Document: The Butt Report (1941) January 3, 2014Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
My book manuscript, Rational Action: The Sciences of Policy in Britain and America, 1940-1960 is now under contract with the MIT Press. I will be revising and formatting the manuscript through mid-February, so expect to continue hearing little from me until then. I do, however, want to start trying some new experiments with this blog, one of which is to make certain unpublished government documents more widely available.
Today’s document is the so-called “Butt Report” found at The National Archives of the UK, Public Record Office, AIR 14/1218. Issued in August 1941, the report detailed, on the basis of photographic evidence, the extreme inability of RAF bomber crews to locate, let alone strike, targets in the dark. This investigation was ordered by Winston Churchill’s friend and adviser, Oxford physicist Frederick Lindemann, and was undertaken by his assistant, David Bensusan-Butt. The Butt Report is well known, having played a role in shaping subsequent debate over the aims of British bombing policy in view of technical limitations. However, I do not believe it has previously been made available in full (or nearly in full, as the last page appears to be missing).
The rules of the National Archives of the UK state that facsimile copies of its records may not be distributed without permission and the payment of a large fee. Transcriptions, however, may be distributed freely. Upon learning this, shortly after publishing this post, I quickly removed the photographic reproduction I had originally made available here. However, in December 2014 I found time to transcribe the report, adhering as closely as possible to the format of the original. Here it is: