WWII: Desert Air War

World War II fascinates many folks as it probably was the last war where there was some justification for so many lives lost, so many civilians killed, and so much destruction in a cause that united a world against total aggression.
Unique among WWII books is the “Desert Air War” by Richard Townshend Bickers. Most war books are a droll recounting of battles in the air, sea and land without any sort of relevance of background. Bickers gives us, at least from a British point of view, a brief history of the Middle East from ancient times to the WWII era. This is important for many reasons as history is not a blank slate, but rather a series of events that affects the future in ways that shape how we understand and digest key moments.
Some background should always be the focus of any author, however brief and tidy. Today it is hard to understand and get perspective on what our ancestors lived through. The one thing we must note is how easy it is to advance warfare technology but even harder to actually bring about social justice.
One anecdote that Bickers cites concerns the background of the air commodore chosen to head British operations in Egypt.
Raymond “Collishaw, a burly and rumbustious extrovert, was not without his idiosyncrasies. As a young squadron commander in Flanders during the First World War he had delighted in a ruinous game played when dining in another squadron’s mess: swinging on the cross beams of the wooden hut and collapsing the roof. In 1917 he had survived a mishap that would have been fatal ninety-nine times out of a hundred. In combat at 16,000ft with three German Albatros fighters, he had made a manoeuvre so violent that his safety strap broke and he fell out of the cockpit of his Sopwith Triplane. He grabbed the two centre struts and hung, with his legs trailing in the slipstream, as the “Tripe” dived with full power until it suddenly nosed up, stalled and began to spin. Managing to get one leg into the cockpit, he hooked the stick back with his foot and, as the aircraft began a sudden climb, he fell back into his seat.”