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Thread: Anglo-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

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    Default Anglo-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    George Nelson HACKING was a Canadian who enlisted in the RAF. His service number was 537812/ Can his service number suggest the approximate date and place of his enlistment ?

    Below is a Press Release describing his service in Iraq in 1941. It raises several questions, but the most pressing is the type of aircraft in which he would have been evacuated from Hibbiyana - a Bristol Bombay or a Vickers Valentia ? Is he mentioned in any history of the campaign ?.

    RCAF Press Release No.8182 dated 9 January 1945 which read as follows:

    “With the RCAF in Britain – A wounded RCAF groundcrew sergeant took over an antique machine gun in an old troop carrying aircraft and successfully defended it from an hour-long attack by three fighters. The Sergeant, G.N. Hacking, related this incident at an RCAF depot in England where he is now awaiting repatriation to his home at Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

    “Hacking was serving with the RAF in Iraq when German tourists suddenly became efficient soldiers, three squadrons of fighter planes bearing black swastikas appeared in the sky, and a Nazi engineered revolt broke out. ‘They had our base surrounded on three sides and made it pretty hot for us’ Hacking said. ‘We were not too well prepared.’

    “There were no trained air gunners available and the old aircraft on the station were often useless. ‘Whenever a pilot decided to risk flying one of the old kites, he would just shout to one of the groundcrew to jump into the back seat and off we would go to do a bit of strafing’, Hacking remarked, explaining that that was his first experience in air gunnery.

    “With everyone on the station working night and day and sleeping only when exhausted, Hacking fixed a makeshift bed beneath a stout work bench in the hangar. It saved his life when a howitzer shell demolished the building. ‘I was sound asleep when suddenly there was no building over my head’, he said.

    “Hacking suffered a serious injury to his right hand and was evacuated by air with other wounded. ‘The gunner in the old kite had been flying continuously for three days and he just collapsed into sleep after we took off.’

    “’I climbed up to the gun position. There was no turret, just a swivel ring for the old gun. You stood in the slipstream exposed from th knees up. A few minutes after we took off three Gladiators which had been captured from a British airfield attacked us. They must have been poor shots. They kept at us for almost an hour while I rattled off all my ten pans of ammunition. We were hit but they did no damage at all.’

    “Thus Hacking describes the action he fought with a badly smashed hand, fighting off three fighters with the aid of one slow and old machine gun/ As Hacking was running out of ammunition an RAF Blenheim came up and shot one of the enemy machines down, damaging and caring off the others.

    “Sergeant Hacking was studying aeronautics in British Columbia in 1936, when the school closed down. Determined to learn about aeroplanes, he went to England and joined the RAF as an apprentice. In 1938 Hacking was posted to Iraq and became rigger in the private aircraft of sn Air Vic Marshall/ ‘It was a picnic,’ he said. ‘ We flew to India, Egypt, Palestine, even down to North Africa.’

    “Hacking was posted to Karachi, India, for convalescence from his would. Later he returned to Iraq, coming to England in 1944. He transferred to the RCAF last December. He intends to remain in the aircraft business, either with the RCAF or with a civilian firm after the war.”
    .

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    Just an observation on spelling errors in case others get confused. In 2nd paragraph, I am fairly certain that spelling of the aerodrome stated to be Hibbiyana should be investigated! In last paragraph, first sentence, I think "would" should be "wound".

    My understanding is that the main aircraft on strength at 4 FTS were Oxfords and Gordons, plus (I think) Audaxes. Despite the wording in 4th paragraph, I cannot imagine any commander ordering a troop carrier aircraft be scrambled to attack fighters such as Gladiators - an Audax might have a chance, but that also might be a stretch. Also had not heard of Gladiators (presume RAF ones) being captured at this time in Iraq, but guess that would be possible.

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    DD: Correct re aerodrome name, see below.
    But re "cannot imagine any commander ordering a troop carrier aircraft be scrambled to attack fighters such as Gladiators"
    that is not what Hacking report says, sorry: he's referring to an evac flight which he was aboard, which was set upon by fighters. Reportedly captured Gladiators: suggest that does need checking.




