A Stepping Stone to Success: Operation Battleaxe (June 1941) and the Development of the British Tactical Air Doctrine

Mike Bechthold

Abstract


On 16 February 1943 a meeting was held in Tripoli attended by senior American and British officers to discuss the various lessons learned during the Libyan campaign. The focus of the meeting was a presentation by General Bernard Montgomery. it is clear that operations in the Western Desert had a significant impact on the development of British and American tactical air doctrine in the Second World War and beyond. Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, commander of the Northwest Africa Tactical Air Force (previously the Desert Air Force) made a presentation to the assembled group of generals and other senior officers. Coningham made some very important statements in his speech and his ideas were to become the cornerstone of American and British tactical air doctrine for the rest of the war, and indeed, into the post-war period. These statements made by Montgomery and Coningham were to become the basis for Anglo-American tactical air doctrine for the remainder of the war, and indeed, many of the tenets of that doctrine are as relevant today as they were in 1943. Seventy years on, it is clear that operations in the Western Desert had a significant impact on the development of British and American tactical air doctrine in the Second World War and beyond.


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