Unit History: RAF Habbaniya

RAF Habbaniya
RAF Habbaniya was constructed on the west bank of the Euphrates and opened on 19 October 1936. Squadrons, units and headquarters and the hospital gradually moved in from Hinaidi Cantonment, Baghdad, which was vacated by the British. Originally called RAF Dhibban, on 1 May 1938 it was renamed RAF Habbaniya. It was a large flying training school during World War II, as well as a transport staging airfield. During the Rashid Ali rebellion in 1941 the base was besieged by the Iraqi Army encamped on the overlooking plateau. The siege was lifted by the units based at Habbaniya, including pilots from the training school, a battalion of the King’s Own Royal Regiment flown in at the last moment, No. 1 RAF Armoured Car Company and the RAF Iraq Levies. The subsequent arrival of a relief column (Kingcol), part of Habforce sent from Palestine, then a British mandate, combined with the Habbaniya units to force the rebel forces to retreat to Baghdad. Later in World War II Habbaniya became an important stage on the southern air route between the UK and the USSR. British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) ran a regular passenger service via North Africa and the Middle East using Consolidated Liberator transports.

Memories of RAF Habbaniya

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

RAF Habbaniya - 276 SU in 1958

Written by Peter Norton

My memories include many happy days spent at Lake Habbaniya R&R Centre, sailing, swimming, and just hanging around awaiting demob ! I have vivid memories of meeting the young King Faisal, who was a frequent visitor, water skiing, sailing, etc. before his unfortunate demise from the coup by General Kasseem, and our quick, forcible exit from Iraq, after smashing all our equipment and hastily boarding a BOAC Charter Flight out of Baghdad Airport ! I remember Doug King, Paul Dove, Keith Walker, Pete Maslen, Albert Gough,Jock Chambers, Jim Dixon, and many others whose names elude me - like Cpl Pete ? (Geordie from Whitley Bay !) John Pegram (Linguist?)Somebody Perry ? who taught me to play Cribbage ! If any of you are still alive - Please get in touch.

No2 Arm;d Car Sqd, RAF Regiment. RAF Habbaniya Iraq in 1949

Written by edward [ted] bishop

When i arrived at Habbaniya,we were lined up and this Flt Sgn asked, could anyone drive? i said i had driven a tractor on a farm,he said come with me,we went off the station to a tarmac area, he got out and said drive(a 15cwt)has it happened the gears where the same as a furgasun(spelling not right?)tractor so of i went, 20mins later he said you are a driver, i said i was a radio man, he said plenty of them,short of drivers, he would not listen,so i became a driver, and never looked back,there is a "funny"side to this no room here.
After my tour ended in Habbaniya, we went to El-Hamra to wait a boat home, after a few weeks my name was called for a flight home, there is not enough room here to tell the full story, after a few stops for fuel, we left Malta in the dark and went to sleep,not very easy in an old York woke up it was daylight, but one engine was stopped, told not to worry, then we landed at this old airstrip in France no food or beds,and no money,clubed enough to go to this vilage to have a drink in this little bar,we were looked at as if we were from the moon,after a not very comfortable night, were told a new engine was on its way and it did.cont arrive,with fitters,got the old engine out and the old one in
when the engine was in and tested, by now late afternoon, we were told the old engine had to be manhadled on the other plane if we wanted to leave before it got dark[no lights]or wait for the lifting gear to be flown out to us sometime, you should have seen that engine move,when we got to London in the middle of the night, not one person was there to see to us[we were a day late] no money nothing, the SPs gave us a rail warrant,so i arrived home unwashed and no money and the only clothes i had is what i was standing in.
It took about 3 weeks for some money to arrive,the celebrations had all been paid for by family and friends, the only clothes i had was a dirty battledress and civies that were small for me now so someone said the uniform could be cleaned[this was 1951]i had my doubts, it did clean, and it did fit???Then i was sent a travel warrant from home to Wrafton, after some inquires found out it was in Devon and orders to report to RAF Chivenor,I had to explain why i was a BIT scruffy,issued with new battledress and one new shirt, the rest of my kit arrived in about 3 weeks.
At 48Rfl Sqd at Chivenor i was driveing everything and every where for about 6-7 months,when this Flt Ltn asked had we got driveing licences, yes,was the reply lets see them, so i pulled out mine,is that all you have yes i said,[bare in mind i had been driving all over Devon] he went off like a shot, i should not have been driving off the camp, so i was sent to RAF Pembrey to have a test, so i passed my driving test in Llanelly on a Sunday morning[this was 1952] the only thing i saw moving was a horse drawn milk float,and frightend the s--- out of a dog.

RAF Habbaniya, 115 mu in 1955

Written by john clifford

great memories of this fabulous posting meeting the young King Fiasal at Lake Habbaniya on many occasions, visiting Babylon's ruins,i'm sure they will be now,doing the monthly bank run to Baghdad.also had good time with pals visiting The Sumer Hotel Rashid St Baghdad,we were not allowed into Old Baghdad.Sad to say our leisure time was much taken up by the increasing guards and other related duties owing to the depletion of staff,but would never change this great and lasting experience for any thing.My billet friends where are you now.Dave Turner 2754152,Brian Lingard,Steve Wharton,Nipper Maddison.Alan Bumfrey [swede],Eddie Parker.Taff Williams,Cavy Robb,and many whose names elude me a great bunch of guys,hope you are all still out there,best wishes John Clifford.

RAF Habbaniya in 1958

Written by Patricia McKillop nee Ward

I was a 17 year old girl when we were in Habb. I remember a lot of good times, but am a bit hazy on names. We had some wonderful times, I sang in the church choir, I participated in entertainment i.e live shows, musical and plays, I helped out at the radio station and learned to horse ride at the Riding school. generally after the Iraqis took over the camp it was , to a young girl, like one big party. Does anyone else out there remember these times?

RAF Habbaniya, in 1955

Written by Pete "Smudge" Smith

In May 1955 I went as Guard Commander on a convoy from Habbaniya to Mafraq/Amman in Jordan. I recently saw a photo in the "Habbite" magazine which brought back memories. I have tried unsuccssfully to get copies of photo but cannot locate owner. I copied photo but it’s not too good but perhaps it will jog someone’s memory. The convoy was carrying a Caterpillar bulldozer etc. to Mafraq and during a rest at RAF Amman several of us took off to Jerusalem etc with a guide. Quite an experience

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