by Grp. Capt. F.R. Wynne. 96 pp. 7 1/2 in.x 5 in. (Peter Skelton Ltd., 44. Old Bond Street, London, W.1. 15s.)
This little book is a delightful account of flying With the R.A.F. in the Middle East immediately after the Armistice of 1918. It is one of those rare books dealing with flying in this early-post-1918 period, which the author describes delightfully, making the whole thing sound like high adventure, which it was, and including sufficient detail, which is all too often lacking, for the imaginative reader to capture the atmosphere of those distant days and circumstances.
We meet the rotary-engined Avro 504 and particularly the D.H. 9A, against the background of the primitive aerodromes of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. The author flew first with No 111 and No. 84 Squadrons, and his descriptions of those days in the early ‘twenties are essential reading for all who enjoy this period of aviation. But “When the Middle East Was Fun” is more than a book of flying reminiscences, because Grp. Capt. Wynne took part in the reconnaissance of the Syrian Desert for a possible railway line and landing grounds for the air route to the Far East.
This account of this hazardous survey, using Model-T Fords, is extremely interesting. Those grossly overladen Fords showed up very well in comparison with three Rolls-Royce armoured cars and six Crossley tenders which later joined them. The latter developed punctures in their twin rear wheels and many mechanical failures, of which only one trouble, a collapsed steering box on one of the Rolls-Royces, is named specifically. But the Fords were easier to manhandle in the sand and, apart from one back axle having to be changed, and frequent tyre trouble, performed very creditably. There was an attack by Arabs and other incidents in this first crossing by car from Amman to Baghdad and back to Amman; the year was 1921, and an R.A.F. model P. & M. motorcycle accompanied the expedition.
The early mail service maintained by No. 30 Squadron between Baghdad and Cairo, flying Liberty-engined D.H. 9As with spare wheels bolted beneath the fuselages and suitcases strapped to the wing, and 40 gallons of petrol in 4-gallon tins lashed to the bomb-racks, occupies an absorbing Chapter 9, and the description of how a Rolls-Royce Eagle engine was changed on a Vickers Vimy in mid-desert, using Crossley tenders and much ingenuity, is both interesting and enjoyable.