by James Patrick Hynes
Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Air Force is the story of George Hynes, an aircraft mechanic attached to X Flight in Aqaba. The dry and terse accounts in the official War Diaries were carefully written in difficult conditions and it is regrettable that the same care was not applied to the transcriptions used for this book. I noticed several errors. Captain Furness-Williams was not in the Turkish garrison of Ma’an on 4 March 1918; he was at Aqaba. Captain Siddons wrote his report for the week-ending 10 March in 1918, not 1928. The description of the Ma’an landscape is unrecognisable to anyone who has actually been there. And so on.
However, the errors have to be endured for the comprehensive and detailed first-hand accounts written by George Hynes. These give an astonishingly detailed view of what life was really like, not just the hardships of desert warfare, but also the lighter moments that made life bearable. One such account is of the Commanding Officer flying from Aqaba to Suez and back on Christmas Day in 1917 with crates of beer strapped to the bomb-racks of his machine for the men and bottles of whisky for the officers.
HynesPen & Sword, (£15.99)