The original purpose of my website was to document the early years of 6 Squadron. This evolved from my first book, For God, England & Ethel, the story of my grandfather who served with 6 Squadron on the Western Front during WW1. I also wanted to display some of the research material that didn't end up in the book. The website has grown a lot over the past fourteen years but 6 Squadron still plays a major part in it, with sections on the 6 Squadron journal, the Tin-opener, the squadron's move to Mesopotamia after WW1, Facts & Figures on the squadron's early operations, the types of aircraft on charge, numerous WW1 photos, the 6 Squadron Roll of Honour and profiles of several 6 Squadron pioneers.
The Royal Air Force took over command and control from the British Army of all British Forces in Iraq in October 1922, requiring a bigger RAF station than it had in Baghdad West. The new site was seven miles east of Baghdad West, on the eastern bank of the River Tigris, and the station became known as RAF Hinaidi. To protect the low-lying land from flooding, a bund was constructed around the perimeter of the cantonment, eight and a quarter miles in length with an area of 2,500 acres. RAF Hinaidi was operational from 1921 until January 1938, by which time all British operations had been moved to RAF Dhibban, later renamed RAF Habbaniya.
Throughout the operational life of RAF Hinaidi, most British servicemen and women from all arms of the British Forces who died in Southern Iraq were buried at the Hinaidi RAF Peace Cemetery, located at the south-western corner of the RAF cantonment. The land upon which RAF Hinaidi stood was handed over to the Iraqi government in January 1938 with the exception of the cemetery which was to remain the property of the British Government (Ministry of Defence) with the cemetery to be maintained in perpetuity by the Imperial War Graves Commission, name later changed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Sadly, over the next eighty years, the cemetery (since renamed the Ma'Asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery or more simply the Rasheed Cemetery) containing 299* graves gradually fell into disrepair and by 1975 was abandoned altogether by the CWGC (click HERE for a timeline of the cemetery).
I first became aware of the appalling condition of the Ma'Asker RAF Cemetery in 2018 whilst researching the death of a WW1 'ace' pilot who was killed whilst departing on a mission from RAF Hinaidi in 1922 and was buried in the cemetery, half a mile from where his Bristol FB2 Fighter crashed. Five years on, thanks in the main to the support and perseverance of the British Embassy staff in Baghdad, there is a new wall built around the cemetery, with a contract in place to pay for a caretaker. Sadly, though approval was given in December 2022 for the contractor who built the new cemetery wall to commence Stage 2 by moving the remaining headstones to one side, tidying up the site and organising the remaining headstones to clearly display what remains, this work was ordered to be put on hold by the JCCC (Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre) until such time the CWGC/MoD/JCC is able to make a decision as to what restoration works will be carried out at Ma'Asker and the timeframe. Click HERE for the full story.
* I have obtained compelling evidence of another burial (the 300th) at the
Ma'Asker Al Raschid Cemetery in March 2023. See the NEWS section for the complete story.
Note: I forwarded the details to the Commemorations & Licensing, JCCC on the 5th April 2023 as the CWGC will only update their records if/when the JCCC and Air Historical Branch confirm my findings. To date, no progress has been made.
The most recent enquiry from an ancestor of a British servicemen who died in Iraq and was buried at the Ma'Asker Al Raschid cemetery was from Dawn Rundle, great niece of the late LAC Ernest Guy Rosevaere, who was serving with the No: 6 RAF Armoured Car division at the time of his death in 1922. Dawn expressed her deep concern regarding the dreadful state of the cemetery and provided me with several photos as well as journals and letters written by Guy's commanding officer, Wing Commander Harold Primrose. They make compelling reading. Click HERE to be directed to the website page for Ernest Rosevaere. To date (November 2023) I have received 30 enquiries against specific burials. Click HERE for a cemetery diagram that shows the graves in question.
I am currently in the process of creating a series of 74 posts on Instagram stevebusterjohnson featuring a photograph of each of the remaining headstones and the story behind each of the men, women and a baby girl whose deaths match these headstones. Some of the stories are very revealing as to the causes of death and service history of those who died, amongst them WW1 flying 'aces' and a British High Commissioner instrumental in putting Iraq on the map. Click HERE to see the photos.
These photographs was taken on Remembrance Day 2023, showing a wreath being laid at the grave of Phoebe Marks by the British Ambassador to Iraq, accompanied by his Defence Attaché and the Diplomatic Clearance Liaison Officer. The grave is quite close to the remains of the monument to Brig Gen Sir Gilbert Clayton KCMG, KBE, CB who was the British High Commissioner to Iraq at the time of his death in Baghdad on the 12th September 1929, just two months after Phoebe Marks died. Sir Gilbert's body was buried in the same cemetery, but apart from the other 299 burials. Visit the NEWS section for Phoebe Marks' story and photographs or click HERE for photographs of Sir Gilbert's funeral procession and burial at Ma'Asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery.
This website contains photographs covering WW1 and the inter-War years, with an emphasis on 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force). There is also a section with 43 pages of high definition aerial photographs (two to a page) taken by 6 Squadron aircraft before and after the Battle of Messines. A new section has recently been added, containing images of WW1 maps and photographs as well as copies of every page of my grandfather's WW1 wireless training document.
If you need help researching anyone who served in the British Royal Flying Corps and information regarding the early years of the Royal Air Force, you can contact me by clicking on my name below.
My sixth book, "Rising from the Flanders Mud" has just been published, with copies able to be purchased from Amazon and other on-line book stores or alternatively direct from the publisher by clicking on the button below.
Updated 19th November 2023