Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya, more commonly known as RAF Habbaniya, (originally RAF Dhibban) was a Royal Air Force station at Habbaniyah, about west of Baghdad in modern day Iraq, on the banks of the Euphrates near Lake Habbaniyah. It was operational from October 1936 until the 31 May 1959 when the British were finally forced to withdraw following the July 1958 Revolution.
It remained a major Iraqi military airbase.
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
In the late 1930s Imperial Airways established a staging post on Lake Habbaniya for 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 the Mesopotamian desert.
Roald Dahl was stationed there in 1940, as described in his book, Going Solo. After WWII, 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.
Among the Units located at Habbaniya at various times were:
- No4 Service Flying Training School;
- 115 Maintenance Unit;
- 134 Maintenance Unit;
- 123 Signals Unit;
- 276 Signals Unit;
- Squadrons Nos 8, 30, 70, 84, 244, 249, 683;
- No 1 Company RAF Armoured Cars;
- No 2 Armoured Car Squadron RAF Regiment;
- 1st Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment.
According to the Federation of American Scientists the site was used to produce Mustard Gas (a chemical weapon). The site was built in 1983 - 1984. The factory produced the gas for use against the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war. The factory produced 60-80 tonnes per year.
Following the departure of the RAF, the Iraqi Military took control and renamed it Tammuz Airbase
In present times, the former British base is used by both the United States Armed Forces and the New Iraqi Army as a forward operating base, and is now known as Camp Habbaniyah. From this outpost, combat operations are run from the outskirts of Fallujah to the outskirts of Ramadi. Since 2006 Camp Habbaniyah has grown into a Regional Training and Regional Support Center as well as the headquarters for the Iraqi Army 1st Division. On going Coalition and Iraqi construction projects have revitalized much of the base.
Units and aircraft
- G G Jefford, RAF Squadrons, second edition 2001, Airlife Publishing, UK, ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
- Ray Sturtivant, ''Flying Training And Support Units since 1912, 2007, Air-Britain, UK, ISBN 0 85130 365 x