The RAF drops incendiary bombs on North West Frontier villages
9 October 1919
On 9 October 1919, sixteen RAF aircraft dropped incendiary bombs on several villages near Wana in Waziristan on India’s North West Frontier. The intent was to punish the entire population, as it was suspected that some of them had participated in armed resistance against British incursions into their territory. An unforgivable crime. A secret RAF report on the operation noted that ‘the fact that the aeroplanes used incendiary bombs created a considerable sensation among the tribesmen.’1 There was no estimate given as to the number of casualties or the extent of the damage to property, livestock and stocks of grain although it noted that the villagers ‘dislike intensely the burning of… (their) huts as it generally results in the destruction of their bedding and the few spare clothes they possess.’2 The villagers rendered homeless would have faced extremely harsh conditions that winter as temperatures dropped to well below zero.
On Christmas Eve 1919, the left leaning Daily Herald cited a Reuters article, reporting that ‘the situation in Waziristan is still somewhat unsettled, as certain sections of the tribesmen are by no means conciliated.’ The newspaper commented: ‘Now isn’t that queer ? Not conciliated after all the bombs we have dropped on their villages ! I find it difficult to believe and the RAF must be disappointed.’3
- Barry Renfrew, The Forgotten Wars of the Royal Air Force, 1919-1939, The History Press, Stroud, 2019, p. 147.
- General Staff Army Headquarters India, Operations in Waziristan, 1919-1920, Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, 1921, p. 83.
- ‘Peace on Earth,’ The Daily Herald, 24 December 1919, p. 4.
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