Photo album belonging to RAF officer Sergeant Harry Fowler, with the 30th Squadron, based at Habbaniya Iraq, 1938-1941. Interesting collection beginning from his stopover in Malta aboard the troop ship HMT Nevasa to his landing at Basra, through Baghdad and finally the airbase at Dhibban (name changed to Habbaniya in 1938). A partially legibly captioned album of 142 photos (some loose, most are tipped in with corners) and 75 negatives, along with various bits of ephemera like his itemized monthly bill at the club, receipt from trip to Tel Aviv, hunting and cinema tickets dated. The album shows the life of an RAF officer in Iraq during the leadup to World War 2. There is reference on the back of one of the photos to Fowlers surviving the attack on the airbase during the Rashid Ali Rebellion of 1941. There are photos of the RAF summer training camp in the northern mountains of Iraq in Kurdistan at Ser Amadia. One photo indicates that Fowler was a member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB), one of the largest fraternal organisations in the United Kingdom.
There is a rare photo of a humorous greeting from other members of 30th Squadron with a banner indicating the earlier name of Dhibban, instead of Habbaniya, new bridge construction across the Euphrates, local Iraq confectioners, camp club and hunreds of empty wine bottles outside, muslim and Christian graves, the local camp printing press, more. N
Note: The Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya, more commonly known as RAF Habbaniya, (originally RAF Dhibban) was a Royal Air Force station at Habbaniyah, about 55 miles (89 km) west of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, on the banks of the Euphrates near Lake Habbaniyah. It was operational from October 19, 1936 until the 31 May 1959 when the British were finally withdrawn following the July 1958 Revolution. It remained a major Iraqi military airbase.
It was a British sovereign airbase which the British fought tooth and nail to protect it against the invading Iraqi Army in May 1941. RAF Habbaniya was also known as Second London with an entrance gate called London Gate. The squadrons, units and headquarters and the hospital gradually moved in from RAF Hinaidi, Baghdad, which was vacated by the British and renamed "Rashid Airfield" by the Iraqis. Originally called RAF Dhibban, the station was renamed RAF Habbaniya on 1 May 1938. The base was extensive and included the Air Headquarters of RAF Iraq Command, maintenance units, an aircraft depot, an RAF hospital, RAF Iraq Levies barracks, the RAF Armoured Car Company depot as well as fuel and bomb stores. There were numerous billets, messes and a wide range of leisure facilities including swimming pools, cinemas and theatres, sports pitches, tennis courts and riding stables. It was self-contained with its own power station, water purification plant and sewage farm. Water taken from the Euphrates for the irrigation systems enabled green lawns, flower beds and even ornamental Botanical Gardens. After World War II the families of British personnel started living at Habbaniya and a school was started. Within the camp perimeter was the Civil Cantonment which provided the accommodation for the families of the RAF Iraq Levies and the civilian workers and their families. The cantonment population of about 10,000 had their own schools, hospital, mosques, churches, temples, cinema and bazaars. Just outside the perimeter was the village of Humphreya in which more locally employed civilians and their families lived. It was the original construction camp for the company which constructed the base, Messrs Humphreys of Knightsbridge, London (and from which the name Humphreya arose). There was a 7-mile perimeter fence round the base but this did not enclose the airfield which was outside. In 1952 a second airfield was built on the plateau to cope with the long range and jet aircraft using the base (this subsequently became the Iraqi Air Force Al Taqaddum airbase).
In the late 1930s Imperial Airways established a staging post on Lake Habbaniyafor the flying boat service from the UK to British India using Short Empires. The lake provided the necessary landing area for these aircraft in the middle of theMesopotamian desert. The station 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 airfield was besieged by the Iraqi Army encamped on the overlooking plateau. On 2 May 1941, British forces from the airfield launched pre-emptive airstrikes on Iraqi forces throughout Iraq and the Anglo-Iraqi War began. 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, Number 1 Armoured Car Company RAF and the RAF's 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. The United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command used Habbaniya as a stopover point between the large Lend-Lease aircraft assembly facility at Abadan Airport, Iran and Payne Field, Cairo. Also ATC operated a transport route from Habbaniya to Mehrabad Airport Tehran. After World War II, BOAC discontinued the flying boat service and the hotel buildings at the lake were acquired by the RAF and used as a Rest and Recreation Centre.