Hugh Montague Trenchard

From Kaiserreich

(Redirected from Hugh Trenchard)

Hugh Montague Trenchard (born on February 3 1873 in Taunton, England, now Union of Britain) is a British officer in charge of the Royal Air Force, currently in exile in Canada.


Early Life

Hugh Montague Trenchard was born at Windsor Lodge on Haines Hill in Taunton, England (now in Union of Britain), on February 3 1873. He was the third child and second son of Henry Montague Trenchard and his wife Georgina Louisa Catherine Tower. Trenchard's father was a captain in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and his mother was the daughter of the Royal Navy captain John McDowall Skene. During his formative years Trenchard struggled academically, failing many examinations, however, his parents were not greatly concerned by his educational difficulties as they had already decided that he should follow a military career.

Military Career

Trenchard finally met the minimum standard for commissioned service in the British Army in March 1893: at the age of 20, he was gazetted as a second-lieutenant in the Second Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and posted to India. With the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899, Trenchard applied several times to join his old battalion which had been sent to the Cape as part of the expeditionary corps. On his arrival in South Africa in 1900, Trenchard rejoined the Royal Scots Fusiliers before being ordered to raise and train a mounted company of the Imperial Yeomanry. On October 9 Trenchard was hit by a Boer bullet to the chest and was medically evacuated to Krugersdorp. He was next moved to Maraisburg for convalescing and there Trenchard confirmed that he was suffering from partial paralysis below the waist. The doctors surmised that after passing through his lung, the bullet had damaged his spine. On medical advice Trenchard travelled to Switzerland and on December 30 he arrived in St Moritz to begin his Swiss convalescence. Boredom saw him take up bobsleighing as it did not require much use of his legs. It was during a heavy crash from the Cresta Run that his spine was somehow readjusted, enabling him to walk freely immediately after regaining consciousness.

Following further recuperation, Trenchard returned to active service in South Africa in late July 1901. He was assigned to a company of the 12th Mounted Infantry where his patrolling duties required him to spend long days in the saddle. Trenchard's wound still caused him considerable pain and the entry and exit scars frequently bled. Trenchard spent the remainder of 1901 on patrolling duties and in early 1902 he was appointed acting commander of the 23rd Mounted Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to brevet major in August 1902. After the end of the Boer War, starting from December 1903 Trenchard saw service in Nigeria where he was involved in efforts to bring the interior under settled British rule and quell inter-tribal violence. During his time in Nigeria, Trenchard commanded the Southern Nigeria Regiment for several years.


The Central Flying School staff in January 1913. Trenchard is in the front row, shown third from the right.

In October 1910, Trenchard was posted to Ireland. He found life within the officer's mess somewhat dull after his experiences in both South Africa and Nigeria. Captain Eustace Loraine, a fellow officer who had served with Trenchard in Nigeria, contacted him and advised him to take up flying. When Trenchard arrived to Thomas Sopwith's flying school at Brooklands, he was told than he only had 10 days to gain his aviator's certificate: he succeeded in going solo on July 31. Over the following weeks Trenchard spent many hours improving his flying technique and after he had finished his flying course he was officially appointed as an instructor. However, Trenchard was a poor pilot and he did no instructing, instead becoming involved in administrative duties. As a member of the staff, Trenchard set to work organizing training and establishing procedures. In September 1912 he acted as an air observer during the Army Manoeuvres. His experiences and actions developed his understanding of the military utility of flying. The following September Trenchard was appointed Assistant Commandant and promoted to temporary lieutenant-colonel.

During the Weltkrieg

Trenchard made his name during the Weltkrieg. When war was declared in August 1914, Trenchard was officially Officer Commanding the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps but by the time war ended, Trenchard was head of the newly formed Royal Air Force.

As Officer Commanding the Military Wing, one of Trenchard's tasks was the creation of new squadrons. He initially gave himself a target of 12 but Lord Kitchener increased this to 60. In October 1914, the command structure of the RFC was given a major overhaul. The post of Officer Commanding the Military Wing was dropped in November and Trenchard was given the command of the First Wing, which was made up of 2 and 3 Squadrons. These provided the First Army, commanded by Haig, with reconnaissance photos and provided 'eyes in the skies' for the artillery. In June 1915, Trenchard was promoted to colonel.

