The eagle and the albatross : Australian aerial maritime operations 1921-1971

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Copyright: Wilson, David Joseph
The aim of this thesis is to examine the relationship between the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) regarding the operation of aircraft from ships of the RAN and from RAAF shore bases. The effects of the separate intellectual development of maritime doctrine in the RAAF and RAN, and the efforts of the two Australian services to transfer theory into practice will be considered in the pre- (and post) World War II period, with due consideration of the experience of the services in both wars. The thesis will also discuss the problems that were faced by the RAAF and RAN to develop mutually acceptable operational procedures to enable the efficient use of aircraft in a maritime setting. The influence and effect on RAAF and RAN doctrine and equipment procurement, as a result of the special relationships that developed between the Air Force and Navy of Australia and Britain will be critically examined. A similar approach to the post war US/Australian relationship, and its effect on the Australian services, will also be critically examined. The thesis being propounded is that the development of a unique Australian maritime policy was retarded due to a combination of the relationship with Britain and the United States, lack of suitable equipment, lack of clear operational concepts in both the RAAF and RAN and the parochial attitude of the most senior commanders of both Services. The study has been based on Department of Navy, Department of Air and Department of Defence documents held in the National Archives of Australia in Canberra and Melbourne. In addition, relevant documents from the Admiralty and Air Ministry related to the development of naval aviation on RAN vessels during World War I, the attitude of the RAF toward the deployment of RAAF units to Singapore, and the negotiations that resulted in the procurement of HMA Ships Sydney and Melbourne, have been perused. Wartime operational records of the RAAF have been examined to obtain data to enable a critical study to be made of the RAAF anti-submarine campaign, torpedo bomber operations and the maritime campaign undertaken from bases in North Western Area during World War II. The influence of the commander of the United States 5th Air Force has also been incorporated in the discussion. The research uncovered procedural and operational variations between the two Services, the diversion of key elements from Australian command and the priority given to the American line of advance that resulted in Australian operations being given a secondary, supportive, status. A conclusion reached as a result of this research has been that the development of a unique Australian maritime aerial capability was restricted by the requirement of Britain to deploy flying units to Singapore in 1940. Similarly, the pressure exerted on the RAN by the Admiralty to purchase the Light Fleet Carriers in the late 1940s was more in the interests of the RN and British foreign policy than that of the RAN. Overall, the relationship with the Britain and the United States masked the real weakness in Australia’s maritime operations and retarded its development.
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Wilson, David Joseph
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PhD Doctorate
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