Let mo refer first of all to the overseas work. During the past year we have maintained eight squadrons of the Air Force in Iraq. They are the central element of the British garrison in that mandated territory. Their presence has enabled us to reduce the number of ground troops in the garrison. In the past nine months that reduction has been from nine to four battalions, and we hope still further to reduce it in the coming year. The work of the Air Force in Iraq has often been discussed in this House. The duty of pacifying that territory and of creating stable civilisation there has been imposed upon us. Pleasant or unpleasant, we have to undertake that
work. I ought to read to the House an extract from, a very recent despatch from the High Commissioner in Iraq to the Colonial Office. He says:
During this period the main factor in the pacification of the country has been the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I understand that the hon. Gentleman' is reading an extract from a despatch. Is he prepared to lay the despatch upon the Table?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman. I wish to save him from an embarrassment, of which I think he is unaware.
§ Mr. LEACH
My desire was to quote the Commissioner's story of the good work done by the Air Force in Iraq in substantiation of my argument. The officers of this force in Iraq are people of kindliness and good will, and they are entrusted with an exceedingly difficult duty. I want the House to believe that they are not engaged in shedding the blood of defenceless natives, nor are they recklessly using the air weapon for the purpose of terrorisation. Perhaps one day it may be possible, with the foundation stone which they are laying, to produce a finished structure of which we shall have no need to be ashamed. The Iraq Air Force has other uses. On one occasion it conveyed medical relief by air to the scene of a serious railway accident. On another occasion it carried some 200 fever patients nearly 200 miles to the nearest hospital. That was from Kurdistan to Baghdad. The only alternative was by mules and donkeys over mountain paths, which meant inevitable death to large numbers of these patients. The House will therefore see that the civil administration of Iraq is immensely convenienced by these transport facilities. In the mandated territories of Palestine and Trans-Jordania, the air organisation continues to be a factor making for peace and good civil administration. The necessity for an offensive has only once arisen, and the revolt on that occasion was subdued inside 24 hours with armoured cars and 2179 one aeroplane. In Trans-Jordania we have only one flight of aeroplanes and one section of armoured cars.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Has the hon. Gentleman left Iraq, because, if so, I am sorry that he did not say anything in detail about the alleged tax gathering operation?
§ Mr. LEACH
In Palestine we have one squadron of aeroplanes which has enabled us to effect a reduction of the ground forces there also. One infantry battalion and one armoured car company only have been necessary there during the year. In Palestine now we have only one squadron of aeroplanes, one armoured car and one cavalry regiment. At Aden we have one flight of aeroplanes. Depredations by two tribes on the Hinterland trade routes were dealt with on one occasion about a year ago. Two machines sufficed to solve this difficulty, and both tribes surrendered on the following day. In Egypt and Somaliland things have been peaceful, and in India we have six squadrons. Last year my predecessor spoke of the deficiencies in the equipment there. These are being made good, and the efficiency of the squadrons has made a very marked advance during the current year. The Peace Treaty with Turkey has enabled us to remove four squadrons from Constantinople; three of these have been brought home and one has been sent to Egypt.