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Week 1 conclusion

Emmett Sullivan sums up the discussion of the RAF in the early Cold War period

Emmett gives some pointers on what to take from this week of study.

Thank you very much for sticking with us through this first week of material. Here we have tried to introduce the context for the course as a whole, the evolving Cold War between the Western Allies and what became NATO and the USSR and the socialist and communist states which supported them.

The RAF faced a difficult period, and challenges which came up in rapid transition. The need to support their sector of Germany under occupation meant that their operational role remained very active. The Berlin Air Lift of 1948/49 showed how the RAF could help mitigate a point of international conflict. However, with the nation heavily indebted by the Second World War and demobilization a priority, there were a number of factors pulling the RAF in different directions during the early Cold War period. The need to add new jet aircraft to their inventory was essential to keep the RAF relevant to the change in the world, including technological advances. By the end of the 1940s they were preparing for a war that thankfully was never fought, but heavy preparations were made for the following four decades.

Although the Korean War was the exemplar of the tensions between East and West in the early Cold War period, the RAF was not heavily involved in this conflict. This is in part because of their 12 years of operations in Malaya, starting in 1948: the RAF was working against communist insurgence elsewhere. This brings us to our discussions for Week 2, which we hope you will join us for.

Next week

The Empire and its dissolution meant that the RAF helped support a number of new nations in their transition towards statehood. With respect to the Cold War at the periphery, this was also an attempt to prevent armed and militant communists from taking over, from a western perspective, democratic governments. Therefore, we see the RAF involved in a number of ‘small wars’ around the world. Arguably the RAF became an instrument of imperialism in 1956, and the Suez Crisis, to counterpoint these activities. In contrast, during the Falklands War, they provided the British Task Force with critical support, including the longest bombing run in the world at that time. The RAF’s involvement was not all ‘kinetic’ (explicit warfare), and there were a number of instances where the RAF provided important support worldwide in the wake of natural disasters.

All of these will be considered in week two, and we look forward to having you back to discuss them

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From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War

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