Air Power and the Arab World, 1909-1955

Volume 5: World in Crisis, 1936-1941

David Nicolle, Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr

The years leading up to the Second World War and into its early years saw the Arab countries and their military forces buffeted by forces far beyond their control. Nevertheless, Arab countries which had some independence or autonomy attempted to strengthen their small air forces.
Date Published :
November 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Middle East@War
Illustration :
110 b/w photos, 24 color profiles, 1 map
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914377235
Pages : 104
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8.25 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


This seemingly idyllic and glamourous pre-war age of air travel within the British Empire would be rudely overturned by the outbreak of the Second World War. Even before this, however, Germany's Nazi government made considerable efforts to convince the Arab peoples and their governments – where such government existed beyond direct French and British control – that Germany had no territorial ambitions in the Middle East and North Africa.

After hostilities began the Nazis continued to proclaim that they and Italy would ensure Arab independence once they won the war, an unconvincing claim given Italy's recent behavior in Libya and in the Arab world's southern neighbor Ethiopia, then known as Abyssinia. Amongst the primary targets of Nazi and to a lesser extent Fascist propaganda was King Faruq of Egypt and those members of Egypt's armed forces who still believed that their King could bring true independence and dignity to Egypt. How far such propaganda succeeded remains a matter of intense debate.

From the outbreak of the Second World War until the close of 1940 the only Arab air forces which existed in anything more than name, those of Egypt and Iraq, contributed towards the Allied war effort. Once Italy entered the war in June 1940 the conflict entered Egyptian territory and, although the Egyptian government remained nominally neutral, the Royal Egyptian Air Force and Egyptian Army became directly involved, though largely "behind the lines".

The Royal Iraqi Air Force was also placed on alert but, being far from the zones of active operations, was not drawn into conflict. The Fall of France resulted in the French mandated territories of Syria and Lebanon passing into the control of the Vichy French government which, though officially neutral in the wider war, became increasingly collaborationist in its international affairs. Elsewhere the once all-powerful British Empire seemed to be reeling from defeat to defeat. Thus, by the end of 1940, the majority of people in the Arab World – including in British-dominated Egypt and Iraq – believed that Germany and Italy would win the war. This growing opinion was also present in the Arab militaries, including the REAF and RIrqAF. It would result in tensions, disaffection and even defections in Egypt during 1941. In Iraq it resulted in the First Anglo-Iraq War of May 1941, also known to the British as the Rashid Ali Rebellion. These events will form the core of Volume Six of Air Power and the Arab World.

About The Author

David Nicolle is a leading expert on the history of medieval warfare, in particular the Crusades and Middle Eastern warfare, and he is a prolific writer of books on these subjects as well as articles and magazine articles.

Among his many previous works are The Hundred Years War; The Mongol Warlords;Saladin and the Saracens; The Crusades; The Medieval Warfare Sourcebook; Hattin 1187 and Fighting for the Faith.

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 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 seven books and dozens of studies and articles on the history of air warfare in Egypt and abroad.

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