Audaxes could carry eight pound bombs 9. The Hawker trainers were unarmed and the Blenheim departed on 3 May. The British Empire's perspective was that relations with Rashid Ali's "National Defence Government" had become increasingly unsatisfactory. By treaty, Iraq was pledged to provide assistance to the United Kingdom in war and to permit the passage of British troops through its territory. Cornwallis was highly regarded and he was sent to Iraq with the understanding that he would be able to hold a more forceful line with the new Iraqi government than had hitherto been the case.
Unfortunately, Cornwallis arrived in Iraq too late to prevent the outbreak of war. Churchill wrote, " Libya counts first, withdrawal of troops from Greece second. Tobruk shipping, unless indispensable to victory, must be fitted in as convenient. Iraq can be ignored and Crete worked up later. The British Chiefs-of-Staff and the Commander-in-Chief, India General Claude Auchinleck , were in favour of armed intervention but the three local Commander-in-Chief , already burdened by the Western Desert Campaign , East African Campaign and the Battle of Greece , suggested that the only force available was an infantry battalion in Palestine and the aircraft already in Iraq.
On 10 April, Major-General William Fraser assumed control over Iraqforce , the land forces from India headed for Basra with orders to occupy the Basra-Shabai area to ensure the safe disembarkation of further reinforcements and to enable a base to be established in that area.
Fraser was closely to co-operate with the navy commander. If the landing was opposed, Fraser was to defeat the Iraqi forces and establish a base but Fraser was not to infringe Iranian neutrality. The forces transported by the convoy were under the command of Major-General Fraser, the commanding officer of the 10th Indian Infantry Division. The forces being transported consisted of two senior staff officers from the 10th Indian Division headquarters, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade , the personnel of the Royal Artillery's 3rd Field Regiment;  but without their guns,  and certain ancillary troops.
Later in the day the escort was reinforced by HMS Falmouth. On 18 April, the convoy moved up the Shatt al-Arab and arrived at Basra at hrs. HMS Emerald was already in Basra. On 16 April, the Iraqi Government was informed that the British were going to invoke the Anglo-Iraq treaty to move troops through the country to Palestine. Rashid Ali raised no objection. The troop-carrying aircraft used for this airlift were 7 Valentias and 4 Atalantas supplemented by 4 DC-2s which had recently arrived in India. The landing of the force transported by Convoy BP7 was covered by infantry of the 1st KORR  which had arrived the previous day by air.
On 20 April, Churchill had written to Anthony Eden , the Foreign Secretary , and indicated that it should be made clear to Ambassador Cornwallis that the chief interest in sending troops to Iraq was the covering and establishment of a great assembly base near Basra. It was to be understood that what happened "up country", with the exception of Habbaniya, was at that time on an "altogether lower priority. Cornwallis was directed not to make agreements with an Iraqi government which had usurped its power.
In addition, he was directed to avoid entangling himself with explanations to the Iraqis. Also on 29 April,  the British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis,  advised that all British women and children should leave Baghdad; civilians were escorted by road to Habbaniya and during the following days were gradually airlifted to Shaibah. Prior to dawn, reconnaissance aircraft were launched from RAF Habbaniya and reported that at least two battalions, with artillery, had taken up position on the plateau.
By 1 May, the Iraqi forces surrounding Habbaniya had swelled to an infantry brigade, two mechanised battalions, a mechanised artillery brigade with 12 3. This totalled 9, regular troops along with an undetermined number of tribal irregulars and about 50 field guns. Smart , stating that the plateau had been occupied for a training exercise. British reconnaissance aircraft, already in the air, continued to relay information to the base; they reported that the Iraqi positions on the plateau were being steadily reinforced, they also reported that Iraqi troops had occupied the town of Fallujah.
Air Vice-Marshal Smart replied that this was a political matter and he would have to refer the accusation to Ambassador Cornwallis. During the morning, Smart and Roberts surveyed the situation, they determined that they were exposed to attack on two sides and dominated by Iraqi artillery; a single hit from an Iraqi gun might destroy the water tower or power station and, as a result, cripple resistance at Habbaniya in one blow — the base seemed at the mercy of the Iraqi rebels.
The garrison did not have enough small arms and, apart from a few mortars, no artillery support. Air Vice-Marshal Smart controlled a base with a population of around 9, civilians  that was indefensible with the force of roughly 2, men currently available. As a result, Air Vice-Marshal Smart decided to accept the tactical risks and stick to Middle East Command's policy of avoiding aggravation in Iraq by, for the moment, not launching a pre-emptive strike. Further exchanges of messages took place between the British and Iraqi forces but none were able to defuse the situation.
The British Ambassador signalled the Foreign Office that he regarded the Iraqi actions as an act of war, which required an immediate air response. He also informed them that he intended to demand the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces and permission to launch air strikes to restore control, even if the Iraqi troops overlooking Habbaniya did withdraw it would only postpone aerial attacks.
