Air Power and the Arab World 1909-1955 Volume 5
World in Crisis, 1936-1941
Series : Middle East@War
Not yet published - in Autumn 2021 list
General - Pages : 104 | Images : 110 b/w photos, 24 colour profiles, 1 map
Paperback - Size : 297mm x 210mm | ISBN : 9781914377235 | Helion Book Code : HEL1405
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 behaviour in Libya and in the Arab world's southern neighbour 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.