Air Power and the Arab World 1909-1955-Volume 3: Colonial Skies, 1918-1936

Published: March 17th, 2021     
Product Image
Author: Dr. David Nicolle and Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978-1913336325
Other Publication Information: Soft Square Bound; 8.3” x 11.8”, 96 pages
Price: $29.95
Product / Stock #: Middle East @ War #30
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

Dr. David C Nicolle is a British historian specializing in the military history of the Middle-Ages, with special interest in the Middle East and Arab countries. After working for BBC Arabic Service, he obtained his MA at SOAS, University of London, followed by a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. He then lectured in art history at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan. Dr. Nicolle has published over 100 books about warfare ranging from Roman times to the 20th century, mostly as sole author. He also co-authored the 'Arab MiGs' series of books which covered the history of the Arab air forces at war with Israel from 1955 to 1973. Furthermore, he has appeared in several TV-documentaries, and has published numerous articles in specialized press. This is his fourth instalment for Helion's @War series with more planned in 2021.

The late Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr PhD (EAF, ret.) served as the pilot of a De Havilland Vampire fighter jet during the Suez War, 1956. After concluding higher military education at the Air Warfare Institute in 1960, he served as an instructor in air tactics at the Air Warfare Institute in 1962-64. Between 1966-67, he was a staff officer during the June 1967 War and went on to be chief of the Operational Training Branch in 1968-73; he was also chief of the Operations Group during the October 1973 War with Israel. After serving as an instructor in the art of operations and as the chief air force chair at High War College from 1977 until 1982, he received his PhD at Nasser High Academy in 1989. He then moved into writing and has since published several books and dozens of studies and articles on the history of air warfare in Egypt and abroad.

Helion's latest book in the Middle East @ War series is a square back soft cover includes 96 gloss paper pages. The cover black and white photograph features three Westland Wapiti on No. 30 Squadron on patrol. The color side profile by Luca Canossa is of a Potez 25TOE serving in Syria in 1932. This aircraft, serial number 777, was part of thee Escadrille of the 39th Regiment. You will note that the rear gun has been replaced with a 26cm aerial camera to work with Pere Poidebard supporting his archaeology work. Luca Canossa also provides the color side profile of the Sopwith Snipe on the rear cover. This aircraft served in Iraq in 1922 with No. 1 Squadron. 0I counted three color pictures and 140 black and white photographs. There also 21 color side profiles, three black and white maps and one color map.

Dr. David C Nicolle follows up the second volume of Air Power and the Arab World covering post World War I up to 1936. This volume focuses on the colonial powers of Spain, France, Italy, and Britain and their hopes to establish control over North Africa and the Middle East. A nice addition is the inclusion of Iran and Ethiopia and the early development of their Air Forces. The ending of World War I created a surplus of aircraft (and of course other weapons) and many found their way into the colonies in North Africa and the Middle East. The Muslim population was not exactly overwhelmed with the magnanimous offers of being protected by the powers of Europe, but that would not explode until after World War II. Just the same, there were plenty of skirmishes and battles to be had. Part one of this tome addresses North Africa and the attempts by Spain, France, and Italy to extend their influence in the region. Part two addresses the British and French desires to control the Middle East. An important issue for the British was to maintain their link to India, especially in Egypt with the Suez Canal. The French were more concerned with extending their pre-World War I influence in Lebanon and Syria. The sections include:

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Addendum to the Previous Volumes
  • Introduction: The Arab Lands in the Aftermath of the Great War
  • Part One: North Africa as an Area of Military Experimentation
    • The Arab Maghrib Under France and Spain
    • Spanish Air Operations in Northern Morocco [Page 10]
    • Aviation Units in the Spanish Protectorate [Table 1]
    • Spanish Air Units Supporting the Assault on Al Hoceima [Table 2]
    • French Air Operations in North Africa
    • French Military Aviation in Algeria and Tunisia [Table 3]
    • Aviation du Maroc [Table 4]
    • French Air Assets in Morocco, July 1927 [Table 5]
    • Italian Air Operations Continue in Libya, and Events in East Africa [Page 27]
    • Italian Air Resources Available on 15 November 1929 [Table 6]
    • Italian Air Strength in Cyrenaica, January 1926 [Table 7]
    • Italian Air Strength in Tripolitania, 1 January 1934 [Table 8]
    • Italian Air Strength in Cyrenaica, 1 January 1934 [Table 9]
  • Color Profiles [Page 40iv]
  • Part Two: Air Policing in the Middle East
    • The Arab Middle East under Britain and France [Page 47]
    • French Air Operations Over the Levant
    • British Air Operations in the Arab World
    • Neighbours: The Iranian and Ethiopian Air Forces
    • The Iranian Empire [Page 81]
    • The Ethiopian Empire
  • Bibliography

I was able to finish this book in three nights and really enjoyed it. I may be just my perception but I found this a really easy read and hard to put down. There are many first person accounts included that I am particularly fond of, but I found the section on the Ethiopian Air Force very compelling. The creation of the Ethiopian Air Force in 1929 is described as well as its destruction when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Interestingly, the only aircraft to survive the Italian invasion was a monoplane that was built in Ethiopia under the tutelage of Ludwig Weber. There were no skilled craftsmen available but Ludwig made do. The Mendl/van Ness A-VII (aka M7) was powered by an air cooled Walter NZ seven cylinder engine. Ethiopia's capital was already at an elevation of 2,500 feet above sea level and one of the additions to the aircraft was high lift flaps. This aircraft was captured as a war prize and transported back to Italy where it now resides at the Italian Air Force Museum.

The contemporary photographs support the text, and although the quality of some of the photographs due to the source material is not there, they certainly give you a good perspective of the events described. The nice color profiles by Luca Canossa and Tom Cooper help make up for this concern. Volume 4 by Dr. David C Nicolle covering the First Arab Air Forces has been announced for release in July 2021. If you own one the previous releases in the Middle East @ War series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Helion & Company, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Front Cover
    Front Cover
  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Sample Page 10
    Sample Page 10
  • Sample Page 27
    Sample Page 27
  • Sample Page 40
    Sample Page 40
  • Sample Page 47
    Sample Page 47
  • Sample Page 81
    Sample Page 81

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