Also on 1 May, Ambassador Cornwallis received a response giving him full authority to take any steps needed to ensure the withdrawal of the Iraqi armed forces. Use all necessary force. Still in contact with the British Embassy and with the approval of Ambassador Cornwallis, Air Vice-Marshal Smart decided to launch air strikes against the plateau the following morning without issuing an ultimatum ; as with foreknowledge the Iraqi force might start to shell the airbase and halt any attempt to launch aircraft.
Most combat operations of the Anglo—Iraqi War centred on the Habbaniya area. Initially, the Iraqi siege of RAF Habbaniya and the ability of the besieged British force there to withstand the siege was the primary focus of the conflict. Air Vice-Marshal Smart's decision to strike at the Iraqi positions with air power not only allowed his force to withstand the siege, but to neutralise much of Iraq's air power. While the relief force from Palestine arrived in Habbaniya after the siege was over, it did allow an immediate change over to the offensive.
Air Vice-Marshal Smart's tactics to defend Habbaniya was to mount continuous bombing and strafing attacks with as many aircraft as possible. On the base 13 people had lost their lives and a further 29 wounded, including nine civilians. By the end of the day, the Iraqi force, outside of Habbaniya, had grown to roughly a brigade. The British attack on 2 May took the Iraqis completely by surprise. While the Iraqis on the escarpment carried live ammunition, many Iraqi soldiers were under the impression that they were on a training exercise.
Rashid Ali and the members of the Golden Square were shocked by the fact that the British defenders at RAF Habbaniya were prepared to fight rather than negotiate a peaceful surrender. To compound the surprise and shock, many members of the Muslim Iraqi army were preparing for morning prayers when the attack was launched. When the news reached the Grand Mufti in Baghdad, he immediately declared a jihad against the United Kingdom. In addition, the flow of Iraq Petroleum Company oil to Haifa was completely severed.
On 3 May, the British bombing of the Iraqis continued; troop and gun positions on the plateau were targeted as well as the supply line to Baghdad. A bombing raid was conducted by eight Wellington bombers on Rashid, which was briefly engaged by Iraqi fighters but no losses were suffered. Bristol Blenheims , escorted by Hurricanes , also conducted strafing attacks against airfields at Baghdad, Rashid and Mosul. Further aerial attacks were conducted against the plateau during the day and following nightfall  Colonel Roberts ordered a sortie by the King's Own Royal Regiment 1st KORR against the Iraqi positions on the plateau.
The 4. Late on 6 May, the Iraqis besieging Habbaniya pulled out. By dawn on Wednesday 7 May, RAF armoured cars reconnoitred the top of the escarpment and reported it to be deserted. The Iraqi force had abandoned substantial quantities of arms and equipment; the British garrison gained six Czechoslovakian-built 3. The investment of Habbaniya, by Iraqi forces, had come to an end. The British garrison had suffered 13 men killed, 21 badly wounded, and four men were suffering battle fatigue.
The garrison had inflicted between — casualties on the besieging force and numerous more men had been taken prisoner. On 6 May alone, Iraqi troops were captured. The British objective was to safeguard British interests from Axis intervention in Iraq, to defeat the rebels and discredit Rashid's government. Meanwhile, Iraqi reinforcements were approaching Habbaniya. RAF armoured cars, reconnoitring ahead, soon discovered the village of Sin el Dhibban, on the Fallujah road, occupied by Iraqi troops.
The Iraqi force retreating from Habbaniya met with an Iraqi column moving towards Habbaniya from Fallujah in the afternoon. The two Iraqi forces met around 5 miles 8. The reinforcing Iraqi column was soon spotted and 40 aircraft from RAF Habbaniya arrived to attack; the two Iraqi columns were paralysed and within two hours, more than 1, Iraqi casualties were inflicted and further prisoners were taken. Also on 7 May, apparently unaware of Smart's injury, Churchill sent the following message to Smart:. Your vigorous and splendid action has largely restored the situation.
We are all watching the grand fight you are making.
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All possible aid will be sent. Keep it up! There had also been discussions on war material being sent to support the Iraqis and other Arab factions in fighting the British. Fritz Grobba to Iraq to head up a diplomatic mission to channel support to the Rashid Ali regime. The British quickly learned of the German arrangements through intercepted Italian diplomatic transmissions. On 6 May, in accordance with the Paris Protocols , Germany concluded a deal with the Vichy French government to release war materials, including aircraft, from sealed stockpiles in Syria and transport them to the Iraqis.
