Airway to the East, 1918-1920 (a brief book review)

Discussion around early wars and conflicts including World War 1
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CarlL
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Joined: 25 Mar 2013, 20:53
Location: North Yorkshire

Airway to the East, 1918-1920 (a brief book review)

Post by CarlL »

I have put this brief book review here as this is not a new book, so this section seemed the best place on our forum for my review of
"Airway to the East, 1918-1920", (subtitled) "And the collapse of No.1 Aerial Route RAF", by Clive Semple.

This book of 244 pages, published (2012) by Pen & Sword Books, (isbn 978-1-84884-657-9) does much more than tell the story of No.1 Aerial Route, but extends this to the race to become the first aircraft to fly from England to Australia, in 1920; while starting its story with the Desert Revolt and the Allenby campaign. This successful campaign led to broken promises to the many Arabs who helped defeat the Ottomans, and who in turn revolted on finding the French and British had simply replaced the Ottomans in 1918. The no.1 RAF Aerial Route was in effect an emergency measure to help put down the Arab “revolts” (one mans revolt is another man’s independence struggle hence the use of “revolt”) by flying out bomber aircraft to Egypt. The bombers in question were Handley Page 0/400. The later race was won by a Vicker’s Vimy.

This book tells the story of the bravery of these pioneer pilots, and their fitters who flew with them, in flimsy if giant aircraft, against the elements of wind, cloud, snow, rain and sun; all of which did untold damage to many to the aircraft involved. It tells the ‘hidden’ story of High Command risking the lives of these same airmen by asking them to take off in aircraft whose lifespan was already much in doubt after work on western front; without thorough (or sometimes any meaningful) logistical support, or intermediate airfields between Paris and Egypt. Their deaths and the loss of equipment becoming another expendable commodity at a time of war, which was ‘smothered’ from public or press attention in order to preserve reputations or support for the fledgling RAF. It also tells how the early RAF was not seen as requiring a bomber command or bomber aircraft after WW1.

It is a well told story, leaning on autobiographical accounts, like diaries and letters, as well as official records that remain from this time. It gives us a clear image of these airmen, their ambitions, and the perils they faced creating Air Route no.1 (a disputed air route in terms of what others have presented in their histories of the RAF); with accompanying maps and photos of the men, their machines and the elements they faced.

I found my hardback copy in my local bookshop in the ‘remainder’ or ‘reduced’ price section, so it may be worth your while scouting out for similar. A very good read indeed. A very well researched history too.

CarlL
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