|1941 Iraqi coup d'état|
|Commanders and leaders|
Prime Minister of Iraq
Col. Mahmud Salman|
Chief of the Air Force
3rd Infantry Division|
1st Infantry Division
Independent Mechanized Brigade
The 1941 Iraqi coup d'état, also known as the Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani coup or the Golden Square coup, was a pro-Nazi military coup in Iraq on April 1, 1941 that overthrew the regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and installed Rashid Ali as Prime Minister. It was led by four Iraqi nationalist army generals, known as "the Golden Square." The Golden Square intended to use the war to press for full Iraqi independence following the limited independence granted in 1932. To that end, they worked with German intelligence and accepted military assistance from Germany. The change in government led to a British invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation until 1947.
From 1939 to 1941, Iraq was ruled by a pro-British government headed by the Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said. Iraq had severed relations with Germany on September 5, 1939, following the outbreak of World War II in Europe. However, Nuri had to tread carefully between his close relationship with Britain and dependence on pro-German Army officers and cabinet members. By that time, Iraq became a refuge to Arab leaders who fled Mandate Palestine as a result of failed Arab revolt against the British. Among the key figures to arrive was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem - Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Arab nationalistic leader of the failed revolt.
The Golden Square coup was initiated on April 1, 1941, overthrowing the regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and installing Rashid Ali as Prime Minister. The Mufti Amin al-Husayni was one of the orchestrators of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani's coup d'état, with Nazi support and financing.
British forces sent to quell the revolt
On 18 April, Britain reacted by landing the Indian 20th Infantry Brigade at Basra, the first elements of Iraqforce. Britain claimed it was entitled to do this under its defense treaty with Iraq. This treaty was essentially dictated by the British without negotiation or agreement before independence was granted to Iraq. It gave the British unlimited rights to station and transit troops through Iraq without consulting the Iraqi government.
Siege of Habbaniya
In the following days, the new Iraqi government moved substantial ground forces, including an infantry brigade, an artillery brigade, and 12 armored cars as well as tanks to the plateau overlooking the large British Royal Air Force (RAF) base at Habbaniya, 50 miles west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River. Upon arrival, the Iraqis demanded that the British not move any troops nor aircraft in or out of the base. The British responded by first demanding that the Iraqis leave the area and then, following the expiration of an ultimatum given in the early hours of May 2, launched an attack. The base had immediately available a force of 96 mostly obsolete aircraft, most of which were used for training. They also had an understrength battalion from the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), six companies of levies (Iraqi troops raised by the British), 18 armored cars and a company of RAF personnel, giving a total strength of 2,200 troops to defend the base. The Iraqi air force, which included a number of modern German- and Italian-built machines, proved to be no match for the RAF. By the second day of fighting (May 3), 4 more Blenheim fighter bombers arrived.
With British forces having dominant air superiority, the Iraqis were forced back to Falluja and the air battle was taken to the remaining Iraqi Air Force bases at Mosul and Rashid; Habbaniya had essentially lifted the siege upon its resources.
Reinforcements, in what became known as "Iraqforce", came from two directions. British, Transjordanian, and Arab Legion forces arrived in two columns (Habforce and Kingcol) across the desert from the Transjordan. Additional Indian forces continued to arrive in Basra.
The Iraqi army was driven out of Falluja and pursued to Baghdad, which fell within a week. This cleared the way for the nominal restoration of the Regent and the pro-British government. British military occupation of Iraq continued until late 1947.
Allied Forces Included:
- 1st Household Cavalry Regiment
- The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Prince of Wales's Own)
- Warwickshire Yeomanry
- 13th Lancers
- 1st Battalion, The King's Liverpool Regiment
- 1st Battalion, The Essex Regiment
- 3rd Battalion, Sikh Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Frontier Force Rifles
- 2nd Battalion, 4th Gurkha Rifles
- 2nd Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles
- 2nd Battalion, 10th Gurkha Rifles
- Iraq Levies
- Mechanized Regiment, Arab Legion
- 1st Mechanized Battalion, Transjordan Frontier Force
- The Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Rifles (Engineers)
- x2 Squadrons from the RAF Levies, Iraq
- x10 Platoons from the RAF Garrisons
Axis support for the nationalists
During the course of the Iraq war, minor reinforcements for the nationalists were received from both Germany and Italy. Arriving aircraft were crudely painted with Iraqi colours. A few aircraft from the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) flew sorties from Mosul against both the base at Habbaniya and the relieving Commonwealth forces moving across from Transjordan. This was done to little effect.
However, the Vichy French authorities in the Syrian Mandate had given some assistance to both the pro-Axis Iraqi nationalists and to the Germans (providing staging bases for the aircraft of the German Air Force). Even before the end of the Iraq campaign, this had led to RAF attacks on airbases in Syria. The Vichy assistance to the Axis and the British air attacks in response would lead to the full-scale invasion of Vichy-occupied Syria and Lebanon within weeks during the Syria-Lebanon campaign.
- Führer Directive No. 30
- Anglo-Iraqi War
- Syria-Lebanon campaign
- 14 July Revolution
- Gloster Gladiator
- Vickers Type 264 Valentia
- Vickers Wellington
- King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)
- Haj Amin al-Husseini
- Fawzi al-Qawuqji
- Baghdad's 1941 slaughter of the Jews
- Iraqi Coup: The Coup
- Patterson, David (2010). A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad. Cambridge University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-521-13261-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=lMLmK-fmf8kC&pg=PA114.
- 1941 Habbanyia
- The Royal Air Force - History (Campaign Histories) - Habbaniya 1941
- The Royal Air Force - History Section
- Dudgeon, Air Vice-Marshal A.G. (1941). Hidden Victory: The Battle of Habbaniya.
- de Chair, Somerset. The Golden Carpet.
- "The Battle for Habbaniya - The forgotten war RAF"
- "The Battle for Habbaniya, May 1941 - Diary of a pupil pilot, P/O Colin Dunford Wood, written at the time"
- "The Battle for Habbaniya, May 1941 - Intelligence reports"
- "Trouble in Paradise.". Time Magazine. April 21, 1941. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,772682,00.html. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
- "May 12—U.S.S.R. recognizes pro-Nazi Government of Iraq.". Time Magazine. June 30, 1941. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,851228,00.html. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
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