    HH text
    "Hibbiyana": utterly wrong, sorry Hugh.
    Correctly RAF Habbaniya (commonly) but also RAF Habbaniyah. A principal RAF Stn of Iraq and scene of brisk conflict May 1941. Formerly RAF Dhibban. See Jefford eg.
    These transliterations from Arabic are well-known to be subject to variation at the time, and also later...

    Sgt Hacking: no mention in Shores Dust Clouds in the Middle East

    "Bristol Bombay or a Vickers Valentia"
    May I just say, how good it is to see Valentia correctly spelt?
    The description of "climbing up" and the "swivel ring" (the Scarff ring) strongly indicates Valentia, some 216 Sqn aircraft having had this dorsal position added, abaft the upper wing.
    Definitely not a feature of the Bombay (though 216 Sqn had both aircraft types on charge eg at Lydda, at the time).
    See eg Halley Squadrons of the RAF.... and The K File).

    Valentia evac flights from Habbaniya have been noted somewhere, though cannot recall where - some one will have the ref.
    Possibly in Dust Clouds but not spotted on checking for Hacking.

    "Air Vic Marshall": Air Vice-Marshal, presumably.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 7th November 2023 at 10:07.
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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    Hello

    Just to add a little to the mix, Air 78/67 has 537812 George Norman Hacking, not Nelson.

    Findagrave.com has a George Norman Hacking, b. April 13th 1916 at Nelson, B.C., and died December 28th 2000 at Namaino, B.C. Post war he was with the R.C.M.P.

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...norman-hacking

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    Hugh,
    If that 537812 is the RAF 537812 then Jim Routledge’s 1992 paper in The Orders and Medals Research Society’s publication would put that number in the Block 505001-549999 which he ascribes to “Civilians Oct 1939” - no location given.
    (Tks yr help a couple of weeks ago!)
    Peter
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    Possible aircraft used for evacuation would have been DC-2's, Victoria K1311, Victoria/Valentia K2792 converted KR2792( 4 bombing raids),
    K2808( 5 bombing raids) was damaged by Me110's at Habbaniya on the 20th May,41,
    K3599 and K3600, K3610, K8852(damaged by shelling 2nd May,41, not repaired).
    Maybe Wellington 's.
    Several Audax were converted to Hurricane decoys while one K3714 force landed and was captured.
    The Iraq Air Force already had Gladiators but I suppose it was quite possible that one or more of ours was on an Iraqi airforce airfield when the trouble started and so May have been captured, have no idea if this has ever been investigated.

    Ref: AB's K file pages 365/370. Vickers Victoria and Valentia.
    Ref:Audax K3714, AB's K file page 99.
    Last edited by Alex Smart; 8th November 2023 at 12:37.

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    All unsourced, Alex?

    Victoria K1311 had become Valentia K1311 in 1936! (Halley The K File, p366)

    216 Sqn Bombays and Valentias were v busy in and out of Habbaniya in May 1941, transporting troops etc and evacuating same.
    See 216 Squadron AIR 27/1334
    Operations Record Book/Record of Events Form 541 here:
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/D8394073
    Summary of Events Form 540:
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/D8394074

    Wellingtons on evacs:
    Uncheckable without source. Recorded as bombing Iraqi forces.
    In any event, irrelevant to Sgt Hacking's manning of the dorsal gun on its "swivel ring"/Scarff ring, which he had to climb up to man, and fire away in the open.
    Plainly Valentia, not Wellington, not Bombay.

    Here is a vivid account of Flight Lieutenant Maurice Skeet, OC Communications Flight at Habbaniya in May 1941, throughout the siege:
    Comms Flight in Combat - RAF in Iraq 1941 drafted by his son Michael Skeet largely from TNA records.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peo...a2008108.shtml
    Notably, he discusses the Flight's Valentias, crewing and the Upper Gunner posn.

