Rolls Royce Armoured Car as seen in the Heritage Centre

Tin Can Trams

From 1922 until they were formally absorbed into the RAF Regiment in 1946, the Armoured Car Companies of the RAF provided an unbroken period of distinguished service throughout the Middle East. This service ranged from the fertile valleys of Iraq to the history rich settlements of Palestine, from the West Bank of Jordan to the barren hills of Dhala in Aden.

Brandenburg Special Forces on the Greek island of Kos

German Special Forces – Brandenburgers

Brandenburgers were the brainchild of Theodore Hippel, a German Commander who had served in the First World War and who had been converted to the concept of small daring units on hit and run raids.

Gunners wave as a Spitfire performs a low flyby

The Regiment in Burma

In November 1942, a Regimental Centre was established at Secunderabad, where the first Field Squadrons and AA Flights for Service in Burma were formed. The training of these units was carried out initially by Army NCOs, and the assault course at Secunderabad gained the reputation for being the most exacting in the Far East.

Map of German landing sites

Defence of Kos – Regiment Diary

The lads are in good heart and full of fight. Motivation is not a problem with these sterling blokes, they are a credit to themselves and the Service. However, even they are now coming to terms with the prospect of defeat here. The Germans have been quiet for the last few days but have returned with a vengeance today.

A Hawker Hurricane attacks a bridge in Burma

Imphal

At the end of March 1944, No 2944 Field Squadron of the RAF Regiment was stationed near Maungdaw on the Arakan Front giving protection to AMES (Air Ministry Experimental Stations), these were mobile short range Radar Units giving early warning of approaching enemy aircraft to forward ground forces, they were normally positioned between forward Infantry and heavy Artillery.

Otter light reconnaissance cars enter Salonika, Greece

Greece and Yugoslavia

After the early capture of Sicily and the landings in Italy, allied Forces put further pressure on German resources with the Invasion of Greece and operations in Yugoslavia with the partisans of Tito. A mixed force from the Levant and Italy, Bucket Force, landed on the Peloponnese, with the intention of seizing the airhead at Araxos.

Map of Sicily for Operation Husky

Sicily and Italy – The Hard Slog

Operation Husky: With the North African shore cleared, the whole of the Southern Europe landscape was open to the Allies for invasion. The decision was taken to take one of the Axis powers out of the coalition facing us – Italy. The traditional route of invasion through Sicily was chosen partly because of the airfields it would yield to support the main effort on mainland Italy later.

Habbaniyah – Raising the Siege

Even as Iraqi troops were assembling on the Heights above Habbaniyah, Wavell had been instructed by Churchill to ready a relief force. This was the only time in the entire war that he completely overruled one of his commanders.

Map of the area around Habbaniyah.

The Battle for Habbaniyah

After the coup and the escape of the Regent, British reinforcements from India were dispatched to Basrah where they disembarked and retook Shaibah airfield. Rasid Ali retaliated by forbidding any further movement of British troops to reinforce Habbaniyah.  A weak battalion of British Infantry was flown from Basrah to Habbaniyah.  Ali then raised the stakes by ordering a full Iraqi Brigade to occupy and subdue the RAF base.

Iraq 1941

Hitler’s main objective for 1941 was the defeat of the Soviet Union and Stalin. He had curtailed any thoughts of invasion of the British Isles and moved the majority of his offensive armour eastwards. To protect his southern flank during operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, Hitler needed the British and Commonwealth forces to be unable to interfere with his advance.