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LAC Sidney Ivor Kerslake RAF

Leading Aircraftsman Sidney Ivor Kerslake was serving with the Royal Air Force in No 5 Armoured Car Company at Mosul in Mesopotamia (now part of Northern Iraq) at a time when there was a great argument between the British, Turkey and the Arabs as to whether the city of Mosul should be part of Turkey or remain under the control of the British mandate. At that time, the role of No 5 Armoured Car Company was to assist the RAF in holding back invading Kurdish tribesmen by providing on-the-ground support for the Vickers Vernon troop transport / bombers of 45 and 70 squadron. Attached to this story is a photograph taken at Mosul by Sidney Kerslake of a 45 Squadron Vernon that had been fitted with bomb racks and sights and able to carry 36 bombs instead of 11 passengers. Also attached are two photographs of Sidney, the first in his ‘Mess’ uniform and carrying his dog “Billie”, and the second in his normal tropical working uniform. The last photograph is of the squadron guard room at Mosul.

 

On the 5th July 1925, only a few days before the British Government was to present its case to have Iraq admitted as a member of the League of Nations, Sidney Kerslake (aged 22) was killed in a road accident whilst travelling in a Lancia Armoured Car of No 5 Armoured Car Company (photo attached of a similar vehicle). Unfortunately the circumstances and outcome of the accident were not recorded. Sidney’s body was transported back to the Armoured Car Group Headquarters at RAF Hinaidi in Baghdad and he was buried with full military honours at the Hinaidi RAF Peace Cemetery (name later changed to the Ma’asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery) in Plot 2 Row D Grave 8.

 

The Ma’asker Al Raschid RAF cemetery has officially been maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (who own the land on which the cemetery is sited) ever since control of RAF Hinaidi was handed over to the Iraqi government in February 1938. For reasons unknown, the cemetery became neglected over the years, so much so that only 71 of the original 300 headstones remain in recognisable condition (click HERE for photographs). Sadly, Sidney Kerslake’s headstone has not survived, though it is most likely his remains have not been disturbed. It is hoped that in the near future work will commence on Stage 2 of the restoration at Ma’asker, so that the body of Sidney Kerslake will again be awarded the honour and respect as it was almost a century ago when he died in the service of his country.


My thanks to Claire Connolly for permitting me to post some of the photographs that once belonged to Sidney Kerslake, her grandfather's brother. Claire is the latest person to have contacted me regarding the appalling condition of the Ma'asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery. I sincerely hope that I will soon be able to offer more than vague promises whenever I receive queries from the descendants of servicemen and servicewomen whose ancestors lie in unmarked British war graves in Iraq.


If you would like to read a more detailed story about Sidney Kerslake, click https://www.stevebusterjohnson.com/lac-sidney-kerslake

 

For the full history of RAF Hinaidi and the Ma’asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery, including the completion of Stage 1 of the restoration project (viz. the construction of a new perimeter wall) and future restoration plans, visit the RAF Hinaidi or Ma'Asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery pages on this website.











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Mar 08
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Such a fantastic and informative website. Thanks Steve for honouring these brave men and working so hard to reinstate the cemetery at Ma’Asker.

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