Air Power And The Arab World 1909-1955 Volume 1: Military Flying Services in the Arab Countries, 1909-1918
Middle East @ War Series
Authors: Dr David Nicolle & Air Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr
Publisher: Helion & Company
The history of aviation is inundated with the stories of European and American achievements, but aircraft can be found in virtually every spot on the globe, and it has been that way since the beginning. Telling the aviation tales of these other lesser known regions seems to be a growing trend lately, and a welcome one. Helion & Company has taken it upon themselves to provide some excellent coverage of air power in the Middle East, and this latest title in their Middle East @ War series starts the reader off with the origins of aviation in that region.
While the title places the start at 1909, there is some fascinating history provided of Arab flight dating back to the 9th Century consisting of several inventors and scientists successfully creating gliding contraptions. While gliding seemed easy, landing eluded them and most ended up with serious injuries upon returning to earth. From those beginnings, the book moves the reader through the stages of aviation evolution to balloons in the 1700s and 1800s until finally coming upon successful fixed wing aircraft at the beginning of the 20th Century. As seen throughout Europe, aviation in 1909 was a spectacle, drawing crowds of people across North Africa to see these flimsy canvas and wood aircraft take to the skies for incredibly short times. The first flight ever in the Arab world took place in Cairo in 1909 by a Voisin flown by a Belgian, and it remained in the air for only three minutes. Aviation in the Arab world did not remain peaceful for long, marking a similar path to Europe. Using aircraft in war quickly showed up with the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, and of course World War I in 1914 brought aerial conflict to the region in a big way.
The depth of research put into this book is apparent, and it the written story is highly engaging. The written word alone would be worth the price of the book, but this title is further enriched by the photographs included. Understandably, these are nearly all black and white, but there are some color plates as well containing profile illustrations and period artwork that help highlight the colors of the aircraft, the region, and the people. The photos themselves tell incredible stories, and luckily the captions are highly informative. Such as one photo that shows a handful of men on horseback with birds on their heads next to a French biplane, captioned "Lt Maxime de Lafurgue in a 50 hp Henri Farman Type 1911 with some of the Qa'id (indigenous leader) of Ziban's falconers near Biska in February 1911." Many of the other photos are equally colorful and fascinating, making this book both a great read and a visual feast.
This is an excellent book on early aviation history, and one which anyone interested in aircraft should pick up. The origins of aviation in general is fascinating, and this title covering those origins in a region not known for aircraft usage makes it all the more valuable. I look forward to seeing the next volume in this series, as it is sure to be equally fascinating. My thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy.