History of the Rhodesian Air Force – Beryl Salt

SALT, Beryl. A Pride of Eagles – The History of the Rhodesian Air Force (1920 – 1980). Helion & Company, 2012. 856 p.

The book is devoted to the history of the Rhodesian Air Force (now Zimbabwe) since the first budget discussions and the creation of an Air Section in November 1935 at the 1st Battalion Rhodesia Regiment until the arrival of Robert Mugabe, in 1980, and the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe. If certain elements of civil aviation are pointed out, it is advisable to focus more on the following work: PHILLIPS, N.V. (Squadron Leader). Bush Horizons, the Story of Aviation in Southern Rhodesia (1896 – 1940). Harare: Air Force Association, 1998. 194 pp. Unfortunately very difficult to obtain. The book is mainly devoted to the post – 1945 period, which concerns two – thirds of the content and more particularly the Rhodesian Bush War. I would not go over it, even though I strongly recommend reading it to people interested in the history of military aviation in Africa. The book contains many details, various anecdotes, and testimonies. It must, however, be completed by the following two books to provide a completed framework on the Rhodesian Bush War: GELDENHUYS, Preller. Rhodesian Air Force Operations: Air Strike, Peysoft Publishing, 2016 and PETTER-BOWYER, P.J.H. Winds of Destruction. 30 Degrees South.

To return to the period which interests me more, the author deals with the three Squadrons linked to Rhodesia, in this case No.44, 237 and 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, although in practice only the second can actually be Considered as Rhodesians. No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron was created in April 1940 on the basis of the No.1 Squadron Southern Rhodesian Air Force, as the colony did not have the means to manage the air unit in a war context. The Squadron, then, was based in Kenya since June 1939 as part of the defense agreements of the British Empire. The unit is equipped with a collection of Hawker Hart and Audax biplanes to work with ground troops. The history of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron is devoted to a series of chapters, three of which are specific to operations in East Africa. The first in the field concerns deployment in Kenya and transformation into a Squadron linked to the RAF. The first (first loss in the desert) depicts the first flights along the Kenya – Ethiopia – Somalia border following Italy’s entry into the war. Finally, the third issue (The East African Campaign: June 1940 – November 1941) has little to say about its contents and is essentially concerned with the Sudanese deployment beginning in September 1940. The contents are clearly lacking details (about 15 – 20 pages) to really grasp the participation of the unit. It is true that operating mainly in collaboration with the ground troops, the majority of its missions are relatively discreet and often repetitive, which prevents them from being able to render the reading attractive. However, the author brings a certain amount of information that is totally absent from the other publications relating to East Africa, its aerial role often leading to the forgetting of it. The presence of extracted numbers from the Squadron ORB also proves work based on primary sources. In addition, there are many testimonies from Pilot Officer Eric Smith, including excerpts from his logbook, which makes reading quite lively. Other excerpts are from the Rhodesian Herald and some other documents from former members. We also note more maps to locate geographically the places, as well as some photographs.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (shop United-Kingdom).


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