In summer 1915, General Sir David Henderson, head of the RFC, moved to the War Office to work. He recommended Trenchard for his position and Kitchener gave his approval. On August 25th 1915, Trenchard was appointed Officer Commanding the RFC in the Field with the rank of brigadier-general. Trenchard determined that the RFC under his command was to be a far more aggressive unit than it had been under Henderson. Whereas the primary roles of the RFC under Henderson had been reconnaissance and artillery directing, Trenchard now expected his pilots to take the fight to the enemy. However, the Germans were equipped with technologically more advanced aeroplanes, especially the Fokkers, and losses within the RFC were high. The number of pilots killed outstripped those who replaced them. The pilots were fulfilling Trenchard's desire to be more aggressive but paid the price for it.

Trenchard appealed for more aeroplanes but with little success. What did a great deal to help the RFC was the winter weather from 1916 to 1917, which made flying very difficult, and therefore the RFC recuperated during this time. However, the improved weather in March 1917 meant that flying resumed and between March and May 1917 the RFC lost 1270 aeroplanes. What saved the RFC in the summer of 1917 was the introduction of new aeroplanes - the SE5, de Havilland 4 and Bristol Fighters - which were more able to take on the fighters of the German Air Service.

The German bombing of London was to have a major effect on the RFC. Summoned to London to meet David Lloyd George, Trenchard was told to plan for revenge attacks against German cities. On October 17th 1917, the RFC carried out its first bombing attack on German civilian targets when the Burbach iron foundry was attacked along with railway lines. On October 24th, the RFC flew its first long-range night-time bombing mission. Both of these raids gave the government what they required: huge propaganda material. However, Trenchard was not keen on what it was doing to the RFC: splitting its forces and pursuing what he believed were non-required campaigns: he wanted to concentrate on supporting the Army on the ground.

In December 1917, Trenchard was appointed Chief of the Air Staff in the newly created Air Ministry headed by Lord Rothermere. Trenchard had a difficult relationship with Rothermere because he believed that Rothermere was too concerned with political intrigue as opposed to concentrating his efforts on what was happening on the Western Front. Despite his differences with Rothermere, Trenchard was able to put in place planning for the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. However, as the weeks went on, Trenchard and Rothermere became increasingly estranged and this culminated in Trenchard offering his resignation on March 19th 1918. On April 13 Major-General Frederick Sykes replaced Trenchard as Chief of the Air Staff. Trenchard was then summoned to Buckingham Palace to explain his decision to the King and there he explained that he found it impossible to work with Rothermere and questioned his competence to be Air Minister. On April 25th Rothermere resigned and on June 15th 1918 Trenchard was appointed General Officer Commanding the Independent Air Force, later the Royal Air Force. The IAF carried out intensive bombing raids on German airfields, railways and centres of industry. Trenchard was also keen to teach the Americans about the new techniques of flying in combat, providing advanced tuition in bombing techniques to American aviators.

After the fall of France on 1919, Trenchard intesified the bombing raids on German cities. However, the price paid was high and many pilot and aeroplanes were lost. Trenchard soon realized that his pilots could not sustain that kind of strain for long and gradually reduced the number of bombing mission, bringing them to an halt in December 1919. From 1920 onwards the war was limited to the Middle East front and the Air Force focused on giving support to the troops entrenched near the Suez Canal.


After the war, Trenchard was appointed as Chief of the Air Staff in January 1924. From his position he fought to keep the air force separate from the British Army and the Royal Navy and his efforts were being repayed when the 1925 British Revolution broke out and the majority of the Royal Air Force fled to Canada together with the Royal Navy. Trenchard followed the Royal Family and in 1930 he was appointed as General Officer Commanding the Royal Air Force. From this position, he fought to keep the Royal Canadian Air Force under the control of British officers and for this reason he had frequent disagreements (but they should be better called fights...) with the Officer Commanding the Royal Canadian Air Force, Billy Bishop. This dispute has been very negative for the Air Force and because of it only a few air wings had been brought up to fighting strength.

Personal Life

On July 17 1920, Hugh Trenchard married Katherine Boyle at St. Margaret's Church in Westminster.

Personal tools