Owen, Robert (2014) Considered policy or haphazard evolution? No. 617 Squadron RAF 1943 - 45. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Following their breaching of German dams in May 1943, No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was maintained as a specialist precision bombing unit. For the remainder of the Second World War the Squadron carried out precision attacks using new and unconventional weapons, culminating with Barnes Wallis’s deep penetration bombs, TALLBOY and GRAND SLAM.
This thesis will show that the numerous accounts of the Squadron’s history have failed to take account of many factors that determined its role. By concentrating on the operational record and weapons, both popular historians and scholars have given a distorted and interpretatively incomplete description of the Squadron’s development. This in turn has led to an incomplete perception of the Squadron’s Development and a misconception of its full contribution to the bomber offensive. This thesis identifies policy and decision making bodies and examines their role in selecting weapons and targets for the Squadron. It explores the issues which determined the role played by the Squadron: changes in Air Staff policy for Bomber Command, choice of targets, the development and production of weapons, and tactical requirements. Comparison is made between the planners’ original intentions and the final operational record. Many of the Squadron’s operations emerged from an inability to follow through from initial planning. Such failure resulted from factors that included unrealistic expectations of weapon performance, delays in the development of new weapons, and political intervention. Alternative targets were selected not only to take advantage of the Squadron’s existing capabilities but also to address specific issues that were often imposed on the planners by outside agencies which would have otherwise diverted Bomber Command from the main offensive. In other instances the Squadron was used to supplement existing operations carried out by main force. The gestation time for new weapons was such that when a weapon emerged its originally intended targets were no often longer relevant. Accordingly, new targets had to be found. The Squadron’s role in the development and assessment of weapons, equipment and new techniques for the Command is revealed to be greater than previously recognised. This new approach to the Squadron’s wartime role examines the policy and planning backstory to the Squadron’s operations. It reveals a hitherto unrecognised complexity in the evolution of the Squadron’s role, and demonstrates how haphazard delays and setbacks were transformed into new policy to meet ever changing requirements.

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