The Iraq Levies (also known as the Assyrian Levies as they would eventually become dominated by ethnic Assyrians) was the first Iraqi military force established by the British in British controlled Iraq. The Iraq Levies originated in a local Arab armed scout force raised during the First World War. After Iraq became a British Mandate, the force became a minority manned force of mostly, Iraqi Turkmen, Kurds and Assyrians who lived in the north of the country while the nascent Iraqi Army was manned by Arabs. Eventually it became a mostly Assyrian manned and British officered force while it was used mostly for the guarding of the Royal Air Force bases in Iraq.
The Levies distinguished themselves in May 1941 during the Anglo-Iraqi War and were also used in other theatres of the Second World War after 1942. The force thereafter grew and survived until it was disbanded in May 1955 when control of RAF Habbaniya and RAF Shaibah was handed to Iraq.
Three members of the RAF Levies arrive at Liverpool aboard SS Orbita in 1946.
Royal Air Force
|Engagements||World War II|
• Anglo-Iraqi War
The Iraq Levies traced their history to the Arab Scouts organized in 1915 by Major J. I. Eadie, of the British Indian Army who served as a Special Service Officer in the Muntafiq Division in Mesopotamia. He recruited forty mounted Arabs from the tribes round Nasiriyeh, for duty under the Intelligence Department as bodyguard for political officers in southern and central Iraq. By 1918 the Arab Scouts increased to 5,467 Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman, Marsh Arab and Assyrian militia.
In 1919 the force changed names twice, first to the Militia and then in July to the Iraq Levies when Iraq became a British Mandate. On 12 August 1919, the force became known as the "Arab and Kurdish Levies." Also in 1919 the Iraq Levies were split into a strike force of 3,075 men, based in Baquba, and district Police force of 1,786 men. On 1 August 1919, the Levy and Gendarmerie Orders were published in which the control of the Levies, and the duties of the Inspecting Officer of the Levies, who were limited to inspection and administration, were defined. This put the Levies were under the control of three different people: the Inspecting Officer, the Political Officer of the Area, and the Local Administrative Commandant. The budget was dealt with by the Inspecting Officer, except in the Northern Iraqi Provinces of Kirkuk, Sulaimani and Mosul Liwas, where Political Officers dealt with it. Later the Levies came under their own OC Iraq Levies.
The Levies consisted of a Headquarters (first located in Baquba, then Hinaidi, and then in Habbaniya), a Hospital (also in Habbaniya), and numerous numbered field companies. Some of the field companies were later organized into battalions for mobile operations.
At the 1921 Cairo Conference the mission of the Levies was defined "...to relieve the British and Indian Troops in Iraq, take over out-posts in Mosul Vilayat (province) and in Kurdistan, previously held by the Imperial Garrison, and generally to fill the gap until such time as the Iraq National Army is trained to undertake these duties."
Up to 1921 the Levies had consisted primarily of Arabs, Kurds, Turcomans and Shabakis, while the Assyrians had fought independently alongside the Armenians and Allied Forces in an Assyrian war of independence during World War I. Now that an Iraqi Army was to be formed, the Arabs and other Muslim peoples would be required to join it rather than to go to the Levies. It was decided to enlist ethnic Assyrians in the Levies.
The Assyrians were prized for their discipline, loyalty, bravery and fighting skills by the British, and were Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox or Chaldean Catholic Christians, a Semitic ethnic and religious minority in a generally Arab/Kurdish Muslim population. In July 1922 Orders were issued in which no more Arabs were to be enlisted as they were required to join the new Iraqi Army, and those serving could not re-engage. A 1922 treaty between Great Britain and Iraq allowed for the continued existence of the Levies as "local forces of the Imperial garrison" and that its members were "members of the British Forces who are inhabitants of Iraq".
By 1928 the Levies had become entirely Assyrian. The Marsh Arab battalion became the 7th Battalion of the Iraqi Army. The force then expanded rapidly and became known as "Shabanas", a Turkish word meaning a semi-military gendarmerie. Its primary duty was now to protect Royal Air Force bases in Iraq.
As the Assyrian manned force became more disciplined they rendered excellent service; during the Arab rebellion of the 1920s they displayed, under conditions of the greatest trial, steadfast loyalty to their British officers.
