Air Power and the ARAB WORLD, 1909-1955. Volume 8, The Revival in Egypt and Iraq, 1943-1945

Published on
September 16, 2023
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Dr. David Nicolle & Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr
Other Publication Information
12” x 8 ¼”, Softcover, 68 pages, 2Maps, 21 Color Aircraft Profiles Drawings, 74 Black and White Photos, Table of Contents, Authors’ Background Notes, Bibliography, List of Reference Sources.
Product / Stock #
Air Power and the Arab WorldVol. 8
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

Historical Background

This book is a part of a series of detailed historical studies of the development of military aviation in the Arab World starting with the era of European colonization in the Middle Thirties, the events leading up to the outbreak of World War II, the conflict itself, and the decline of colonization after the end of the war. The major colonial power was, of course, Great Britain, with France, Spain, and Italy playing minor roles in the story. Of course, Germany attempted to establish control in North Africa during this period, but they, along with the Italians, were removed by the end of World War II. One other factor that many people are unaware of is the presence of small groups of various European nationalities living in Arabic countries, although their influence on events was usually negligible. There were, however, tribal groups in some of the countries who were fighting against their established governments, usually attempting to set up independent governments, usually based on religious differences. Some of the Arabic countries used their air forces during the thirties to curtail the activities of the rebellious tribal groups.

The Arabic countries involved in this story include Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Tunis, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Only a few of them developed up-to-date air forces after the end of the war, and countries in the eastern part of the region were soon challenged by the emergence of the Israeli Air Force, which quickly developed into a first rate organization.

The text of the historical coverage of the book deals primarily with the Egyptian and Iraqi air forces, both of which had their origins with the British Royal Air Force. Both of these countries had rather backward economic systems, and they were dependent upon the Royal Air Force for aircraft and technical expertise. The RAF did accept some of the Arab airmen in their training schools, but the way their social systems worked, even if they turned out competent pilots and ground crewmen, they were not always used efficiently, with social standing in their class structures being at least as important as technological competence.

The authors seem to concentrate, to a certain extent, on the careers of specific officers, showing how their loyalty to certain political factions within their societies affected their military careers. Another interesting factor was the lack of participation of women in Islamic societies, with very few women serving in the armed forces. The book includes quite a few pictures of women, but mainly as wives of higher officers. Only one photo shows a woman in a group of Egyptian staff officers taking an RAF training course.

Book Features

The book includes fairly detailed coverage of the military activities of the two air forces, with accounts of their participation in action against German and Italian forces. Of course, the British were pretty much in control of the military activities, and only a few Egyptian and Iraqi air force units participated in actual combat against the enemy. In fact, there was some support in the military forces of both countries for the Germans and Italians against the British, although this rarely broke out into overt military activity against the Allies.

Another factor that affected the outcome of many actions is the reluctance of the British to provide first line combat aircraft to Arabic countries. Long after the RAF were using Spitfires and Hurricanes, the Arabs were still using Gloster Gladiators and variants of the Hawker Hart family. Maintenance and parts were also a problem, and even when the Egyptians, for example, were given early examples of the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk, these had been overhauled by the REAF with parts that ensured unreliability, so the types was rarely used in combat.

From a modeler’s standpoint, probably the outstanding feature of this book is the information provided on the aircraft used in this theater of operations. Actual photos of these aircraft seem to be pretty rare, and those available are included in the book. Also, a series of 21 color profile drawings includes of all the major types used by the Egyptians and Iraqis. Quite a few have RAF camouflage with local air force markings, but there is enough information there for a serious modeler to construct and paint a model of any of these aircraft. I know that I will find that portion of the book very useful.

One picture I found fascinating was the photo and coverage of an Egyptian Avro 626 biplane used in 1944 in Egypt to dust DDT over southern Egypt to combat an outbreak of Malaria in that region. The photo is good enough to use as a basis for a model. Now, it there any kit available of the Avro 626? I wonder if a Hawker Audax or Hart kit would be a good starting point. Hmmmmm.


Like the volumes preceding this one, this book makes very interesting reading, and provides detail that is not available in any other book I have seen on the subject. As far as history goes, it provides a fascinating narrative on what went on in the Middle East during those years. For modelers, it outlines the basic types of aircraft used, and the problems encountered by the users in keeping them operational. There is certainly enough information in this series to warrant obtaining copies for modeling references. Pick up one of these if you get a chance. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Bill O’Malley and Phil Peterson for the review copy.


Add new comment

All comments are moderated to prevent spam

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.