THE INTER-WAR YEARS 1919-39 in British SOMALILAND
Somalilandsun – The first campaign to explore the possibility of exploiting air power’s reach and power in this manner took place in British Somaliland in the Horn of Africa. A Muslim cleric Mohammed bin Abdullah, colloquially, if inaccurately known as “The Mad Mullah”, had proved a thorn in the flesh of the colonial administration for many years and had frustrated repeated attempts to bring law and order to the area.
In 1920 his activities had reached such a pitch that the Colonial Office again wished to take military action against him and his large band of armed followers.
The British Army estimated that this would require a full scale expeditionary force involving 2 or 3 divisions of troops and attendant bag and baggage at a cost of several million pounds. Trenchard, however, offered to do the job using one squadron of de Havilland DH9s, in collaboration with the local gendarmerie regiment, the Somaliland Camel Corps and a battalion of the King’s African Rifles. His offer was accepted and the Squadron of 12 aircraft, to be known as “Z Force” was shipped to the area.
In a matter of weeks, operating in conjunction with the Camel Corps, Z Force successfully bombed and harried the Mullah’s forces, driving them from their traditional stone forts. The entire campaign cost in the region of £100,000, and it was said afterwards to be the “cheapest war in history”. The political effects for the RAF were out of all proportion to the local impact in Somaliland. The RAF had demonstrated its ability to undertake effective police actions
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