Lead and I shall follow

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.
~Proverbs 29:18


2 responses to “Lead and I shall follow

  • Amy Scott

    I wonder if the unruliness of the 6 Group can be partially blamed on the fact that they were far from home. While flying in the war would have been difficult for any airman, doing so in a foreign land would have been more difficult, I suspect. I’m speculating that many of these young men would have never been away from home and family before. Much like the young man that goes away to college, the Canadian airman in Britian must have felt a vaccum of authority once their parents were out of the picture. This does not excuse the behaviour, really. That stat about the STD rate is horrifying! Oh, Canada.

  • Angels 14

    I suppose they were struggling with the fact that they were far from home- although this would have affected the NZ and Aussie crews as well (although I am not sure that they had their own groups. Don’t think they did…) Way to go Canadian boys for racking up that stat!
    The Canadians were known for great flying and terrible discipline. It probably makes sense, if they came from tough, hard working farming communities. Many of the British pilots were selected from private schools and had already endured a long regime of discipline.

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