On This Day…

On the 16th June 2012 on Iraq, 32 people were killed by a car bomb in Baghdad…


…A year later on this day in 2013 a further 20 were killed in a series of car bombs across the country

A British presence in Iraq had existed long before recent events and Operation Telic. After World War I the League of Nations began creating Mandates for the territories of the defeated Central Powers. The idea was based on the principle that the territories would eventually become independent but under the guidance of one of the victorious powers. Authorities in Ottoman provinces began to fear the Mandate concept since as it appeared to suggest European imperial rule but by another name.

Royal Signals support

In 1920 the UK was given the mandate to administer Mesopotamia (Iraq). The garrison largely comprised troops of 17th and 18th Indian Divisions, supported by their signal companies, by A Corps Signals and by Nos. 1 and 2 Wireless Signal Squadron. Intercept operations were conducted by what would later become No. 2 Section, No. 2 Wireless Company.

Discontent with British rule materialized in May 1920 with the outbreak of mass meetings and demonstrations in Baghdad. The start of the revolution began with peaceful protests against British rule. There were large gatherings at Sunni and Shia mosques which suggested co-operation between the two main sects of Iraqi society. At one of the larger meetings representatives were nominated to present the case for Iraqi independence to the British officials but these demands were immediately dismissed as impractical.

Armed revolt, that the British authorities had hoped to avoid, broke out in late June 1920. The revolt soon gained momentum as the British garrisons in the mid-Euphrates region were weak and the armed tribes much stronger. By late July, the armed tribal rebels controlled most of the mid-Euphrates region and the success of the tribes caused the revolt to spread to the lower Euphrates and all around Baghdad.

The British War Secretary, Winston Churchill, authorised immediate reinforcements to be sent from Iran and there were also Iraqi tribes that were actively engaged against the revolt since these tribes were recognised by the British authorities and profited from the arrangement. Eventually the rebels began to run low on supplies and funding and could no longer support the revolt while British forces were becoming more effective. The revolt ended in October 1920 but at a considerable cost – over 6,000 Iraqis and 400 Imperial troops were killed. A reduction in troop numbers followed, leaving the Royal Signals presence in the form of the Baghdad District Signal Section (from 1923 the Iraq Signal Section). The Section was disbanded in April 1929.

Photograph from Op Telic.