Hitler’s Gulf War: The Fight for Iraq | Daly History Blog
The French also agreed to allow passage of other weapons and material as well as loaning several airbases in northern Syria, to Germany, for the transport of German aircraft to Iraq. Between 10 and 15 May the aircraft arrived in Mosul via Vichy French airbases, in Syria , and then commenced regular aerial attacks on British forces. The arrival of these aircraft was the direct result of fevered consultations between Baghdad and Berlin in the days following RAF strikes on the Iraqi forces above Habbaniya.
On 11 May, the first three Luftwaffe planes arrived at Mosul via Syria. At least 20 bombers were initially promised; however, in the end Junck's unit consisted of between 21 and 29 aircraft, all painted with Royal Iraqi Air Force markings. On its approach to Baghdad, the aircraft was engaged by Iraqi ground fire, and von Blomberg was killed. At this time, Germany and the Soviet Union were still allies due to the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact of and this was reflected in Soviet actions regarding Iraq.
On 13 May, the first trainload of supplies, from Syria, arrived in Mosul via Turkey. British fighters entered French air space and strafed and disabled the damaged Heinkels. This represented roughly a 30 percent loss of his original force. Indeed, near the end of May, Junck had lost 14 Messerschmitts and 5 Heinkels. In the resulting combat, two Gladiators were lost for one CR. This was the final aerial battle of the Anglo-Iraqi War. Three CR. The remaining Italian aircraft were evacuated at the end of May and used to defend Pantelleria. Plans were drawn up to supply troops but the German high command was hesitant and required the permission of Turkey for passage.
In the end the Luftwaffe found conditions in Iraq intolerable, as spare parts were not available and even the quality of aircraft fuel was far below the Luftwaffe's requirements. With each passing day fewer aircraft remained serviceable and ultimately, all Luftwaffe personnel were evacuated on the last remaining Heinkel He On 2 May, the day AVM Smart launched his airstrikes, Wavell continued to urge for further diplomatic action to be taken with the Iraqi government to end the current situation and accept the Turkish government's offer of mediation.
He was informed by the Defence Committee that there would be no accepting the Turkish offer and that the situation in Iraq had to be restored. By the end of the first day of airstrikes, there had been reports that elements of the Royal Iraqi Army RIrA were advancing on the town of Rutbah. On 4 May, Churchill ordered Wavell to dispatch a force from Palestine.
The Defence Committee and Chiefs-of-Staff rationale for taking military action against the Iraqi rebels was that they needed to secure the country from Axis intervention and considered Rashid Ali to have been conspiring with the Axis powers. The fort was defended by approximately policemen, the majority of them being Iraqi Desert Police. The fort did not surrender and the RAF returned twice that day to bomb the fort without success. The next day, the RAF continued to bomb the fort at intermittent intervals.
One plane sustained such heavy small-arms fire that it crashed on the way home, killing the pilot. That evening, 40 trucks armed with machine guns arrived at the fort to reinforce the garrison. Half of the trucks were irregulars under the command of Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the other half were Iraqi Desert Police. Glubb decided to withdraw the troops back to H3 to await the reinforcement of the main column.
They had been sent up ahead of the main column to assist the Arab Legion in taking Rutbah. Casano's armoured cars fought an action against al-Qawuqji's trucks for most of the rest of the day, and although the result was not decisive the trucks retired to east under the cover of dark to leave the garrison to its fate. That night the RAF succeeded in a night bombing, with several bombs landing inside the fort. Following the withdrawal of al-Qawuqji's trucks and the successful bombing by the RAF, the garrison withdrew from the fort under the cover of dark.
In the morning, the Arab Legion column arrived and garrisoned the fort whilst Casano's armoured cars continued to fight remnants of the Iraqi Desert Police's forces. Clark was already the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division which included the 4th Cavalry Brigade , the 5th Cavalry Brigade , and the 6th Cavalry Brigade. After Wavell complained that using any of the force stationed in Palestine for service in Iraq would put Palestine and Egypt at risk, Churchill wrote Hastings Ismay , Secretary of the Chiefs-of-Staff Committee, and asked: "Why would the force mentioned, which seems considerable, be deemed insufficient to deal with the Iraq Army?
While one motorised cavalry brigade could be provided, this was only possible by pooling the whole of the divisional motor transport. Nichols , was composed of the remaining elements of the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment, the remainder of the 60th Field Regiment, RA, one anti-tank battery, and ancillary services. The Arab Legion consisted of three mechanised squadrons  transported in a mixture of civilian Ford trucks and equipped with home-made armoured cars.
During the morning of 11 May, Kingcol departed from Haifa  with orders to reach Habbaniya as quickly as possible.
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Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion had already moved on. The flying column under Brigadier Kingstone then conducted maintenance at Rutbah before moving on themselves. On 15 May, the first contact was made with the Iraqi military when a Blenheim bomber strafed the column and dropped a bomb; no damage was inflicted and no casualties were sustained. Also on 15 May, Fraser went sick and was replaced as the commander of the 10th Indian Division. Slim would go on to show himself as one of the most dynamic and innovative British commanders of the war.
