Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More details about Iraq in 1941

When a brigade of the 10th Indian Division was diverted to Basra, the oil port, they had been destined for Malaya. They were boarding ship a Karachi when the diversion happened. As we have said, General Auchinleck, was the Commander-in-Chief in India. General Auchinleck had been in that position since January 1941. Since he was considered to be close to the action, he was to be the overall commander.

The Iraqi government of Rashid Ali was getting nervous about the brigade at Basra. They insisted that no more British troops should be sent to Basra until those that were there had moved out. When in late April, more troops arrived at Basra, two Iraqi brigades with artillery and armoured cars surrounded the air base at Habbiniyah. There were about 1,000 men of the RAF there as well as 1,000 British and colonial troops. A British battalion was flown in as reinforcements on 30 April 1941. At that point, the Iraqis were asked to withdraw. Then the Iraqi commander refused, the airbase commander decided to attack the Iraqis from the air with training aircraft fitted with bombs. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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