On 17 February 2017, Dr Anne Samson will explore the use of air power during the African campaign of the First World War.

Voisin LAS of No. 8 Squadron RNAS in East Africa. (Source: (c) RAF Museum)


When one thinks of the campaigns in Africa, one thinks of the long slog through the desert in South West, or the horrors of water, mud and jungle in East Africa where wild animals were just as much of a threat as the German enemy. Few realise that there were at least two flight contingents which served in East Africa, one of which evolved and developed from service in South West Africa. Flying in Africa carried with it the same challenges those who served on the Western Front faced, but also, the impact of altitude, environment and lack of supplies provided their complexities which had to be overcome. The result was that by 1922 the first longitudinal cross-continental flight was able to take place.

The most comprehensive work on flight in Africa during World War 1 to date has been undertaken by Peter Dye and published in Cross and Cockade. Using this material and other sources, including War Diaries and memoirs, this lecture examines the role of flight in the conduct of the campaigns mainly in South West and East Africa. This will include the decisions to use planes in the two theatres, an overview of the formation of No. 26 (South African) Squadron and what they did as well as the involvement of the Royal Naval Air Service in theatre. Air power was used for searching and spotting, reconnaissance for military planning, dropping bombs and propaganda leaflets as well as transport. Air photography developed during this time through the work of Cherry Kearton initially but later through the work of the RNAS base on Zanzibar. The lecture will also discuss how flight was managed and the impact it had will be explored, including how it is portrayed in the memory of the campaign.


This lecture will be held in the RAF Museum lecture theatre at 12:30PM on Friday 17 February 2017.


This lecture is free of charge however we do ask that you pre-book a free ticket as seats are limited. Booking is quick and easy, we just need some basic contact information.



Dr Anne Samson is Co-ordinator of the Great War in Africa Association (www.gweaa.com) and an independent historian of World War 1 in Africa. She has two books published on the subject: Britain, South Africa and the East Africa Campaign 1914-1918: The Union Comes of Age (I.B. Tauris, 2006) and World War 1 in Africa: The Forgotten Conflict of the European Powers (I.B. Tauris, 2013). She has also published widely on the campaigns. For further detail see her website: www.thesamsonsedhistorian.wordpress.com. When not working on history, Anne runs a publishing company and does voluntary education work in East Africa.


The First World War in the Air Lunchtime Lectures, funded by the HLF, forms part of our Research Programme for 2017. This programme also consists of the Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies, the Cold War Lunchtime Lectures and other events such as conferences.

For more details about the RAF Museum’s research programme, please email me at ross.mahoney@rafmuseum.org

BAE Systems and the Heritage Lottery Fund support our First World War in the Air programme of events.


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