During the late evening of 17 May, Kingcol reached the vicinity of Habbaniya. The next morning the column entered the RAF base   and throughout the day the remainder of the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment were airlifted into the base. With Habbaniya secure, the next objective for British forces was to secure the town of Fallujah as a preliminary objective before being able to march on Baghdad.
Roberts would leave Ramadi isolated and, instead, secure the strategically important bridge over the Euphrates at Fallujah. In the week following the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces near Habbaniya, Colonel Roberts formed what became known as the Habbaniya Brigade.
The brigade was formed by grouping the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment from Kingcol with further infantry reinforcements that had arrived from Basra, the 2nd battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles , and some light artillery. During the early hours of the day, one company of the 1st battalion KORR were air transported by 4 Valentias and landed on the Baghdad road beyond the town near Notch Fall. A company of RAF Assyrian Levies, supported by artillery from Kingcol, was ordered to secure the bridge across the river. Throughout the day the RAF bombed positions in the town and along the Baghdad road, avoiding a general bombardment of the town because of the civilian population.
On 19 May 57 aircraft began bombarding Iraqi positions within and around Fallujah before dropping leaflets requesting the garrison to surrender; no response was given and further bombing operations took place. The RAF dropped ten tons of bombs on Fallujah in sorties.
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During the afternoon a ten-minute bombardment of Iraqi trenches near the bridge was made before the Assyrian Levies advanced, covered by artillery fire. Facing little opposition they captured the bridge within 30 minutes; they were then met by an Iraqi envoy who offered the surrender of the garrison and the town. They determined not to interfere with the ongoing operations of Colonel Roberts. By the Iraqis reached the north-eastern outskirts of the town.
Hitler's Gulf War: The Fight for Iraq 1941
Two light tanks, which had penetrated into the town, were quickly destroyed. By dawn British counter-attacks had pushed the Iraqis out of north-eastern Fallujah. The Iraqis now switched their attack to the south-eastern edge of the town. But this attack met stiff resistance from the start and made no progress. By Kingstone arrived with reinforcements, from Habbaniya, who were immediately thrown into battle. The newly arrived infantry companies, of the Essex Regiment, methodically cleared the Iraqi positions house-by-house. By the remaining Iraqis had fled or were taken prisoner, sniper fire was silenced, six Iraqi light tanks were captured, and the town was secure.
British positions at Fallujah were strafed on three separate occasions. But, while a nuisance, the attacks by the Luftwaffe accomplished little. Only one day earlier an air assault coordinated with Iraqi ground forces might have changed the outcome of the counter-attack. During this period of time, Glubb Pasha's Legionnaires dominated the tribal country north of Fallujah between the Euphrates and the Tigris, an area known as Jezireh.
Lieutenant-General Glubb had been instructed to persuade the local tribes to stop supporting Rashid Ali's government. A scratch force of reinforcements was sent from Palestine, and an Indian Army Division landed in Basra. The loss of Iraq might have been catastrophic. It would have exposed the rear of the British Forces in Egypt, and lost vital oilfields. It might also have led to threats to India.
Why the coup did not succeed is a mystery. Or, rather, why the Axis powers did not give the coup more support. The Germand and Italians had offered support, but in the event only a handful of aircraft arrived, as well as several advisors who seem to have spent more time fighting each other than advising.
The Germans were certainly pre-occupied with launching their assault on Crete, which although dominating a part of the Mediterranean, had nowhere near the strategic importance of Iraq. If even a fraction of the airborne forces that were employed in Crete had been used instead in Iraq, the course of the war may have been different.
This in turn delayed the attack on Russia. I have something of a personal interest in this story, as my great-uncle, Thomas Daly, was onboard HMS Enterprise when she was giving Naval gunfire support off Basra during the attempt to put down the coup. Later in my Grandad, Henry Miller, landed in Basra with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and spent some months in Kirkuk guarding against the threat of a German thrust down the Caucasus. This is a very important book, as is any that fills a gap and flags up an overlooked subject.
Some maps might be useful, as plenty of places are referred to, and it would be easier to picture the lie of the land and the situation on the ground. Some illustrations might also add to the overall feel of the book too. But in its favour, Barrie James has used a readable, Cornelius Ryan style of writing, which might lack references but is more approachable to the non-academic. Tagged as book review , hitler , Iraq , second world war.
There are references to the Iraq campaign in the biographies and memoirs of Wavell, Auchinlek, Tedder and Ismay. How could I forget Glubb. There are detailed references to his often overstated role and that of the Arab Legion in Iraq in his various memoirs and bios. I enjoyed reading your site too. It is definitely an often-ignored aspect of the Second World War. The downloads are extremely fast with no limitations in any way. Simply type in the design, country and what community the telephone is on, along with your IMEI quantity.
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