30 Jul 19
Posted by: Dr James Bosbotinis

Having studied the development of British naval air power extensively, the subject of this book immediately piqued this reviewer’s interest. The author, Dennis Haslop, who holds PhDs from King’s College London (Defence Studies) and Exeter (Maritime History), and previously wrote Britain, Germany and the Battle of the Atlantic: A Comparative Study, seeks to examine the British and German approaches to the development of naval aviation. Haslop particularly seeks to compare the respective bureaucratic structures and doctrinal approaches adopted. In this respect, the book is primarily intended for an academic audience. At 219 pages (including the bibliography), the book is a succinct read.

Early Naval Air Power is divided into five chapters plus the Introduction, encompassing the creation of the Royal Naval Air Service and Imperial German Naval Air Service, and their respective development and employment through the First World War. Specifically, the chapters examine the dawn of flight in the UK and with it, the formation of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, and likewise for the Imperial German Naval Air Service, up to 1915. This is followed by chapters examining respectively the development of the British and German naval air arms in the period 1916-1918, and the Conclusion, which effectively summarises the debates surrounding the creation of the British and German naval air services.

The development of doctrine forms the core of the discussion in Early Naval Air Power, and the author demonstrates his knowledge of the subject well. Early Naval Air Power provides a detailed, in-depth analysis of the development of the British and German naval air arms, especially with regard to the intra and inter-service and political debates in both countries concerning the optimum approach to naval aviation. For example, the debate in the UK on whether to merge the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, which of course resulted in the creation of the Royal Air Force, is discussed in comparison to similar German debates on whether to form a unified air service.

The analysis in Early Naval Air Poweris underpinned by a deep engagement with a wide range of primary and secondary source material, including German military and government papers. In this regard, the treatment of the Imperial German Naval Air Service is valuable and provides an important contribution to understanding both the German naval air service, wider German navy and military debates immediately before and during the First World War. Early Naval Air Power is well-written and extensively referenced; there are occasional typos, but they are for the most part minor. The depth and quality of the research for Early Naval Air Power is clear and highlighted by the extensive bibliography. Spanning 30 pages, and divided into British and German archival sources, English and German language monographs, English and German language articles, and theses, dissertations and lectures, the bibliography will be a valuable resource to researchers working on the development of air power in the UK and Germany. Although principally intended for an academic audience, the book is accessible to the lay reader, but it will primarily appeal to students and researchers. The price of the book, £120 for the hardback edition, is problematic (although an electronic version is available for £39.99). In all, Early Naval Air Power is a valuable book and provides an in-depth and worthwhile study of an important subject.