27 pages

Defending the vigorous offensive

Control of the air in strategic, political and organisational contexts, 1914–1917

chapter 6|25 pages

A ‘kindred field of activity’

The creation of the Royal Air Force, air defence, independent air power and control of the air, 1917–1918 1

chapter 7|7 pages

‘A serious war and a costly one’

The Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force and control of the air in the First World War and beyond – conclusion 1