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Royal Air Force Armoured Car 80th anniversary of Habbaniya and Fallujah - Part 5

80th Anniversary of the attack on Fallujah and advance on Baghdad.

The plan to attack Fallujah necessitated 4 columns on the west side of the Euphrates, and a 5th column landed by air 2 miles to the east of the town. Elements of No 1 ACC were in one column sent to the north of the Euphrates. The attack was preceded by bombing by 57 aircraft of the Habbaniya Air Striking Force on positions around Fallujah. At dawn on 19 May, all ground and air elements started their advance. G Column (see map) had captured the bridge across the Euphrates intact, defences were consolidated, and Iraqi prisoners processed. Two days later the Iraqi Army launched a surprise major counterattack intent on destroying the bridge, the outcome was finely balanced for a time. Stout-hearted Iraqi Levies had been key in repelling the Iraqi Army counterattack. The focus of planning now switched to the recapture of Baghdad. 

Both No 1 ACC and No 2 ACC were to advance on Baghdad with elements of The Arab Legion, Household Cavalry and the Essex Regiment. The going was tough under constant sniping and shelling over difficult flooded terrain. Casano led with his RRACs across the Fallujah plain heading east in the early dawn of 28 May, their movement supported by Royal Artillery 25-pdr guns. The bridge over the Abu Ghuraib Canal only 14 miles from Baghdad had been demolished as No 2 ACC approached, and they took heavy fire and casualties in intense fighting, but eventually gained a foothold. Indian Army Engineers set to repair the bridge, with No 2 ACC, led by the indominable Casano, demonstrated his calibre as a leader often bringing his cars into close contact with the enemy. Continuing the advance once the repairs had been completed, with No 2 ACC reaching the outskirts of Baghdad . During this advance with the Household Cavalry on 30 May, a signal from the British Embassy in Baghdad halted any further advance, calling a truce.

Though a short campaign with small forces deployed, the loss of Iraq and its vital oil fields would have had serious consequences for eventual victory in the Mediterranean theatre, The RAF Armoured Cars’ bravery and dash made a huge and significant contribution to quelling the Iraq revolt in 1941, and in doing so restored the balance necessary for Allied strategic dominance in the Middle East.

Read more on RAF Armoured Cars ‘In Every Place’ Nigel W.M. Warwick on sale on the Centurion Fund website

#ARKISHSURRISH #NQNP

The Advance on Baghdad 23-30 May 1941
The Advance on Baghdad 23-30 May 1941
Sqn Ldr Casano outside Baghdad
Sqn Ldr Casano outside Baghdad
Fallujah Bridge Painting
Fallujah Bridge Painting

 

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