In December 1905 R.B. Haldane, later Viscount Haldane of Cloan, became Secretary of State for War. Among his fellow politicians Haldane, at this time, was looked on as an intriguer who combined habitual meddling in high places with a curious and remarkable interest in German philosophy. The Prime Minister of the day, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who had good reason to dislike Haldane, nicknamed him “Schopenhauer.” Both men knew that the War Office had ruined the reputations of several of Haldane's predecessors. “We shall now see,” remarked Campbell-Bannerman, in a phrase that later became famous, “how Schopenhauer gets on in the Kailyard.” Despite this unpromising start Haldane's military reforms were so successful that they established his reputation in history as one of the great servants of the state in the pre-1914 era. His work and accomplishments in the field of military aviation, however, have been criticized very severely. In fact, the matter is so complicated that one aviation authority has written of the record in this area that “Haldane's actions behind the scenes may never be known with certainty.”
Even some of his closest subordinates in the field of military aeronautics were very critical of Haldane's attitude and outlook. In February 1911 a major step was taken when, by an Army Order, a unit known as the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was created. This Battalion was entrusted with the duty of training a “body of expert airmen.” The Battalion's first commander was Major Sir Alexander Bannerman, an officer who knew little about airplanes, but was instead a balloon expert with experience in the South African and Russo-Japanese wars.