Few people know of the long battle in the sky fought over the Sinai Desert and the Judaean Hills in 1916-18 by the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps and those of Turkey's German allies. The campaign against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine culminated at Megiddo in autumn 1918 when General Allenby wiped out three Turkish armies, killing or capturing three quarters of their troops. The most complete victory of the First World War on any front, if on less massive a scale than the Flanders campaign, in some ways it was more dramatic, with its use of large numbers of cavalry and the contribution made by Lawrence of Arabia - the best known aspect. But almost nothing has been written about the crucial role of the RFC.
This book is based on the experiences of the author's father, a pilot with No 14 Squadron. Flying over Palestine was often very different from flying over the Western Front: half one's petrol might evaporate in the scorching heat while a forced landing in the desert could mean torture by Bedouin or an agonising death from thirst. Some things were the same: attacks out of the sun by enemy aircraft and dogfights when being shot down ended more often than not in incineration - there were no parachutes. Yet there were glorious moments of a sort unknown in France, such as flying in support of a cavalry charge.
Here is a gripping account of a neglected war in the air - illustrated by photographs and drawings from over ninety years ago that have only just come to light.
Desmond Seward was born in Paris and educated at Ampleforth and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. He is the author of many books including The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders, The Hundred Years War, The Wars of the Roses, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry V as Warlord, Josephus, Masada and the Fall of Judaea (da Capo, US, April 2009), Wings over the Desert: in action with an RFC pilot in Palestine 1916-18 (Haynes Military, July 2009) and Old Puglia: A Portrait of South Eastern Italy (Haus August 2009). Forthcoming is The Last White Rose: the Spectre at the Tudor Court 1485-1547 (C...
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