Slowness of rearmament

Extract from a review dated 1935 covering defence policy, 1923-1935 (AIR 20/32)


At about the same time the Chiefs of Staff presented their annual review on Imperial Defence policy, in which they drew attention to the serious deficiencies which existed in all departments of our defence forces, and stated, in dealing with the air situation, that

“The expansion programme with the Royal Air Force should be continued without further delay.”

This review was considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence which recommended that the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee, together with the Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence and representatives of the Treasury and the Foreign Office should prepare a programme for meeting our worst deficiencies for transmission to the Cabinet. This body, which came to be known as the Defence Requirements Committee, began its deliberations in November, 1933.

In February, 1934, while the Defence Requirements Committee was still in session, the Secretary of State for Air submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet on the subject of the Royal Air Force programme for 1934. This programme included the formation of two new squadrons for Home Defence, and the reconstitution on an effective basis of two squadrons which then existed on a paper basis only. The Secretary of State drew attention, however, to the fact that other Powers, almost without exception, were pursuing a far more active policy of air development than we were ourselves, and concluded his paper with the following statement: –

“I am naturally gravely perturbed at this situation. I would remind my colleagues that the announcement which we made in November last that this country could not accept the position of continuing inferiority in the air, but must insist on full parity, was endorsed by 74% of the London and Provincial Press. I fear that, in other than pacifist quarters, the very limited extent of our next year’s programme will arouse considerable criticism. I have felt, however, that with the effect of the Disarmament Convention still undecided, it would not be advisable to consider any more extensive measures in the coming year- quite apart from such practical difficulties as the training of personnel, the acquisition of land for aerodromes, and the construction of buildings, all of which require some years for completion.”

In February 1934 the Defence Requirements Committee submitted its report. This stated that, as far as the Air Force was concerned, it was of first importance that the 52 squadron programme should be completed so as to enable us, in alliance with France, to meet the German menace. He pointed out, however, that the provision of a contingent to accompany an expeditionary force abroad did not necessitate additional squadrons once the 52 squadron programme had been completed, so long as Germany had an air force inferior in strength to ours. At that time it was known that Germany possessed a total of 234 aircraft of military types, and that a further 65 were under construction.

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