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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds EMMETT SULLIVAN: Now moving on from the RAF’S involvement in Malay we come to Kenya, which is the next major conflict that the RAF has to deal with overseas. And Ross, how did the RAF become involved in the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya between 1953 and 1955?

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds ROSS MAHONEY: Well of course, the Mau Mau Rebellion breaks out in ‘52, filters on to about ‘60, but sort of ends in ‘56, is really when the rebellion ends. The RAF become involved because just like in Malaya there is a need to support the troops on the ground. So it’s performing many of the similar roles that it’s doing in the Malayan campaign– troop transport, air mobility, close air support roles in attack , that sort of thing. The major problem in Kenya is actually a lack of resources. And linked to that is the challenge of RAF Eastleigh, the key airbase in East Africa, which is quite high elevation and has quite a short runaway. There are a few challenges ongoing.

Skip to 1 minute and 7 seconds I mean, indeed actually the RAF in Kenya end up using Harvard trainers equipped with small capacity bombs in the strike role. But eventually we do see the deployment of some Lincoln bombers, which is the one behind us from Bomber Command, and also Vampires deployed from Aden to support the ongoing campaign against the Mau Mau rebellion.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds EMMETT SULLIVAN: OK, now you mentioned RAF Eastleigh in a different context. Maintaining civilian links to the Empire, the former Empire, was the background of some of the British government decisions. So we see the VC10 being designed as a passenger aircraft and being able to land at what was RAF Eastleigh and became, I think it’s Moi in the long run. But that’s a broader sort of post-imperial consideration.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds ROSS MAHONEY: Yeah, of course, one of the elements of the design of VC10 is yeah, its ability to get into difficult airport stations around the Empire. And of course, Eastleigh is a key example of that.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds EMMETT SULLIVAN: Now getting back to the ‘53 to ‘55 period, what role did the RAF play?

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds ROSS MAHONEY: As I mentioned, air mobility is a key area. We are using Lincoln bombers to bomb Mau Mau positions. So as we talked about with Malaya, it’s very much those same sort of roles, just in a much smaller scale.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds EMMETT SULLIVAN: OK Ross, thank you for that one. So we have another example of the RAF helping to support parts of the Empire as they transfer from imperial control to democracy, and to a lesser degree, dealing with some of the geopolitics of communist insurgency that we do see elsewhere in the world during this period. Thank you, let’s move on from here.


The Mau Mau conflict

In this video we consider the following questions and comments:

  1. How did the RAF become involved in the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya 1953-55?

  2. What role did the RAF play during the conflict?

  3. The elevation of RAF Eastleigh (now Moi) presented the RAF with some technical issues - and in the longer term influences the development of the VC-10.

Please raise your own issues in the comments which follow.

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This video is from the free online course:

From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War

Royal Holloway, University of London