Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Terry Copp

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis analyses the contributions of operational research to the work of the Royal Canadian Air Force Eastern Air Command during the Second World War. The efforts of the handful of Canadian operational researchers in the Allied campaign against the German U-boat force, although having produced only modest results, did make a small but important contribution to the war which have been neglected by historians. The use of aircraft against submarines began during the First World War when both technologies were still in their infancy. Although initial results were poor, the handful of sinkings by aircraft demonstrated its potential as a counter to the seemingly invulnerable submarine. Great Britain, with its vulnerable seaward lines of communication, emerged by 1918 as the leader in the development of anti-submarine aircraft, largely through the co-operative efforts of scientists and airmen to refine and advance the concept of airborne anti-submarine warfare. Although much of this knowledge was squandered through the neglect of the Royal Air Force’s land-based anti-submarine aircraft force during the inter-war period, the early introduction of scientists to the field of airborne anti-submarine warfare provided a precedent for a future revival of this relationship. The techniques of operational research, first promulgated during the British experiments with radar during the 1930s, were, by 1941, applied to assist Royal Air Force Coastal Command in its campaign against the German U-boats which were taking an ever-increasing toll of Allied shipping. The work of P.M.S. Blackett and his staff at Coastal Command Operational Research Section would serve as the foundation upon which Eastern Air Command’s Operational Research Section (ORS) would be constructed when it was created in November 1942. Under the leadership of Professor Colin Barnes and later Dr. J.W.T. Spinks, Eastern Air Command ORS produced a series of studies which explored issues of concern to the Command’s anti-submarine (bomber-reconnaissance) squadrons. They used methodologies adapted for Canadian purposes from the original British and American models. These studies of diverse topics such as bombing accuracy and search techniques for missing aircraft, along with the squadron and Command efficiency data collected in operational planning role assumed by Eastern Air Command ORS (one which had earlier been rejected as unproductive clerical work by Coastal Command ORS), characterized the growth of Canadian-oriented operational research during the final three years of the Second World War. The work of the handful of civilian and military operational researchers at Eastern Air Command ORS, although threatened with elimination during the deep cuts to the military in the immediate post-war years, survived to form part of the body of Canadian military operational research techniques which has assisted the Canadian Forces in their duties throughout the last half-century.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season