Airway to the East 1918-1920, has been written and compiled using photographs and a diary, discovered by Clive Semple, in his father’s attic after his death in 1971. Once he retired in 1996, he set to work researching the background to his father’s collection. The diary and two of the albums were the basis of Clive’s first book, Diary of a Night Bomber Pilot in WW1 which was published in 2008.
The third album and, most importantly the scrap book, provided the starting point for research into a sorry tale of RAF mismanagement which is revealed in this book. The Balfour Declaration in 1917, promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine. This contradicted a previous promise which Britain had made to the Arabs guaranteeing them independence if they helped drive the Turks out of Palestine and Syria. The Turks were duly driven out. When the Arabs discovered that they had been swindled they revolted and the British Army was unable to contain the unrest. It was decided to reinforce the Army with a fleet of bombers and fifty-one set off from England and France to fly to Cairo in the summer of 1919. Seventeen crashed or were otherwise destroyed en route and eight airmen were killed. The story got into the newspapers and Parliament demanded a Court of Enquiry. The evidence of mismanagement looked so bad, that before the enquiry began, Hugh Trenchard, Chief of the Air Staff, decided to hold it behind closed doors at the Air Ministry. The enquiries findings were suppressed by the Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill and the newspapers never followed up the story. Fortunately the enquiry proceedings were filed away at the Air Ministry and it was a newspaper cutting which Clive found in his father’s scrap book dealing with the row in Parliament, that led him to search through the Air Ministry files and uncover this account.
Most histories of the RAF are written by retired senior RAF officers who have all avoided including this event in their written works.
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