Monday, January 26, 2009

The Churchill Series - Jan. 26, 2009

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Churchill’s an important part of this post today but the last word goes to H.R.H. King George V.

It’s July 1919. The Great War is over; Britain's drastically reducing the size and scope of its military.

The Royal Air Force is a separate service arm, having been made so in an expedient move in the closing months of the war.

But the planned reductions include eliminating the RAF as a separate arm; and reassigning what remains of it back to the Army and Navy as things were before the war.

Churchill, as Secretary of State for War and Air, believes a separate air service offers the best chance of Britain developing an adequate air defense system. So does King George. They carry the day with a decision that will later be seen as essential to victory in the Battle of Britain.

Once the RAF’s future existence was assured, the matter of equivalent ranks among the services arose. The Army had its Field Marshals; the Navy its Sea Lords. What would the RAF’s equivalent be called?

The rank of Marshal of the Air was proposed. Churchill was fine with it, but the Army and Navy didn’t like it at all.

When the ranking RAF officer went to Buckingham Palace to discuss the matter with the King, the King remarked, “Don’t you think Marshal of the Air is poaching a bit on the preserves of the Almighty?”

He had a suggestion: “Why not simply Marshall of the Royal Air Force?”

The matter was settled.
Peter Townsend,
Duel of Eagles. (pgs. 22-41)