In 1920 the Assyrians had given proof of their great discipline and fighting qualities when the Assyrian camps at Mindan and Baquba were attacked by Arab forces, the Assyrians defeating and driving off the Arabs.
In 1931 Levies and Iraqi army units were patrolling Barzan district. Government troops implied government control, which Shaykh Ahmad still wanted to avoid.
On 1 June 1932 the Levies presented a signed memorial to their commanding officer stating that "all the men had decided to cease serving as from 1st July." The reason was Britain had "failed adequately to ensure the future of the Assyrian nation after the termination of their mandate over Iraq."
Following abortive negotiations through Assyrian officers, British troops were brought in from Egypt to take over the guard and garrison duties of the Levies. Assyrian civilian and religious leaders issued a statement urging all ranks of the Levies to continue in "loyal and obedient service" until a national petition to the League of Nations could be responded to. The effect of this intervention was to calm concern amongst the majority of Levies, who resumed their former duties. Two hundred and fifty men were however discharged from service.
During 1940/41 Iraq joined the Axis powers and the Battle of Habbaniya took place. 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 Armoured Car Company RAF, and the RAF's 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. The Levies then recruited an additional 11,000 men, mostly Assyrians, but also some Kurds and Yezidi.
"They had dug trenches and were determined on destroying the Assyrians and taking their properties and possessions. Assyrians painfully remembered the massacre of 1933 in Simele and the surrounding villages and pledged "Never Again!". They remembered the raping and pillaging of defenseless Assyrian villagers." 
By 1942, the Iraq Levies consisted of a Headquarters, a Depot, Specialist Assyrian companies, 40 service companies and the 1st Parachute Company, which consisted of 75% Assyrian and 25% Kurd. The new Iraq Levies Disciplinary Code was based largely on the Indian Army Act.
By 1943 the Iraq Levies strength stood at 166 British officers controlling 44 companies; 22 Assyrian, five Mixed Assyrian/Yizidi, ten Kurdish, four Marsh Arabs, and three Baluchi. Eleven Assyrian companies served in Palestine and another four served in Cyprus. The Parachute Company was attached to the Royal Marine Commando and were active in Albania, Italy and Greece. In 1943/1944 the Iraq Levies were renamed the Royal Air Force Levies.
In 1945, after the Second World War, the Levies were reduced to 60 British officers and 1,900 other ranks. The RAF Regiment took over command of the Levies and Army personnel were gradually replaced by RAF personnel. During October 1946 the Levies battalions were redesignated as wings and squadrons to conform to the RAF Regiment procedure. In December the Kurdish Squadrons in Cyprus and the Persian Gulf were returned to Iran.
The RAF Levies continued its escort and guard duties into 1954; when it consisted of 1,200 Assyrians, 400 Kurds, and 400 Arabs. The RAF Levies were disbanded on 2 May 1955, and King Faisal was present along with members of the government, as RAF Habbaniya and RAF Shaibah were handed back to the Iraqi Government, although the RAF remained at Habbaniya until May 1959. Of 515 Assyrians, 195 volunteered for service in the Iraqi Army. At 0800 hours on 3 May 1955, the Levy's quarter guards were relieved by guards from the Iraqi Army. A minor and passing event but it did signify the end of an era as now the Levies had ceased to exist.
The British offered financial compensation, vocational training, and resettlement in civilian life to members of the RAF Levies. Those members with 15 or more years of service were pensioned off. Those with less than 15 years were given a gratuity of one month pay for each year of service. Also, the Levies received full pay up to and including 2 May. Those who were to be discharged on that day received pay and a ration allowance for 28 days terminal leave; plus a civilian clothing allowance and a free railway pass to their homes. Those Levies receiving vocational training had their current rates of pay and allowances continue until the end of their training.
Levy Officer Ranks were derived from Ancient Assyrian Military Ranks:
A total of ten Orders of the British Empire were awarded to officers of the Iraq Levies.
