(The Battle for RAF Habbaniya, and Iraq, May 2nd-31st 1941)
The tale must be told of the 'Forgotten Few',
of the Pupils, Pilots and Planes that flew,
Of the 'Battle' they fought and the 'Victory Won',
in the month of May, back in Forty One,
Little is known of the Men of that Station,
who stood their ground in defence of the Nation.
Of their intrepid deeds and lonesome stand,
to 'Hold Habbaniya' in Iraq's Hostile Land.
A 'Peasants Revolt' reports then do show,
but a well equipped Army were on the Plateau,
Besieging 'Habbaniya' with Tank, Gun and Shell,
intent on blasting 'Those British' to hell.
While 'Rachid's Army' set out the conditions,
the British made ready their meagre munitions.
The men and machines of 'The Air Striking Force',
facing that threat, yet with little recourse,
Than to brave their burden way back then,
with a makeshift mixture of old craft and young men.
At dawn on the Second the Force took to the skies,
bombing and strafing their foe with surprise,
The 'Training School' lofted their ancient steeds,
bodged up with bombs and guns, as must needs.
Gladiator, Gordon, Oxford and Audax all flew,
for these were the craft of that unseasoned crew,
In shells and tracer they shouldered their task,
accomplishing much more than their orders did ask.
In torch light their craft were patched and repaired,
for the next days action, with little rest spared,
By the Forth of May the insurgents were battered,
equipment abandoned, they panicked and scattered.
The 'Force' had stood it's embattled ground,
while the 'Iraqi Army' were turned around.
Defending 'The Station' in those first days of hell,
but there is little recorded for History to tell.
Yet, there's more to this tale that has to be told,
of 'Comm' Flight's' Crews and their Valentia's old.
Bombed up and Gunned and awaiting the night,
to give the insurgents some more of the fight,
By noon of day one they were tattered and torn,
their missions postponed, close liason was borne.
Two of their Pilot's went on loan to the School,
as the rest set to with Trench Mortar, and Tool,
As the Siege subsided repairs got under way,
and the Flight made ready to have their first say.
Then late on the Fifth one was bombed up to go,
the bunds at Fullujah with 500's, to blow,
The 520's were tried, but the mounts needed changing,
so the fitters set to with some clamp rearranging.
The Iraqi Airfields then were given a pounding,
to stop 'Axis Forces' from gaining a grounding.
'Comm' Flight's' old craft were in need of some care,
but under fresh orders had more tasks to share.
Transporting troops and moving supplies,
with more Night Bombing in moon-less skies.
'The Kings Own' as 'Habbforce' by then had arrived,
it was now their turn to be tested and tried.
The British pressed on and the action went hither,
But 'Rachid's' resolve was starting to wither,
And when at the end the enemy faltered and fled,
few honours were granted or citations read.
So, the 'Battle' was fought and the 'Victory Won',
in the first days of May, back in Forty One,
Still, little is known of 'That Mixed Motley Crew',
But, the tale must be told of 'The Forgotten Few'.
Dedicated to the Men and Machines of
'No 4 Flight Training School' and the 'Communications Flight',
who formed, Flew and Fought as,
'THE HABBANIYA AIR STRIKING FORCE'
RAF HABBANIYA STATION, IRAQ, MAY 1941;
And to the Memory of AIR VICE-MARSHAL A.G. DUDGEON, CBE, DFC,
Who wrote the book 'HIDDEN VICTORY' about the Battle
coining the phrase 'The Forgotten Few'
and campaigned for the recognition of the men of Habbaniya.
Michael Anthony Roy Skeet.
Rewritten April 2008.
All content Copyright © Michael A.R.Skeet. 2001-2010, except where otherwise stated.