Skip to content

Persia & Iraq 1941 - 1947

Further information on each of the units and formations can be found in the sections as below:

The United Kingdom maintained significant interests in the Middle East following the end of the Great War in 1918. This war led to the dismembering of the former Ottoman Empire, with one of the countries being created out of the chaos being Iraq. A new government for Iraq was formed in November 1920, with Emir Feisel being proclaimed King of Iraq on 23 August 1921. The United Kingdom signed a treaty with the fledgling country in October 1922, to define the relationship between the two nations, but this treaty imposed limitations on the sovereignty of Iraq and protected British interests, particularly in relation to oil. In 1925, the oil-rich area around Mosul was ceded to Iraq from Turkey.

In 1930, the United Kingdom relinquished the mandate it had held over the country since the end of the Great War, leaving Iraq an independent country. The U.K. signed a new treaty with the Iraqi government securing the use of two airbases in the country, one near Basra (Shaibah) and the other to west of Baghdad (Habbaniya). the Royal Navy was also allowed access up the Shatt-al-Arab waterway.

Planning had been conducted by India Command on behalf of the British government in the early years of the Second World War, in case it was necessary to secure Iraq to guarantee oil supplies to the British Empire. A coup d’etat in April 1941 led to these plans being invoked. The Indian Army provided the troops and commanders for this operation, which led to the country being secured within two months.

British and Indian troops from Iraq were used in the invasion of Syria in June and July 1941, and then Persia (now known as Iran), an independent sovereign country, was invaded in August 1941.

Persia and Iraq developed as a base for a supply route to Russia, through which millions of tonnes of aid flowed to support the Soviet forces. In early 1943, the rapid German advances through southern Russia threatened Persia and Iraq, so to guard against German invasion, British forces were built up in Persia and Iraq. This threat subsided in early 1943, so British forces were gradually run down during the rest of the war.

Further information on each of the units and formations can be found in the sections as below:

Back To Top