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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 eighteen 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 as well as profiles of 6 Squadron pioneers.

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The Royal Air Force took over control of all British Forces in Iraq in October 1922, requiring a bigger RAF station than its HQ in Baghdad West. The new site was in the south of the city, seven miles east of Baghdad West, on the eastern bank of the River Tigris, and was named 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 remained the property of the British 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. Six 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 put on hold by the JCCC (Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre) until such time the CWGC/MoD/JCC is in a position 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 been informed (Jan 2024) that a site survey has been carried out at the Ma'asker Cemetery which will enable the CWGC and the MoD to determine the scope and timing of the next phase of restoration. Watch this space . . . . . . .

* 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. 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 (Feb 2024), no progress has been made on my submission.

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 I have received 30 enquiries against specific burials. Click HERE for a cemetery diagram that shows the graves in question.

I have created an interactive database comprising seventy-one (71) photographs of the surviving identifiable headstones at Ma'asker, linked to the position of the matching grave. Click HERE to select the photos. 

I have just expanded my website (Jan 2024) to include a section devoted to the men and women who are buried at the Habbaniya War Cemetery, 55 miles west of Baghdad. The cemetery was originally part of RAF Dhibban, later known as RAF Habbaniya. I have added details of each person buried there, including the grave location and a recent (2023) headstone photograph. If you want more information on the history of RAF Habbaniya that isn't covered on the pages of my website, take a look at the RAF Habbaniya Association website or send me a message via the CONTACT tab at the top of this page . 

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.           

  Steve ' Buster' Johnson

My sixth book, "Rising from the Flanders Mud" has recently been published (Nov 2023), 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. 

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Updated 21st February 2024

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