Development of Britain’s Airborne Forces during WW2 (Opinion 1)

Research Paper Title

The Development of Britain’s Airborne Forces during the Second World War.


The operational history of Britain’s airborne forces during the Second World War ranges from small-scale raids in 1941 through to full divisional deployments in 1944 and 1945. British airborne warfare during the war appears to be characterised by a lack of consistency or apparently observable trends in the military effectiveness. The execution and results of most British airborne operations are extensively recorded within the extant historiography. However, there has been no attempt to examine the process of airborne capability development as a method of identifying the relevant
factors that influenced military effectiveness.

The inception and growth of any new military capability requires progress and coordination across a number of parallel and inter-linked ‘lines of development’. Each line has the potential to create factors that impinge on the progress of other areas of development and ultimately can have effect on the size, shape, and function of the overall capability. Some lines of development have a purely physical effect on the process such as the procurement and supply of equipment and the recruitment and training of manpower. The effect of others is less tangible such as the influence exercised by an individual commander and the control exerted by his staff. While not strictly a line of development the entire process of bringing military capability into service is, at least in part., a function of government policy and therefore the political environment is a significant developmental factor. The process of development is translated into observable military effectiveness by the concepts and doctrine that govern and guide the capability during operations, which is the final line of development examined.

This approach to research, using sources previously unexamined in this context, has resulted in the exposure of primary and secondary factors that had either direct or indirect influence on the manner in which Britain’s airborne forces fought and the resultant military effect of their employment during the Second World War. New historical insights into the performance of British airborne forces have arisen through this approach to study including the conceptual progression from small-scale raids to divisional operations and the development of tactical doctrine from the Mediterranean in 1943 through Northwest Europe in 1944 and 1945.


Development of Britain’s Airborne Forces during WWII (Greenacre, 2008)


Greenacre, J.W. (2008) The Development of Britain’s Airborne Forces during the Second World War. PhD Thesis. Leeds: The University of Leeds.


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