Five OBEs were awarded to:
Five MBEs were awarded to:
The Military Cross was awarded to the following personnel;
The Military Medal was awarded to the following personnel;
Six members of the Iraq Levies were Mentioned in Dispatches
The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of distinguished services in the Middle East:-
"... Lincoln Regiment - Capt. H. J. C. Thomas, MBE (64588), attached Iraq Levies ..."
(London Gazette, 23 December 1941)
Over 300 Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct awarded for over fifteen years service in the Assyrian Levies.
Dozens of King George Medals with Clasp were awarded in 1922 for operations in Rawanduz in Northern Iraq.
Three different World War Two Medals were awarded to members of the Iraq Levies.
For similar units see:
The 1925 Birthday Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King, and were published in The London Gazette on 3 June 1925.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate,1926 Birthday Honours
The 1926 Birthday Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King on 3 June, but it was announced on 20 May that due to the national strike, the King had approved the Prime Minister's recommendation to delay the publication of the list until 3 July 1926. The honours were effective to 5 June 1926. Per standard practice, Sir Paul Chater, who died 27 May 1926, still received the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as he would have received the honour if he had survived.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1927 Birthday Honours
The 1927 Birthday Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King, and were published in The London Gazette on 3 June 1927.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1931 Birthday Honours
The King's Birthday Honours 1931 were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by members of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King. They were published on 2 June 1931.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1932 Birthday Honours
The King's Birthday Honours 1932 were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by members of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King. They were published on 3 June 1932.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1933 Birthday Honours
The King's Birthday Honours 1933 were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by members of the British Empire.
The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King. They were published on 3 June 1933.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.AHQ Iraq
AHQ Iraq (Air Headquarters Iraq or Air H.Q. Iraq) was a command of the Royal Air Force (RAF).Assyrian independence movement
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There have been many hindrances to the movement, including events such as the Assyrian genocide, Simele massacre, internal conflicts over naming disputes and Assyrian churches, portrayals in media, and Arabization, Kurdification, and Turkification policies. Most recently, the primary problem for them has been ISIS, which took over and expelled a massive portion of the population from the Nineveh Plains in Northern Iraq. The Assyrian Aid Society of America has requested that the U.S. government designate these actions as a genocide against Assyrians in these regions.Austen Henry Layard, the British Empire's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, stated that the Assyrians had survived the Arab, Mongol, and Kurdish conquests in the mountains of Hakkari and northern Mesopotamia, where they had fought to maintain their independence in the nineteenth century.In 2016, the Iraqi Parliament voted against a new Christian province in Nineveh Plains, which was a stated political objective of all major Assyrian political groups and institutions. Assyrians, including the leader of the Assyrian Christian party Bet al-Nahrain, Romio Hakkari, protested the Iraqi parliament's decision and stated "We do not want to be part of the possible Sunni (Arab) autonomous region in Iraq".General Service Medal (1918)
The General Service Medal (1918 GSM) was instituted to recognise service in minor Army and Royal Air Force operations for which no separate medal was intended. Local forces, including police, qualified for many of the clasps, as could units of the Indian Army prior to 1947.The GSM was equivalent to the 1915 Naval General Service Medal. Both these medals were replaced by the General Service Medal in 1962.H-3 Air Base
H-3 Air Base (code-named 202C, 202D) is part of a cluster of former Iraqi Air Force bases in the Al-Anbar Governorate of Iraq. H3 is located in a remote stretch of Iraq's western desert, about 435 kilometers from Baghdad in western Iraq. It is close to the Syrian–Iraqi border, and near the highway that connects Jordan with Baghdad.
H-3 Main is supported by two dispersal airfields, H-3 Southwest 32°44′48″N 039°35′59″E, and H-3 Northwest 33°04′34″N 039°35′52″E, and a Highway strip, 42 kilometers to the west 32°50′55″N 039°18′28″E. H-3 Southwest is served by a single 9,700 foot runway and has a parallel taxiway that could be used as an alternate runway.
The complex was one of eight major operating bases of the Iraqi Air Force prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Coalition forces. It was later de-militarized by the Coalition and today is abandoned.Herbert Thomas Dobbin
Brigadier-General Herbert Thomas Dobbin CBE DSO (1878-1946) was a British Infantry officer of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He commanded a number of Battalions during the First World War and in 1918 was appointed GOC of the 75th Brigade. After the War he became Commandant of the Iraq Levies and Colonel Commandant of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.Iraqi Army
The Iraqi Army, officially the Iraqi Ground Forces, is the ground force component of the Iraqi Armed Forces, having been active in various incarnations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It was known as the Royal Iraqi Army up until the coup of July 1958.
