Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2015

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name



History & Political Science


Louis Rose, Phd

First Committee Member

Louis Rose, Phd

Second Committee Member

Jonathan DeCoster, PhD

Third Committee Member

Louisa Captein


Winston Churchill, Air Force, Navy, World War II, Military Strategy, English Politics

Subject Categories

European History | Military History | Political History


For the majority of the Second World War Churchill served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a position that he used to influence imperial military strategy. In this he had to engage with a number of new methods and means of making war, such as the airplane, which had their origin in the First World War, but which now had reached maturity. Thus Churchill’s views on the various military branches were important, as he was engaging with a new system of warfare. This thesis examines Winston Churchill’s views of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force during the Second World War, by analyzing speeches he gave, and documents produced by him and his government during the war. I argue that Churchill, recognizing that the navy could no longer be the sole frontline force, as the airplane had become a powerful new weapon and threat, came to envision the navy and air force acting as a shield and sword, complementing each other militarily while having their own distinct roles. In particular, the navy would defend the home island and nearby occupied coasts preventing large-scale invasion and keeping shipping lanes open for needed supplies to enter the ports. The air force would be responsible for defending the navy from air threats and striking deep into German territory in order to hamstring the German war effort. Lastly, a shifting of power towards the air force was representative of larger social changes occurring in Britain and the empire as a whole, as the officer corps of the RAF was heavily middle class.