The Editor

The Daily Telegraph                    13th November 2019


When Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister in 1937, the RAF had just a handful of Hurricane fighters; the first Spitfire squadron did not form until August 1938.  During the Munich negotiations with Adolph Hitler in September 1938, Chamberlain must have known that, following two decades of under-investment in Defence, this country was in no state to go to war and he needed above all to buy time. That he only just succeeded in this is demonstrated by the narrowness of our victory in the Battle of Britain in September 1940, when RAF Fighter Command was almost brought to its knees.

I and others have long thought that Chamberlain was unjustly accused of appeasement, partly because of his understandable opposition to war resulting from 1914-18, but as much due to his appreciation, as Prime Minister, that Britain was completely unprepared for war in 1938.  Many years ago I put this theory to Air Commodore Harry Eeles, who had been a personal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff in 1938, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Cyril Newall.  He not only agreed wholeheartedly but also told me that Newall would have taken the same view.

I warmly applaud the efforts of Chamberlain’s grandson, James Lloyd, to rehabilitate his grandfather (Features November 12).  A dedicated public servant, Chamberlain continued to serve loyally in government until his death from cancer in November 1940.  It may have been of some comfort for him to know that the year's grace that resulted from his negotiations in 1938 enabled us to win the crucial Battle of Britain two years later - a turning point which led ultimately to the defeat of Nazism, under Churchill’s inspired leadership, in 1945.

Air Commodore Michael Allisstone

62 C


14 November 2019

We now lead in space and cyber warfare, says SIR MICHAEL GRAYDON

The Royal Air Force was born in a century of major scientific discovery; it has therefore had to adapt to change throughout its life.  

The Service I joined, with National Service in being, was probably 180,000 strong with air bases throughout the world. Today's RAF is barely 32,000 men and women,  at times engaged in operations in some 21 countries which has given rise to the headline that it is at its busiest since World War 2.

Meeting this demand after cuts relentlessly applied across all the services since 1991, is a tribute to the quality and dedication of its men and women, and its encouragement of excellence within a meritocracy. It has been on operations non-stop since 1991 when Tornados returned to Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War to conduct the No Fly Zones over Iraq; they are still flying over Iraq today alongside RAF drones. In the meantime the reducing RAF front line has conducted operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and in Africa; vast quantities of aid has been dropped by transport and helicopter assets, and fighter aircraft have maintained high readiness alert in UK, the Falklands, and the Baltics. The modernised Air- to- Air  Refuelling and Air Transport fleet, deploys aircraft, personnel and equipment rapidly and effectively around the world. The RAF leads in space for the armed services, and in cyber warfare.

It is the RAF's understanding of technology and its ability to exploit its hi-tech equipment that has positioned it well in the troubled landscape of today. The equipment programme has been well conceived and consistently followed; only the loss of the Maritime Air capability has blemished a balanced and versatile front line. When the P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft arrives next year, there will be no Air Force which can match it in quality across the air spectrum.  It is no wonder that politicians see in the RAF an answer to many of their security problems: reaction in hours not weeks, information flow from superb intelligence gathering assets, fire power when needed and ease of withdrawal. The RAF delivers.

In its 100th year, it is wisely focussing on the future, attracting and fostering careers in aviation, building on its magnificent Air Cadets organisation, and partnering industry and education in apprenticeship training. It is doing this whilst celebrating a remarkable 100 years.

Lord Trenchard, the 'Father of the Air Force,' would be proud of the quality of its men and women.  He might look at the level of commitment and the strains on such a small force; he might wonder whether 8 front line combat squadrons could withstand an extended major campaign. And he would observe that it would take years to bring necessary mass back to the front line in the event of major war. But, crucially he would see that his 'baby' was alive and kicking and its future was very bright.

The Editor

The Times


Tom Tugendhat - Our fractured Foreign Policy harms Britain (4 Jan) makes a strong plea for resuscitating the Foreign Office. He follows a plea made by some of us post the 2015 Security and Defence Review introducing the concept of ‘Defence Engagement’ in countries where terrorism might flourish. This soft power engagement must be composed of more than defence - aid, education, policing, legal assistance and so on all have key parts to play in such a strategy.

For success, it must be led and co-ordinated by one department and the FCO is the right place.  With this and his other suggestions, coherence could be brought to our foreign policy and re-establish this great department of State to its proper status. Our military capabilities are now insufficient to act alone on the world stage, but our soft power potential, coherently exercised, remains high,

Yours faithfully,

Sir Michael Graydon

Former Chief of Air Staff

London SW1

4 Jan 2019

1 April 2018

26 April 2019

The Editor

The Times


Sir Christopher Meyer (letter April 25) is certainly right to remind us that the UK and US retain a number of hard, mutual interests which Brexit should not weaken. He is, I suggest, on less sure ground if influence is in the picture. We should not overestimate our influence in Washington today; moreover the wide loss of respect and reputational damage arising from the Brexit fiasco will not have gone unnoticed.

In this light, our relationship and influence with America must surely be poorer.

Sir Michael Graydon

Former chief of air staff,

London SW1

The Editor

The Times


I am delighted that Gerard Arnaud, the French ambassador to Washington, has been able to report progress in his country's relations with the United States ("French hit nerve with Brexit claim about US influence", Apr 24). In my day the French were widely lampooned in DC as "cheese eating surrender monkeys" because of their opposition to the Iraq war.

M Arnaud's apparent pleasure in allegedly currying favour with the Americans at British expense is as pitiful as our own needy invocation of the "special relationship", a phrase which should have been expunged from the diplomatic lexicon long ago.

Bilateral relations are not a beauty contest. What matters is hard, mutual interests. The UK and the US have vast interest invested in each other, defence, commercial, intelligence.  Any notion that Brexit would weaken these links should have been instantly dispelled by the presence for three months off the US east cosat last year of HMS Queen Elizabeth. our new aircraft carrier and its US F.35 aircraft.

Sir Christopher Meyer

British ambassador to the US 1997 to 2003

London SW8

25 April 2019

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The Editor

The Times

Vital Role of Nato

Sir, Nato is often referred to as the most successful alliance in history but it is much more than that.  As the Labour foreign secretary Ernest Bevin said at Nato’s creation, it embodied the “spiritual union” of the West.  The formation of Nato halted further Soviet aggression in Europe, helped to prevent a third world war and played a vital role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.  All of us have held senior roles in Nato or worked with it as part of the armed forces, helping to protect the UK and its people from those who wish to do us serious harm.  We have worked under governments of different hues. Until recently, the fundamental norms of our alliances and deterrence systems have never been in doubt.

  Today there are those, internationally and domestically, who seek to diminish Nato and its achievements, based on a dangerous misreading of the past.  The principle of collective security enshrined in Nato’s Article 5 — that an attack on one Nato member is an attack on all — has been the bedrock of our national defence for 70 years.  There is no viable alternative to Nato and those who question the necessity of the alliance play fast and loose with our national security.

  Hence we warmly welcome Angela Merkel’s recent comments that Nato and the broader transatlantic alliance is more important to the security of Europe than ever before.  We call on the candidates of all major parties to reassure the British people of their firm commitment to strengthening Nato in future decades and to state their steadfast and unambiguous commitment to Article 5.  

Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of the air staff; Field Marshal Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former chief of the general staff and chief of the defence staff; Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Nato secretary-general and former defence secretary;  Lord West of Spithead, former chief of the naval staff.

3 December 2019