HABBANIYA WAR CEMETERY
HABBANIYA WAR CEMETERY
- Identified Casualties:
Habbaniya is about 65 kilometres west of Baghdad. The cemetery, enclosed by a high brick wall, is within the former R.A.F. cantonment, which is now an enclosed military area.
NOTE: Whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is extremely challenging for the Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq. Alternative arrangements for commemoration have therefore been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.
The Commission continues to monitor the situation in Iraq and once the political climate has improved to an acceptable level the Commission will commence a major rehabilitation project for its cemeteries and commemorations.
Before considering a visit to Iraq the Commission strongly recommends that you check the advice given by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on the travel section of their website:
Habbaniya was a peace-time Royal Air Force station, maintained under the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930 which permitted a British base west of the Euphrates, and the permanent Headquarters of the R.A.F. in Iraq.
Habbaniya War Cemetery was originally the pre-war R.A.F. cemetery, but it was used during the war not only for R.A.F. casualties but for the burial of soldiers killed during the 1941 operations, and for all servicemen who died through illness or accident while serving in PAIFORCE.
The war graves are mainly in special plots, but there are inevitably pre-war R.A.F. and civilian graves (R.A.F. dependants and civilians employed by the R.A.F.) in this burial ground, and also graves of servicemen who died after the war.
Its situation in the desert, 300 miles by air from our nearest bases on the Persian Gulf and 500 miles from our bases in Palestine, made it particularly vulnerable when in 1941, it was threatened with attack by Iraqi forces. There were no operational units on the station, but there was No. 4 Flying Training School and a number of trainer aircraft. Early in April work commenced on fitting guns and bomb racks to these aircraft, and by the end of the month some seventy had been made serviceable for operations. At the same time intensive training courses were instituted in bomb aiming and air gunnery. When the Iraqi forces besieged Habbaniya this improvised striking force was the backbone of constant air-raids on the enemy positions and, together with the nightly raids on their gun emplacements by the R.A.F. Levies defending the station, was mainly responsible for the withdrawl of the Iraqi forces from the plateau adjoining the airfield during the night of 5/6th May.
They include 14 men of the King's Own Royal Regiment killed at Falluja on 23rd May 1941 and buried where they fell, whose graves were afterwards moved from Falluja into the cemetery by the Army Graves Service. Altogether 60 casualties of the fighting in Iraq during May 1941 are buried here. The post-war army burials include 24 men who were killed in April 1957 when a Jordan R.A.F. plane crashed in the vicinity.
There are 162 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war commemorated here.
There are 10 Polish and 1 Norwegian Foreign National burials and a further 117 non world war burials here.
The cemetery, enclosed by a high brick wall, is within the former R.A.F. cantonment, which is now an enclosed military area.
Built into the wall of Habaniya War Cemetery, at the extreme end of the main avenue, is the Habbaniya Memorial to those whose graves in Iraq are so situated that they cannot be permanently maintained.