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Thread: RAF Assyrian Levies in WW2 etc

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    Default RAF Assyrian Levies in WW2 etc

    Are there service records of these units of the RAF. Apart from Iraq they saw service in Albania and Greece in 1946. Any Clues ? Christopher.

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    Default Assyrian Levies

    Are you a member of the Military Collectors Club of Canada ? If not, the latest issue of that organization's "Journal" (Winter 2007) has an article by Niels Pedersen titlled "RAF Levies in Iraq - The RAF Levie Parachute Company".

    If you are not a member but wish to have a copy of the article, please advise me by e-mail of your address and I shall despatch said copy to you.

    Hugh Halliday

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    Christopher

    have you had a look at this excellent website?

    http://www.assyrianlevies.com/

    A

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    I have the book "The Gaysh; A History of the Aden Protectorate Levies 1927-61 and the Federal Regular Army of South Arabia 1961-1967", if you feel it may be of interest.

    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Thanks for the replies. I will add a little more detail. My first attempts yesterday to post at the same time as registering vanished.
    This last year I have posted some of my Father's cine from the 1950's on youtube featuring the areas around Khanaqin in Iraq. A young chap from California recently contacted me via Youtube, describing himself as an Assyrian. I rather too flippantly said were they not all in the British Museum. Politely he put me right with the links to Assyrian Levies.com.
    He is asking if I can help find personal records of his grandfather who served for 25 years including action at Habbaniyah, Albania, Greece and Palestine. I do have a name and the rank is probably NCO.

    Would any service records have ended up in England? Clutching at straws I think, but any other hints would be helpful.

    Hugh , Thanks that would be very interesting. A recent publication may well have a new direction for this chap to look into......perhaps a way to get in contact with the author.. elsomsATblueyonder.co.uk. Thanks again.Christopher.
    Last edited by Christopher Elsom; 8th December 2007 at 16:07. Reason: fine tuning

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    Default Assyrian Levies

    The Assyrian Levies expanded enormously during World War Two. Their original duties were airfield security, ie. of Habbaniya & Shaibah.
    They gradually expanded this role into one of protection of Lines of Security & key-installations, like the oil-pipeline across the Jordanian-Iraqi desert. As well as in Iraq, they were a significant unit in: Persia (PAIForce), the Transjordan, occupied/liberated Syria [hard to tell which...!] (until the French had sufficient numbers), Palestine and Cyprus.
    So,that part does not help too much: it could apply to many of the Companies.

    However, I believe the reference to Albania & Greece is unique. I believe that only the parachute troops operated in these countries and I believe that of all the numerous Coys., only 1 was parachute-trained. It is mentioned, in passing, by most sources on these campaigns, mostly in material on the Commando and the small Special Forces units: fascinating in their own right, though a little off-course for this site.

    The parachute unit was generaly styled "Squadron" rather than "Company", possibly more in line with the other 'small units' (SBS, LRDG, etc.) than due to the new RAF Regt. practice, as it was not yet taken under their administrative wing. They (the Levies) were much the older unit!

    The Parachute Sqn. landed by sea on the beaches at Sarande in Albania, alongside the British Commandos. At Athens, I believe (as I don't have my material to hand) they actually parachuted onto the airfield to secure it for follow-on airlanding operations. Prior to Sarande, the Sqn. had been shipped to Naples, and 'worked up' with the Commandos & the landing craft, in Southern Italy. I seem to recall they were then extracted back to Italy, in readiness for the Greek operation.
    The Albanian and Greek operations each qualify, I believe, for the 'Italy' Star, and this medal is therefore the unique indicator of membership of the Parachute Sqn. The paratroopers would normally also have the Africa Star that most of their Levies colleagues would have.
    The Parachute Sqn. wore standard khaki (brown) Battledress (BD), but with a black beret and the Levies cap-badge of crossed-sabres (khunjals? I am away from my records).
    'Normal' Levies wore (at least, in parade order) a bush-hat with a magnificent plume: very "Australian Light Horse". Levies were also prone to some remarkable 'Salvador Dali'-style "tashes".


    Some things to look out for:

    1. No.1 Parachute Sqn. is sometimes is described by the various sources in many different ways, and can sound like completely different units, viz:
    the RAF Levies.
    the Assyrian Levies.
    the Parachute Levies.

    2. Assyrian names are not always unique. I think (I'm not by my DB) I noted three individuals with the same: rank, first name (Christian name!) & surname. Only the service number confirmed their identity. There must have been a roll-call similar to the Welsh regiments, eg. "Jones -454", "Jones -683".

    3. The graveyards, and memorials to the missing, can be quite widespread. A man wounded in Albania might have succumbed in Italy and be buried there. Some are commemorated in Serbia.

    The Parachute Sqn. was not exclusively Assyrian, though (again from memory at this point) they were about 75% Assyrian. The rest would have been Kurdish. Many (not all) Levies units were mixed, probably following Indian Army precautionary practices. Just as in India, 'Assyrians' and 'Kurds' were considered suitable 'martial races', but the Shia and Sunni Arabs were not considered politically and/or militarily reliable, and were not widely recruited in peacetime.
    The officers were essentially British. They were generally Army not RAF, though some RAF men , eg. from the Armoured Car unit in Iraq, or other similar backgrounds, did also join. Some exceptional Iraqi NCOs might be commissioned, as per Indian Army practice.
    For the post WW2 period, the Levies were integrated into the RAF Regiment, and wore RAF blue, with the units becoming Flts. & Sqns. and RAF ranks, not British Army ranks. The Levies had their own rank terms,that were Arabic derivations of Turkish styles: Leader-of-10 (Section Cdr.: Cpl.), Leader-of-50, etc.

    In the 1950s, when the Levies were finally disbanded, most were offerred a chance to transfer to the Iraqi forces, but many felt their careers would not survive, and a good number felt their personal futures might not survive: shades of the Poles & Czechs in the RAF... Many Levies, especially the elite & well-travelled paratroopers, emigrated.

    The Assyrians were seen by many as a small community ready to side with outsiders against (Sunni & Shia) Arab nationalists (ie. during the Rashid Ali Revolt in 1941), so the recent conflict just opened these dormant wounds again, suggesting they would side with fellow Christians (including their old mates, the British...) against other Iraqis.
    Now, a further wave is emigrating and the remark about Assyrians in Iraq being confined to museum inscriptions sadly risks being more truth than jest.


    HTH,

    Mark.

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    Thanks Mark for such a detailed reply ,and illustrative too. I went through the photo gallery on Assyrian levies.com and fine plumes and moustaches were certainly in order,along with an occasional pipe (Dunhill no doubt). I think the medal entitlement is a great hint ,and if such are recorded other things could turn up.
    Christopher.
    Will re-read it all in the morning!

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