Success in the maritime environment was utterly essential to British survival, and later Allied victory, in the Second World War. Air power was a fundamental ingredient towards this, and for Britain, land-based coastal air power played an especially important role. Britain was dependent on keeping vital sea lines of communication to the homeland open to receive the necessary foodstuffs and raw materials to avoid starvation and maintain its war effort, something which was only achieved through the combined use of the Navy and Coastal Command. Offensively, Coastal Command played a major role in strangling Germany’s own seaborne trade and the mobility of its Navy. As the war progressed, new maritime theatres were opened in the Mediterranean and the Far East, thanks to the Italian and Japanese declarations of war. Coastal air power was to play an important role in each of these, whether through maintaining key outposts such as Malta, Ceylon and India, or interdicting enemy communications.
To date, research into the employment and effect of coastal air power has treated each of these theatres separately. Learning and development have thus been presented as something that happened only in a divorced, intra-theatre manner. This paper demonstrates that in fact, while intra-theatre learning processes were important, there was a strong undercurrent of inter-theatre learning from 1941 onwards. In particular, the Home and Mediterranean theatres developed a mutually beneficial, cyclical relationship that used a mixed methodology to share information and knowledge on best practices, leading to key adaptations. The Far East, however, due to starvation of resources, could act only as a receptor of knowledge and was unable to pass back anything of significant use. Cognisance of such inter-theatre help us to understand the cause of Britain’s vital success in the maritime environment.
Since January 2015, Richard has been a Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department, King's College, London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College. Prior to that he held part-time teaching positions in the History Departments the Universities of Exeter and Wolverhampton before gaining a full-time Lectureship in Strategic Studies based at RAF College Cranwell. His research interests focus on the Second World War and interwar years, primarily military and strategic issues, British inter-service relations and Anglo-Italian relations in the period of fascism. He has or is publishing in journals including International History Review, Journal of Strategic Studies, Journal of Military History and Air Power Review. He is currently completing his first book.
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