Saturday, March 11, 2006

On 30 April 1941, Iraqi troops headed west from Baghdad

The British commander in Habbaniyah was notified by the British embassy in Baghdad that Iraqi forces were headed west from the city. Immediately, the aircraft at the school were dispersed and armed with bombs. The natural next step for the British was to send aloft reconnaissance aircraft. They reported that something like two Iraqi battalions were on the plateau and equipped with artillery. The Iraqi commander sent a message at 6am, demanding that air operations at Habbaniyah cease immediately. The British commander sent a reply that any interference "would be treated as an act of war". Air reconnaissance showed that the Iraqis were growing in strenght and that Iraqi troops were in possession of Fallujah. The situation put the British in a difficult position. The British sent reinforcements of 8 Wellingtons to Shaibah with another 10 to follow. Fortunately, on 1 May, word was received from London that the British forces had permission to launch an air attack on Iraqi forces. The British attacked the Iraqis at dawn on 2 May. They had 33 aircraft from Habbaniyah and 8 Wellingtons from Shaibah. The Iraqi air force responded and a battle ensued. The Iraqis had some superior aircraft, primarily Italian-built (SM79 bombers, Ba65 ground attack aircraft, and Northrup 8a figher-bombers). The British at Habbaniyah had done well with what they had. They lost 5 aircraft destroyed and others were out of service. They had 13 killed and 29 wounded. Nine of these were civilians. Two more aircraft, Vickers Vincents from Shaibah, were lost while attacking targets to the north of Shaibah. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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