1920 conflict between British forces and Somaliland dervishes


1920 conflict between British forces and Somaliland dervishes

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=British campaign against the Somaliland dervishes
partof=Somaliland Campaign


caption=
date=January to February 1920
place=British Somaliland
territory=
result=British victory
status=
combatant1=British Armed Forces
combatant2=Somaliland dervishes
combatant3=
commander1=Group Captain Robert Gordon
commander2=Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan
commander3=
strength1=12 aircraft,
local gendarmerie,
1 battalion (KAR)
strength2=
strength3=
casualties1=
casualties2=
casualties3=
notes=

The 1920 conflict between British forces and Somaliland dervishes was the fifth and final British expedition against the dervish forces of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (often called the "Mad Mullah" in English). The majority of this conflict took place during January 1920. However, the British began preparations to launch this expedition in November 1919. The British forces included elements of the Royal Air Force and the Somaliland Camel Corps. The conflict only lasted three weeks after which time Hassan and his followers were defeated.cite book |title=From Biplane to Spitfire |last=Baker |first=Anne |authorlink=Anne Baker |year=2003 |publisher=Pen And Sword Books |isbn=0 85052 980 8 |pages=161-162]

Background

Following the end of World War I, the British once again turned their attention to the ongoing violence in British Somaliland. The British had previously been defeated at the Battle of Dul Madoba in 1913 and four subsequent expeditions to defeat Hassan and his forces had failed.

By early 1919, despite the British having built large stone forts to guard the passes to the hills, Hassan and his armed bands were at large, robbing and killing.

British plans

In 1919 the lawlessness was causing considerable concern to the British Government and Lord Milner, the Colonial Secretary, considered sending a military expedition to British Somaliland. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson, advised Milner that at least two divisions would be required and this was likely to cost several million pounds. Such a cost was seen as being prohibitively expensive in the conditions of post-war austerity.

Lord Milner then turned to the newly formed RAF, asking the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard, if he could suggest a solution. Trenchard who at that time was most eager to ensure that the air force remained as a separate service, immediately proposed that the RAF should take responsibility for the whole operation. Milner argued that some ground troops would be needed and Trenchard replied that the local colonial forces which were already in Somaliland would be sufficient. [cite book |last=Boyle |first=Andrew |authorlink=Andrew Boyle |title=Trenchard Man of Vision |origyear=1962 |publisher=Collins |location= St. James's Place London |pages=366 to 367|chapter=Chapter 13]

A meeting was arranged to discuss the coming campaign. In attendance were: Winston Churchill who was Secretary of State for War and Air, Leo Amery the Colonial Under-Secretary who deputized for Milner, Sir Henry Wilson and Sir Hugh Trenchard. Wilson was strongly opposed to a campaign being conducted by the Colonial Office and the Air Ministry which would draw upon the War Office's soldiers. However, when Amery and Trenchard stated that under no circumstances would they request troops, Wilson withdrew his objection and consented to the RAF taking the lead.

Order of battle

By the January 1920, the following British forces were assembled:cite book |title=Air Publication 3003 - A Brief History of the Royal Air Force |editor=Finn, C. J. |year=2004 |publisher=HMSO |pages=63 | chapter = Chapter 2 | chapterurl = http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/F21C6257_ABD1_7132_E8716B8C2DA98948.pdf]

*"Z Force" ('"Z" Unit' in some sources) [LondonGazette|issue=32107|supp=yes|startpage=10589|date=29 October 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15] provided by the RAF in Egypt. The force consisted of:cite web | last =Dean | first =David J. | title =Air Power in Small Wars - the British air control experience | work =Air University Review | publisher =Air University | date =July-August 1983 | url =http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1983/jul-aug/dean.html | accessdate =2008-01-13 ]
**12 de Havilland DH9 aircraft. The aircraft were shipped to Somaliland on the Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS "Ark Royal"cite web |url=http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/ro-7.htm |title=RO-7 Ark Royal |accessdate=2008-01-13 |date=2005-04-27 |work=GlobalSecurity.org Web Site |publisher=GlobalSecurity.org] and were used for bombing and as air ambulances.
**A vehicle fleet consisting of ten Ford trucks, two Ford ambulances, six trailers, two motorcycles and two Crossley light trucks.
**36 officers and 183 men, including the Z Force commander, Group Captain Robert Gordon.cite web | last =Barrass | first =Malcolm| title =Air Commodore R Gordon | work =Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation | date =2007-09-29 | url =http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Gordon_R.htm | accessdate = 2008-01-13]
*The Somaliland Camel Corps which was permanently based in the field as the local gendarmerie regiment.
*One battalion of the King's African Rifles.

Actions

By 1 January 1920 the Z Force had constructed a temporary aerodrome at Berbera from where they operated. On 21 January RAF aircraft bombed Hassan's main base at Medistie and his fort at Jideli. Many members of Hassan's forces had never seen an aircraft before and were terrified by the aerial bombardment to the extent that they fled into the hills. It was also during that first bombardment that Hassan came close to being killed, narrowly avoiding death when an unfortunate camel shielded him from a nearby bomb blast. After the next five days had passed the Z Force had destroyed three Dervish forts; they then provided air support and communications for the ground forces.cite web |url= http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/milestones-of-flight/british_military/1920.html |title=British Military Aviation in 1920 |accessdate=2008-01-13 |work= RAF Museum Web Site] This battle established the tactics of aerial bombardment followed by attacks by ground forces, and of using aircraft to provide support for ground troops during concurrent attacks. These tactics are among the primary methods of wartime operations to this day.

On 28 January the Camel Corps occupied Jideli and Hassan retreated to his main fort at Taleh. After combined land and air operations, the British took Taleh on 9 February. Hassan's forces suffered great losses and were scattered, his forts were damaged and he escaped with only four of his followers to Ogaden.

ubsequent events

Although in the following months Hassan did regain some power in Ogaden he was never a force in British Somaliland again. He died of natural causes in December 1920. Somaliland went on to enjoy 20 years of stability.

In Great Britain, where the "Mad Mullah" had long been a source of irritation, news of the swift victory was well-received in Parliament and the country. The cost of the 1920 operation was put at £77,000 and Amery described it as "the cheapest war in history". Trenchard and the newly established RAF were greatly encouraged by the outcome.

The following year in March 1921, Winston Churchill, who was by then Colonial Secretary, along with the three service chiefs decided that all British forces in Iraq would be put under control of the RAF. The intention was to apply the model of imperial air control which had worked in Somaliland to a much larger region which was similarly troubled.

References

External links

* Official despatches and other reports covering the military actions:
**LondonGazette|issue=31931|supp=yes|startpage=6317|date=4 June 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15 King's Birthday Honours 1920, including CMG for the Governor of Somaliland, Geoffrey Francis Archer
**LondonGazette|issue=31974|supp=yes|startpage=7421|endpage=7426|date=9 July 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15 Promotions, decorations and mentions in despatches for actions in Somaliland and elsewhere
**LondonGazette|issue=32107|startpage=10589|endpage=10598|date=29 October 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15 despatch by Geoffrey Francis Archer, Governor and Commander-in-chief, Somaliland Protectorate
**LondonGazette|issue=32116|startpage=10829|endpage=10832|date=5 November 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15 despatch by Group Captain Robert Gordon, covering air operations.
**LondonGazette|issue=32142|supp=yes|startpage=11777|endpage=11778|date=26 November 1920|accessdate=2008-01-15 Promotions, decorations and mentions in despatches for actions in Somaliland
* [http://www.chakoten.dk/mad_mullah.html Chakoten - The Danish Military Historical Society - The Anglo-Somali War 1901-1920] en and da icon


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