Helion's Air Power and the Arab World Vol.6

Author/Artists: Dr. David Nicholle & Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1-915070-76-0

Continuing with their series on air power in the Arab world, this volume concentrates on the 1939-March 1941 time frame. This is when Europe went to war and it was unsure how some of the middle east nations would react to the situation. To be fair, much of the middle east and north Africa were under the control of European nations to some extent or another. Only a few were independent enough to have their own air arms. Those nations were Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's air force, such as it was, was very minimalist and their aircraft rarely flew during WWII. This was as much due to a lack of trained personnel and spares as much as anything else. Iraq had a fairly large air force, consisting of a goodly number of Italian and British aircraft, but for the most part, during the time period of this volume, were busy with internal issues and did not play a part in the conflict. What was true was that there was plenty of anti-British sentiment, and the British did maintain a large training establishment at Habbiniya.

That leaves Egypt and the majority of this edition is concerned with this air arm during the early years of the war. Despite pressure to declare war on Germany, Egypt remained technically neutral until near the end of the war. However, the nation was not immune to the conflict. This was especially true when Italy declared war in June 1940. They began both air and ground attacks against Egyptian and British targets in Egypt, especially the British air and naval bases along with the oil refineries in Suez.

Unfortunately, the Egyptians were unable to do much about the situation in the air. Their air arm was equipped with obsolescent types such as Gladiators, Audaxes, and a few Ansons. Promised modern types like Blenheims were never delivered and it wasn't until early 1941 that a few second hand Hurricane Is were delivered. Much of the Egyptian Air Force was used for patrolling, point defense, and training. However, thanks to their lack of modern equipment, raiding Italian, and later German planes were too fast and able to evade interception. This left it up to the Egyptian anti-aircraft forces (which were actually quite good) to claim any enemy aircraft.

The research of the authors is first rate, and much is learned from the log books of several Egyptian pilots of the day as well as first hand accounts. It tells of a force that was constantly undersupplied and of some of whose members were quite political, something that seems to be endemic with Arab air arms. It also shows that these men were good at their job and not the slackers that is often portrayed in western media. They simply did not have the tools needed to properly do the job.

This makes for a superb read and one of the best of the series. The work of the Egyptian Air Force during this time is often dismissed and it is through this book that we can see what they had to deal with. As usual with this series there are some superb period photos and a center section of full color profiles and maps. A book that I very much enjoyed reading and one that I'm sure you will like as well.

October 2022

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