Law and Order for Empire’s Outposts

Sunday Independent, 27 February 1921

In the aftermath of the First World War, Britain’s government sought to increase its authority across the British Empire. One area of particular concern was Egypt: Britain had proclaimed the country as a British Protectorate during the war, sparking a revolt in 1919. By 1921 many in Britain, including the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill, feared that events in Ireland were fuelling calls for Egyptian independence. The Sunday Independent reported Churchill’s plans to increase military patrols in Egypt and similar outposts to quell insurrections; the accompanying cartoon suggested parallels between British attitudes towards the peoples of Egypt and Ireland.

Law and Order for Empire’s Outposts

Serious consideration is now being given, the ‘Star’ learns, to the possibility of substituting aeroplane squadrons for military garrisons in some of the frontier and outpost stations of the Empire.

It is proposed that this policy should be inaugurated in the East, and upon the results of the experimental effort will doubtless depend on the extension of the scheme.

With a view to the further discussion of the project on the spot … Air Ministry authorities, accompanying Mr Winston Churchill (whose dual office will probably make for his favouring the scheme) are to proceed on a tour of Egypt and Mesopotamia. These regions will, in due course, be garrisoned from the air, with considerable advantage to the taxpayers’ pocket. The maintenance of the necessary squadrons would be much less costly than that of the large army now thought to be necessary. … 

To Quell Insurrections

The efficacy of air power in dealing with insurrectionaries and bandit tribes had already been fully demonstrated. Aircraft, by reason of their speed, are able to quell a disturbance often in its initial stages, and periodical reconnaissances [sic] would reveal any signs of potential insurrection. These could be dealt with at once without a costly campaign, and without the infliction of heavy losses on the bandits.

Again, in those parts of the Empire where efficient policing by the army is a thing of the utmost difficulty, tribal warfare would be practically eliminated. The congregating of a tribe for an attack on a neighbour could be observed in its initial stages from the air, and it could be stopped before it went further. The main opposition would probably come from the War Office, where economy does not seem to be a permanent consideration.