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Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard (February 3, 1873 - February 10, 1956) was the British Chief of the Air Staff during World War I, and was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force (RAF). He is recognised today as one of the first advocates of military strategic bombing.
Hugh Montague Trenchard was born in Taunton, England on February 3, 1873. At the age of twenty, he was commissioned into the Royal Scots Fusiliers and served in the South African War and later in Nigeria. He was often known by the nickname "Boom" Trenchard, for his distinctly loud speaking voice.
In 1913 he learned to fly at Thomas Sopwith's flying school at Brooklands. At age 39 he was just short of 40, the maximum age for military student pilots. According to his instructor, "he would never have made a good pilot" but "he was a model pupil." After passing his course, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) as second in command of the Central Flying School. In November 1915, Trenchard was sent to France to command the newly formed First Wing. This consisted of Nos 2 and 3 Squadrons and flew in support of the Fourth Army Corps and the Indian Corps.
In August 1917 he agreed to return to Britain and re-organise training with Robert Smith-Barry at a new school at Gosport. The curriculum combined classroom training and dual flight instruction. Students were not led away from potentially dangerous manoeuvres but deliberately exposed to them in controlled environments so they could learn to recover from errors of judgement.
The Air Council was formed in January 1918, and Trenchard became Chief of the Air Staff. He helped establish the RAF in April 1918 when the RFC was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service, but he resigned two weeks before its inauguration after a quarrel with the Air Secretary, Lord Rothermere .
Returning to active duty, Major-General Trenchard began in June 1918 to organize intensive strategic bombing attacks on German railways, airfields and industrial centres. These attacks used the RAF's 55 & 100 squadrons as part of the Independent Air Force based near Nancy, France, and continued until the end of the war.
After the war, the RAF was budgeted to shrink from over 250 to 25 squadrons. Against this background of demobilisation and continued savage budget cuts, Trenchard fought to keep the air force separate from army and navy, and built the basis for a much larger organisation whose time would come in 1940.
Trenchard showed the effectiveness of strategic bombing for colonial counter-insurgency by 1920's operations in Somaliland and Iraq. He wrote that the RAF could even suppress “industrial disturbances or risings” in England itself. Churchill told him not to refer to this proposal again, but by World War II strategic bombing had become standard military doctrine.
In 1930 he entered the House of Lords as Baron Trenchard (upgraded to Viscount Trenchard in 1936), and was appointed commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Trenchard carried important police reforms and established the Police College at Hendon.
He died on February 10, 1956.
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