This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Third Option: Imperial Air Defense and the Pacific Dominions, 1918-1939




Spencer, Alex

Type of Degree





The air defense of Australia and New Zealand during the interwar period demonstrates the difficulty of applying changing military technology to the defense of the global empire and provides insight into the nature of the political relationship between the Dominions and Britain. Following World War I, both Dominions sought greater independence in defense and foreign policy. Public aversion to military matters and the economic dislocation resulting from the war and later the Depression left little money could be provided for their respective air forces. As a result, the Empire’s air services spent the entire interwar period attempting to create a strategy in the face of these handicaps. By the middle of the World War II, the air forces of the British Empire experienced an expansion well beyond the levels contemplated during the interwar period, but this successful expansion owed much to the policies adopted and implemented by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in the 1920s and 1930s. In the face of these challenges and in order to survive, the British Empire’s military air forces offered themselves as a practical and economical third option in the defense of Britain’s global Empire replacing the Royal Navy and British army as the traditional pillars of imperial defense.