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Gladiator in Iraqi markings, by Bomber_of_Bombs, link here


Gloster Gladiators

During May 1941 a month long war broke out in a corner of the world that almost no one had heard of. The war was between the Commonwealth and Iraq. After a coup, Iraq joined the Axis, and launched a siege against an RAF airbase called RAF Habbaniya. After diplomatic attempts to solve the crisis the obsolete aircraft of the Flying School at the airbase launched an attack on the besiegers. Here we will consider just the role played by the Gloster Gladiator in this war.

The Royal Iraqi Air Force launched attacks on RAF Habbaniya. On one occasion, seeing a S.79 approaching at 20,000 feet, one RAF pilot managed to scramble a Gladiator and claw up to that altitude. The Gladiators did not have oxygen systems fitted; gasping for breath the pilot caught up with the S.79. But all four of his guns had iced up and jammed.

After five days of fighting the siege was lifted as the Iraqi army’s morale broke. Then followed a period of relative calm, with only limited air attacks carried out in support of ground operations.

On the 16th May a Gladiator was on standing patrol; at a lower altitude a Hawker Audax was flying in circles carrying out wireless checks.
With a roar, Six ME110s strafed RAF Habbaniya; one pulled up sharply and hammered the Audax from end to end. Then, as suddenly as they arrived they vanished. The Audax managed to crash land at the airfield with almost no control surfaces left. The gunner was dead and the pilot seriously injured.

As far as the crews of ME110s were concerned they had shot down a silver painted biplane, and so concluded that the Gladiator on patrol was gone and it was clear for their bombers. Three HE111s arrived over the airbase and began bombing. Thinking the enemy defenceless they turned for another pass. The Gladiator pounced on the returning HE111s - dropping from his higher altitude. Emptying his guns into one bomber, its engine started to stream smoke and it turned away from the base.

Me-110D captured in Iraq

The Gladiator suddenly heeled over and started a steep dive. Flying Officer Herrtage had been hit and killed by a shot from the Heinkel's rear gunner. The HE111 he attacked also crashed into the desert shortly afterwards.
These modern aircraft had arrived from Germany. The aircraft of Fliegerfuhrer Irak were to carry Iraqi markings or none at all. The force consisted of five HE111s and twelve ME110s.

On the 17th May a pair of Gladiators were sent on a sweep to Raschid airfield, where they found a pair of ME110s taking off. The two Gladiators dived on the enemy, however they overshot. Expecting the ME110s to use their much better speed and leave the Gladiators standing, the two pilots were surprised when the Germans turned to fight. The Gladiators easily out manoeuvred the ME110s and shot both down in flames. Making their task easier was that neither ME110 was carrying a rear gunner.

The Axis forces did receive some more reinforcements on the 28th when the Italians arrived with eleven CR.42s based at Kirkuk. The one and only action involving Italian forces was when a pair of CR.42s were bounced by a lone Gladiator. The Gladiator managed to force one down in the path of advancing British ground forces to be captured. The other escaped.

However, by now the Coup leaders were in flight and the Commonwealth ground forces were nearing Baghdad, with the Iraqi army unable to offer more than token resistance. The Iraqi government sued for peace, and the Axis forces fled the country in the face of advancing Commonwealth forces.

The War Thunder Team

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