The decisive factor in the morale of bomber aircrew was leadership.
A post-war medical report stated:
“The morale of a squadron was almost always a direct proportion to the quality of leadership shown by the squadron commanders, and the fluctuations in this respect were most remarkable.”
What qualities to look for in a leader? Someone who is honest, forward-looking, competent, inspiring and intelligent? The RAF had very clear ideas about what it took- you must be an upper class gentlemen with a public (what in North America would be considered ‘private’) education.
There are sure to be many examples of COs who forced the respect of their men through the rings on their sleeves. It is equally certain that there are many tales of inspiring leadership that prompted extraordinary acts.
The Air Ministry fretted over lapses in discipline (particularly in relation to many of the colonial crews- Canada’s 6 Group had an STD rate 5 times higher than any other group!):
“Aircrew are becoming more and more divorced from their legitimate leaders, and their officers are forgetting, if they ever learnt them, their responsibilities to their men.” wrote the Inspector General of the RAF in 1943.
But did a lack of discipline equate to a lack of leadership?
In the next few posts we’ll look at leadership, from the very highest commands to cold, fear-riddled aircraft over Germany.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.