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Week 2 conclusion

Emmett Sullivan rounds up week two of the RAF in the Cold War

Reviewing week two.

Thank you very much for completing this week of study. We have considered the way the RAF operated around the world during the Cold War era, but beyond their specific NATO role. Decolonisation and fighting communist insurgents seemed to go hand-in-hand during the 1950s and 1960s. The Suez Crisis and the Falklands War represent different forms of imperialism, and with very different conclusions.

Peter Devitt discussed how the RAF incorporated and embraced Empire and New Commonwealth pilots and crew in a way which the service can be proud of. This is an important aspect of the RAF – as an employer – which is little considered. However, we are ultimately looking at a service which is having to adapt to changed world circumstances; and in employment terms we would consider the RAF to be progressive.

Britain itself began looking for a new world role after the shame of Suez in 1956. However, in the decade up to that crisis Britain was looking to cement its place in the new world order while moving away from an imperial role – the Suez Crisis was a distinctly retrograde step in that respect. Although a partner in the Manhattan Project, Britain found itself cut out of future United States atomic research from 1946. In Week 3 we are going to consider Britain and its development of atomic and then nuclear weapons, along with the central role the RAF was to play in that regard. In the Cold War world of the 1950s, being a world power meant having ‘The Bomb’ and a strategic bombing force to deliver them, and less so having an empire.

So we hope very much that you will re-join us to consider this absolutely pivotal role the RAF played in Britain’s efforts to deter the USSR in the 1950s and early-1960s.

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

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