Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pink's War

Pink's War was an air to ground bombardment and strafing carried out by the Royal Air Force, under the command of Wing Commander Richard Pink, against the mountain strongholds of Mahsud tribesmen in South Waziristan in March and April 1925.

In the 1920s, the British were engaged in a continuing effort to pacify militant tribesmen in the province. In July 1924 the British mounted operations against several of the Mahsud tribes in southern Waziristan but failed to subdue them. So Sir Edward Ellington, made the unprecedented decision to conduct air operations against the tribesmen without the support of the army.

Operational command for the campaign was given to Pink who established his headquarters at Tank, with 5 squadron of Bristol F2Bs. He flew to the forward base of Miramshah, home to 27 and 60 squadrons of DH9As, where he gave a briefing to all personnel to outline the forthcoming operations. This form of briefing was unique at the time and on its conclusion prompted a spontaneous and unprecedented round of applause. Operations began on 9 March 1925. Pink's plan had three elements: intensive air attacks on rebel villages; an aerial ‘blockade’ to prevent the rebels from entering safe havens; and night bombing to ensure there was little respite.

By the end of April 1925 the rebellious tribes agreed to terms at a meeting held at Jandola on 1 May. Only two British lives and one aircraft were lost during the campaign. Pink's War was the first air action of the RAF carried out independently of the Army or Navy.

The whole operation became known as ‘Pink's war’ after its highly regarded commander. During his many flights over the target areas Pink composed a piece of rhyme entitled ‘Waziristan, 1925’. The chorus ran:

Don't you worry there's nought to tell
'Cept work and fly and bomb like hell,
With hills above us and hills below
And rocks to fill where the hills won't go,
Nice soft sitting for those who crash
But war you call it?—don't talk trash!
War's a rumour, war's a yarn,
This is the peace of Waziristan.
(Bowyer, ‘Pink's war’, 20)

After the campaign was over, the India General Service Medal with the Waziristan 1925 bar was awarded to the 46 officers and 214 men of the Royal Air Force who took part in Pink's War. It was by far the rarest bar given with an India General Service Medal and was only awarded after the then Chief of the Air Staff Sir John Salmond succeeded in overturning the War Office decision not to grant a medal for the campaign. The campaign's commander, Wing Commander Pink, received speedy promotion to group captain "in recognition of his services in the field of Waziristan".For distinguished service during Pink's War, Squadron Leader Arthur John Capel was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to Flight Lieutenants John Baker and William Cumming, and Flying Officer Reginald Pyne, and the Distinguished Flying Medal was given to Sergeant Pilots George Campbell and Ralph Hawkins, Sergeant Arthur Rutherford, Corporal Reginald Robins, and Leading Aircraftman Alfred Walmsley. A further 14 men were mentioned in despatches, including Flying Officers Edward Dashwood and Noel Hayter-Hames, who both lost their lives in the campaign