Helion's Bombers at Suez

Author/Artists: John Dillon


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72  pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1-914377-16-7

After WWII, Britain fairly rapidly lost much of what was once a very large empire. While the empire was disappearing, the attitude was not. This was fairly obvious in the reaction of then prime minister Anthony Eden to the take-over of the Suez canal by then Egyptian president Abdul Nassar. Working with the French and the Israelis, plans were made for the British to take over control of the canal from the Egyptians. This was very much opposed by the US president, Dwight Eisenhower and so the United States had no part in the subsequent hostilities.

As many of you know, this was the pretext of the 1956 invasion of Egyptian territory by the Israelis, and in fact, pretty much all the ground fighting was accomplished by the Israeli Army. For the British and the French, the majority of their efforts took place in the air. It is in this context that this book concentrates its efforts. Narrowing things down even more is that it only deals with bomber operations by the RAF.

At this time, the major bomber aircraft were the fairly new Vickers Valiant and the E.E. Canberra. The Valiant was designed as a nuclear bomber and was, frankly, not really suited for precision iron bomb operations. The Canberra, on the other hand, was well suited for this task, but was limited in the number of bombs that it could carry. One does not simply just start flying missions. Bases have to be found and stocks have to be positioned. For the RAF, it was fairly limited in regards to from where it could operate. Due to political considerations, it could only really operate from Malta and Cyprus. Malta meant a fairly long run which the Valiants could accomplish, but was fairly much at the limit for the Canberras. In Cyprus, there was only one base that could accommodate bombers and this one, at Nicosia, was not a big base so crowding would be an issue.

The author has done a superb job of researching this aspect of the Suez war, using both first hand accounts as well as squadron logs to make sense of the sequence of events. As in all record keeping, there are times when what is written conflicts with reality and those areas are acknowledged by the author. What evolves is a tale of poor planning at the higher levels, insufficient planning at local levels, mistakes and fairly poor performance by the aircraft and crews involved. Each mission is covered in as much detail as possible so the reader gets a good idea of what was going on at the time. In the end, the Suez War/Crisis was a major catastrophe for the British government, with the Israelis having to wait until another time to take over the Sinai and a UN peace-keeping force put in place which was the first time such a force was used.

As is the norm with these books from Helion, the research is first rate. The authors have interviewed a number of the participants and are able to provide the sorts of insights that you cannot get from other sources. The book has some very nice period photos as well as a center section that includes full color profiles and illustrations. In all, it adds to what is a superb series of histories and is a book that I can highly recommend to you.

November 2021

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