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BRITAIN DOES IT HER WAY                                              | Britain does it her way 2


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the mad mullah and the rise of mass bombing

At the end of the First World War Britain had the world's only independent air force and a fleet of 3,300 planes, which had played an almost negligible role in the outcome of the war. Now the entire military was to be reduced to peacetime levels and each branch had to prove its indispensability. The army and navy both agreed that the air force ought to be disbanded. Churchill was assigned the task of wielding the axe but the air force’s commander-in-chief, Hugh Trenchard, saw it differently: the Mad Mullah was to be his winning card.

Mohammed Abdille Hassan, called ‘The Mad Mullah’ by his enemies, had long been a thorn to the British administration in Somaliland. Countless punitive expeditions had failed to subdue him and the general staff wanted to mount a massive twelve months offensive against him. This would cost millions, would need new roads and railroads to be built and additional military bases to occupy the country.

Trenchard proposed to fix the mullah from the air, with twelve airplanes. Mohammed A. Hassan had never seen an airplane, much less a bomb. He did what he usually did when he had unexpected visitors: he dressed in his finest clothes and presented himself, surrounded by his most respected counselors, in front of his house under a white canopy that was used on ceremonial occasions. There he awaited the arrival of the foreign emissaries.

The first bomb almost put an end to the war. It killed Mohammed's counselors, and he himself had his clothes singed by the explosion. The next bombardment killed his sister and several of his immediate family members. Then for two days the British bombers attacked Mohammed and his family while they fled through the desert like hunted animals. Finally, they were forced to give up.

Total time required: a week instead of a year. Total cost: £77,000 - peanuts compared to what the army had asked for. Churchill was delighted. He persuaded the government to maintain the air force out of purely economic considerations. Then he offered the RAF six million pounds to take over control of the Iraq operation from the army, which had cost eighteen million thus far.

| Britain does it her way 2