One of the lesser known minor campaigns of the Second World War was the brief, but intense, 1941 Anglo-Iraqi war involving the British, Iraqis, Germans, Italians, Vichy French, the Arab Legion, and even the Mufti of Jerusalem. The outcome insured British control of the region and helped to lay the groundwork for decades of future conflict in the region.
Barrie James has woven an exciting and highly readable tale of a little known conflict on the margins of the much wider war in the Mediterranean and greater Middle East. James lays out the events in Iraq during the spring of 1941which culminated in a revolt which briefly established a Iraqi ‘National Defense Government’ before British intervention re-established Anglo control.
The defeat of the Iraqi revolt rested primarily on two displays of British martial skill. The first was the spirited defense of the RAF base at Habbaniya which was besieged and surrounded by a much larger and better equipped Iraqi force. The second was the audacious 500 mile trackless desert crossing made by a relief force that quickly helped to turn the revolt into an unmitigated disaster for the Iraqi leadership.
The book is 244 pages in length, divided into 5 chapters as well as an epilogue, appendix, bibliography, and index. The action moves quickly from location to location, never lingering too long in any one spot or becoming bogged down. The story is told from multiple points of view, giving the reader something of an insider’s view into many different characters motives.
James has certainly written an enjoyable book, but I would be remiss to call it good history. James uses the academically dishonest vehicle of reported and invented conversations without attribution, in fact he includes no footnotes whatsoever. It's possible that some readers aren’t quite as picky as I am (I am an academically trained historian), but I felt like it should at least be noted.
James also has a large, yet unimpressive, bibliography that includes only British archival material. This would not necessarily doom a historical work unless it purports to be a story told from all points of view, which this implies. Further, a quick scan of the books listed in the bibliography show that most of them are older works and not really what would be considered current research. The analogy I would make regarding this work is that this book to a historian is much like the Hollywood version of the Battle of the Bulge is to a modeler.
For the modeler, the book has no photographic reference, a major downer for most that will be reading this review. It is a rousing tale; take nothing away from the author in that respect. If you are looking for a better feel of the conflict this is a great place to start, it will give you a strong sense of the major players and the difficulties that each faced. Finally, I was speaking to Ray Charlton, a friend of mine who had read the book and I believe he summed it up better than anyone when he said, “it was great info-tainment!”.
Highs: A well written, fast paced tale that keeps you turning the pages.Lows: Lack of photographic material limits use for modelers. Lack of accepted historical writing norms limits use of historians as well.Verdict: Recommended, but with strong reservations as noted above.
About Rick Cooper (clovis899) FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
I have been modeling for about 30 years now. Once upon a time in another century I owned my own hobby shop; way more work than it was worth. I tip my opti-visor to those who make a real living at it. Mainly build armor these days but I keep working at figures, planes and the occasional ship.