Strategic Bombing if Possible, but Possibly not Strategic Bombing: an examination of ends, ways, and means and the use of strategic airpower during the Great War

  • Randall Wakelam


This paper is an offshoot of research conducted in preparation for the University of Calgary History conference of 2014 focussing on new perspectives of the Great War.  My primary intent in that research was to explore the notion that air services were, using the recent educational concept of the Learning Organization, in fact precursors of this concept within a military context.  One of the conclusions I came to is that this learning was not just happening within the air services but took place even at the national, or grand strategic, level where decisions had to be made both about how to use this new means of warfare and about the allocation of resources while continuing to support the needs of the army and navy.  The former had to do with strategic bombing of enemy targets and the balance of this paper looks at how the concepts and practice of strategic bombing evolved in France, Germany and Britain.

Author Biography

Randall Wakelam

Dr Randy Wakelam has a PhD in history from Wilfrid Laurier University and teaches military and air power history at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston.

Wakelam had an extensive military career which saw him fly helicopters for the Army, serving in three different squadrons before commanding 408 Squadron in Edmonton from 1991 to 1993. Between 1993 and 2009 he was a member of faculty at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, the military’s professional graduate school. During these years he led several curriculum design projects including that for the current National Security Programme for senior officers and civilian executives.

Wakelam is a faculty associate at the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; in 2013-14 he has been a Visiting Research Fellow with Oxford University's Changing Character of War Programme where he has been looking at military duration since the Enlightenment.

In 2009 he published The Science of Bombing: Operational Research in RAF Bomber Command and in 2010 co-edited The Report of the Officer Development Board: Maj-Gen Roger Rowley and the Education of the Canadian Forces. In 2012 he published Cold War Fighters: Canadian Aircraft Procurement, 1945–54 with UBC Press. He is currently starting work on a biography of Wilfred Curtis who was Canada’s Chief of the Air Staff from 1947 to 1953 before going on to help establish York University in Toronto.