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The 1957 Defence White Paper – Part II

Ross Mahoney interviews Seb Cox on his views on the 1957 Defence White Paper

Seb Cox on the 1957 Defence White Paper

We were very grateful for Seb Cox’s participation in this video, giving his view of the Duncan Sandys’ Defence White Paper from his position as the Head of the Air Historical Branch at the MoD.

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The video continues our discussion of the 1957 Defence White Paper; here we clarify a number of terms that we use in that discussion.

RAF Fighter Command was an RAF command formed in 1936, in order to oversee and control specific fighter aircraft. In 1943 the Command was disbanded into two separate forces, with the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) taking on the responsibility of British air defence, whilst the offence force was named the Second Tactical Air Force. The ADGB was later renamed Fighter Command once more, and following the conclusion of the Second World War and the ushering in of the Cold War, Fighter Command’s role was still to protect Britain, but from the Soviet Union instead of Germany.

Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), or ground-to-air missiles (GTAMs) as they are otherwise known, were developed with the purpose of destroying incoming aircraft or other missiles. The RAF’s deployment were the Bristol Bloodhound in 1958, and in many ways they served as a replacement to Fighter Command as these missiles have replaced most other forms of dedicated anti-aircraft weapons.

The Blue Steel II was a longer-range replacement of the Blue Steel missile that was considered by the British government in order to combat the issues that had arisen concerning improved SAMs that had caused the Blue Steel to loose its advantages. The Blue Steel II was cancelled, with the government preferring the longer-range Skybolt system.

As mentioned, the RAF following the conclusion of the Second World War was involved in a number of conflicts, but by the late 1960s its role had significantly reduced as they pulled out of a number of global air bases. The major conflicts that they were involved in at this time included Kuwait in 1961, the South East Asia Confrontation of 1963-66, and they were also involved at Radfan, the Arabian Peninsula, in 1964.

After the mid-1960s, the focus of Britain’s resources, including military forces, was on Europe and maintaining allegiance to the NATO alliance. This is once again explained by the wider Cold War context, as during this period there was a perceived threat from the Warsaw Pact as led by the Soviet Union. There was a common belief that this threat had increased following the deterioration of relations highlighted by the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

A good account of the RAF’s activities during this period can be found via the RAF’s history timeline.

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

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