Archive for August, 2009

Best-laid plans

August 28, 2009

Well, I’d hoped to have my Masters dissertation in draft by now, but as the post title suggests things haven’t quite gone that way…

I had a meeting with my supervisor last week, the upshot of which was that I needed to rethink my plans, as I was getting bogged down in detail, and letting my argument be shaped by my sources rather than vice versa. He also wanted me to bring in some wider sources, placing my narrative in a wider context. The dissertation is now split into four chapters:

  • an introduction giving an overview of the founding of the RAE (or RAF as then was) up until the end of the First World War
  • background to the interwar period – RAF strategy, the aeronautical industry, Air Ministry and R&D organisation, and key social networks
  • Engine development c. 1918-1932
  • Engine development and rearmament, with the rise of the jet engine

All this is with reference to the way that government supported engine development, directly and indirectly, and the role that the RAE played in this.

I have the first two chapters pretty much done, but I need to do more on the final two. My primary source base is a little weak, as many of the documents relating to the RAE have been destroyed or are not catalogued, and there isn’t a huge amount of material in the National Archives. Still, when needs must…

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Rank hath its privileges

August 18, 2009

I do have some more substantial posts in the pipeline, but at the moment I’ve been head down and trying to bang out thesis chapters, as the deadline is less than three weeks away…

In the meanwhile, I thought I would share this list I found during my researches. I was aware that the RAF didn’t get its own ranks until 1919, and that personnel used the RFC/RNAS titles until then. I was also aware that there was some discussion about the final titles to be used; what I didn’t know was that a list of ranks was proposed that wouldn’t annoy the Army or the Royal Navy.  They were:

  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant
  • Flight-Leader
  • Squadron-Leader
  • Reeve
  • Banneret
  • Fourth-Ardian
  • Third-Ardian
  • Second-Ardian
  • Ardian
  • Air Marshal

Despite sounding like a name from a second-rate fantasy novel, apparently ‘Ardian’ comes from the Gaelic ‘Ard’ – ‘Chief’ and ‘Ian’ or ‘Eun’ – ‘Bird’.

Source: John WR Taylor, Pictorial History of the RAF, Volume One: 1918-1939 (Shepperton: Ian Allan, 1968)