The Iraqi Army in its modern form was first created by the United Kingdom during the inter-war period of de facto British control of Mandatory Iraq. Following the invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces in 2003, the Iraqi Army was rebuilt along American lines with enormous amounts of U.S. military assistance at every level. Because of the Iraqi insurgency that began shortly after the invasion, the Iraqi Army was later designed to initially be a counter-insurgency force. With the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, Iraqi forces have assumed full responsibility for their own security. A New York Times article suggested that, between 2004 and 2014, the U.S. had provided the Iraqi Army with $25 billion in training and equipment in addition to an even larger sum from the Iraqi treasury.The Army extensively collaborated with Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces during anti-ISIL operations.James Renton
Major General James Malcolm Leslie Renton CB DSO OBE (1898–1972) was a senior British Army officer who briefly commanded the 7th Armoured Division ("The Desert Rats") during the Second World War.Levy
Levy, Lévy or Levies may refer to:
Levy's (department store), Arizona chain
Levy, Missouri, a community in the United States
Levy County, Florida, a county in Florida
Levee, an artificial embankmentList of wars involving Iraq
This is a list of wars involving the Republic of Iraq and its predecessor states.No. 2623 Squadron RAuxAF Regiment
No. 2623 (East Anglian) Squadron RAuxAF Regiment is a Royal Auxiliary Air Force RAF Regiment reserve squadron based at RAF Honington. It was formed on 1 July 1979 to provide ground defence of the station. Tasked with preventing Soviet Special Forces from disrupting flying operations, personnel were recruited from across East Anglia and formed an integral part of the Station's war-fighting capability for the next 15 years. Throughout this period, the Squadron participated in many exercises and held annual camps in the United Kingdom, Germany and Gibraltar, winning the Strickland Trophy competition in 1991.RAF Habbaniya
Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya, more commonly known as RAF Habbaniya, (originally RAF Dhibban), was a Royal Air Force station at Habbaniyah, about 55 miles (89 km) west of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, on the banks of the Euphrates near Lake Habbaniyah. It was operational from October 1936 until 31 May 1959 when the British were finally withdrawn following the July 1958 Revolution. It was the scene of fierce fighting in May 1941 when it was besieged by the Iraqi Military following the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état.
It remained a major Iraqi military airbase.RAF Iraq Command
Iraq Command was the Royal Air Force (RAF) commanded inter-service command in charge of British forces in Iraq in the 1920s and early 1930s, during the period of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. It continued as British Forces in Iraq until 1941 when it was replaced by AHQ Iraq. It consisted of Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, British Army, Commonwealth and locally raised units, commanded by an RAF officer normally of Air Vice-Marshal rank.RAF Regiment
The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regiment) is part of the Royal Air Force and functions as a specialist corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. The Corps carries out soldiering tasks relating to the delivery of air power. Examples of such tasks are Non Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO), recovery of downed aircrew (Joint Personnel Recovery - JPR), and in depth defence of airfields by way of aggressively patrolling a large area of operations outside airfields in hostile environments. In addition the RAF Regiment provides Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) to the British Army and Royal Marines, and provides a platoon size commitment to the Special Forces Support Group.
The RAF Regiment Gunners are personnel trained in various disciplines such as infantry tactics, force protection, field craft, sniper, support Special Forces operations, CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) defence, equipped with advanced vehicles and detection measures. RAF Regiment instructors are responsible for training all Royal Air Force personnel in basic force protection such as first aid, weapon handling and CBRN skills.
The regiment and its members are known within the RAF as "The Regiment", "Rock Apes" or "Rocks". After basic training at RAF Halton, and a 20 week gunner course at RAF Honington, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and ensure that air operations can continue without delay in the aftermath of an attack. RAF Regiment squadrons use aggressive defence tactics whereby they actively seek out infiltrators in a large area surrounding airfields.