This is a somewhat unusual look at the history of British air power from the point of view of the organisations controlling the aircraft (although it does also look at the fighting). Andrews begins before the First World War with the creation of the Royal Flying Corps, and its almost immediate division into Army and Navy services with the emergence of the Royal Naval Air Service. He then follows these two branches of the military through the First World War, looking at the political process that led to the creation of the RAF.
A large section of the book is dedicated to the RAF's inter-war battle for survival as an independent service, which rather unusually for an ex-RAF officer Andrews believes to have been a mistake. Finally, Andrews traces the history of the RAF through the Second World War, looking at the Battle of Britain, the Strategic Bombing Campaign and the tactical use of air power.
Two main themes run through this book. The first is that the RAF's obsession with Strategic bombing was a mistake that nearly cost Britain the war in 1940 and that would continue to limit the effectiveness of the RAF through the war. Andrews sets out this case rather well, although I don't always agree with his conclusions.
The second theme is that Britain would have been better off if the RAF had lost its independence after the First World War, with control of aircraft going to the Army and Navy. This case is not so well made. While it is true that the RAF did not value fighter aircraft between the wars, I am not convinced than a revived RFC would have made different choice. For me the biggest weakness in this case is provided by the United States, where this is exactly what happened, with the Navy retaining control of its own aircraft (in fact forming two separate air forces, one for the navy and one for the marines), while the Army retained control of the land based aircraft of the USAAC and the USAAF (which does after all stand for United States Army Air Force). Despite the army having control of its own aircraft, the USAAF shared the RAF's belief in strategic bombing (and the RAF's failure to properly prepare for a strategic bombing campaign).
Although I do not agree with all of Andrews's conclusions, I did find this to be a valuable and interesting work, which provides enough of a balanced view of its subject to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions, a rare achievement in a book of this type.
Author: Mark Andrews
Publisher: Stamford House Publishing