Co-operation between the British Army and the Royal Air Force in south-east Asia : 1941-1945

Change log
Williamson, Arthur Charles 

This study suggests that, from a situation where co-operation between the British Army and the RAF in south-east Asia hardly existed it grew to have a profound effect on the course of the war in Burma, particularly in air supply. The evidence shows that air supply became critical to the successful prosecution of the campaign. The study also challenges the view that air interdiction is always of major importance in land campaigns. The Malayan defence strategy was flawed as a result of pre-war misconceptions and prejudices, exacerbated by institutional bureaucracy and fiscal restrictions. Burma, a 'Cinderella' defence area, was a case of too little, too late. In the first year of the war; given the problems of finance, labour for defence works and reinforcements, even extensive co-operation between the army and the air force might not have produced a different result, but it might have made defeat less ignominious. Underlying the Burma campaign, there were two fundamental factors outside climate and terrain affecting co-operation. Distances and the multiplicity of the Allied aims. Distance detrimentally affected surface transport and US support of China and establishing airfields to bomb Japan, caused the air supply 'Hump' route to be a constant drain on resources. A comparison with the Berlin Airlift indicates the scale of effort required by the air supply needs in Burma. This was at a level far greater than elsewhere throughout the Second World War and provides unwitting evidence for the unparalleled levels of inter-Service co-operation which these operations demonstrated. The particular approach to the study was partially determined by the scarcity of documentation, consequently the analysis has been fraught with difficulties. Admirable campaign histories exist, but these also have been shaped by the available documentation and secondary sources, all serving to accentuate the methodological problems. Despite these difficulties this research has proved the vital importance of inter-Service co-operation in the Burma campaign.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge