Wings Over the Desert: In Action with an RFC Pilot in Palestine 1916-18
Desmond Seward

Wings Over the Desert: In Action with an RFC Pilot in Palestine 1916-18

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.

Book Details:

  • Author: Desmond Seward
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Haynes 2009

Desmond Seward

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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Book Reviews

  • "This is a gripping account of a neglected war in the air, illustrated by photographs and drawings from over 90 years ago that have only just come to light."
    Military Illustrated
  • "What are the odds against this happening? A book appears in 2009, with the amazing and previously untold personal story of a WWI aviator, with 100 superb photos, most of which appear to be from the author's private collection and (so I assume) previously unpublished. Well, it's happened, and it's an excellent book.This is the story of the RFC's No. 14 Squadron in the Palestine Campaign and the role played by the author's father W E L Seward, who seems to have flown every kind of aeroplane in service with the allies in the Middle East, who spent three years flying with the Squadron and survived six major crashes. The broader history of the EEF and the Palestine Campaign has been assimilated and deftly retold by Seward. He tells us about the strengths and weaknesses of the various aircraft; the pilots' moments of exhilaration and of terror; the extraordinary bond that developed between British and German aviators, who, when not trying to kill one another, waved to each other, drank to the health of their enemy, and wined and dined their prisoners. The personal story of the author's father – clearly an extraordinary man – is expertly blended into the whole to give us a very satisfying book.Desmond Seward has written a dozen or more books of history, and I can't help but think he savoured his father's story in private for years, saving it up to cap an already distinguished writing career. The book has been beautifully produced by Haynes Publishing."
    Great War Forum
  • "...vividly captures the daredevil attitude to aerial combat,.. a movingly honest portrait of a father by his son, Wings Over the Desert is an admirable complement to Ford’s comprehensive history of an almost ­forgotten war, bringing to life what it was really like to be one of the participants"
    Tablet
  • "...a splendid new book I’m reading called Wings over the Desert (Haynes Publishing), based on the letters and photographs of William Eric Louis Seward, a Royal Flying Corps pilot who flew ridiculously dangerous missions in Palestine during the Great War. It’s by his son, my friend the historian Desmond Seward, and I can’t recommend it too highly; apart from anything else, it contains rare photographs of aircraft published for the first time.... plenty of serious analysis of the role of the RFC alongside a portrait of his dashing, cosmopolitan and eccentric father."
    Damian Thompson, Telegraph