    It is very unfortunate that wikipedia, citing Lyman Iraq 1941: The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad, claims that the CF was blessed with three Vickers Valentia flying boats!
    Though only three ever built 1921-1923, all UK service, all three SOC/withdrawn by 1924! https://www.baesystems.com/en/herita...ia-flying-boat.
    Deployment of RAF FB aircraft (Lake Habbaniya, Euphrates/Baghdad eg) is not at issue, but "Valentia FBs"? No.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 7th November 2023 at 22:29.
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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    The RAF Air Historical Branch in their collection of online documents, which includes the AHB Narratives and a load of other good original source documentation, includes:

    'The Middle East Campaigns Vol VIII The Campaign in Iraq May 1941', downloadable in pdf format. 112 pages including details of the campaign in a chronological timeline of events, orders of battle, sortie details, losses and maps.

    https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisat...iraq-may-1941/

    In terms of recent books on the campaign, 'The Big Little War' by James Dunford Wood at 220 pages gives more coverage of the campaign than the AHB Narrative and at a more personal level, drawing of the diaries and memoirs of Colin Dunford Wood, who was one of the RAF pilot trainees at Habbaniya and the author's father; AVM Tony Dudgeon, one of the RAF instructors at Habbaniya; material from the RAF Habbiniya Association and a range of other official and published sources; as well as covering the period in the aftermath of the revolt which the RAF AHB Narrative does not.
    Last edited by ColFord; 7th November 2023 at 20:40. Reason: typo
    Colin Ford
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    No.268 Squadron Royal Air Force 1940-1946
    Historian.

  9. The Following User Says Thank You to ColFord For This Useful Post:

    Don Clark (7th November 2023)

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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    For 31 Squadron's part, DC2s and Valentias, see AIR 27/351/2 Operations Record Book Summary of Events Form 540 digitised set
    images 3, 4 at https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/D8410610
    Note: "Valencia" used throughout for Valentia

    For Communications Flight Habbaniya, the relevant records are in AIR 29 and thus not digitised.
    AIR 29/893/1 https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/C7162274

    I've not tried to spot Hacking in any of the Unit records cited. May be present in one or t'other (less likely with31 Sqn you might think).
    He's not noted in the Narrative, not surprising at all as a ground crew Sgt.

    Funny to lose sight of the Narrative, having posted about it before...
    Last edited by Don Clark; 7th November 2023 at 22:42.
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    Default Re: Ango-Iraq War 1941 - Geirge Nelson HACKING

    Re Hacking 537812 and RAF Service nos,

    Peter/resmoroh makes a puzzling post at #5 above, citing
    block 505001-549999 as “Civilians Oct 1939”,
    from another named 1992 source.

    However, on site here there is already an RAF OR Service no list at:
    https://www.rafcommands.com/referenc...rvice-numbers/
    itself a copy of a 2007 post by Peter/resmoroh at
    https://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sh...ervice-Numbers
    These copies also agree with an AB_IX listing (my copy downloaded 2011 from AB but not at original link location now )

    After checking these three lists, I fear that
    505001-549999 as “Civilians Oct 1939”
    is not correct. All three lists agree
    505001 to 549999 allotted from Oct 1925 Civilians
    then next comp block
    610000 to 654720 allotted from Mar 1938 Civilians
    That is, the 505001 to 549999 block in use to c Mar 38.

    These are in good agreement with the history in Hugh's post of the press release:
    (summarising) left BC 1936, to UK and joined RAF as apprentice, posted Iraq 1938.
    Service no 537812 approx date? Say 1937? or poss 1936?

    Apart from the civilian entry blocks/dates, there are also blocks for apprentices, various, eg.
    560001 to 579999 (from) Jan 1926 Aircraft Apprentices
    and so on.
    Though said to have served as an apprentice, seemingly did not enter in such a way to be allotted a service number from one of the Apprentice blocks...
    Someone else (Ross? Malcolm?) may be able to explain more.

    Anyway, a pretty firm start for Hugh on his most pressing q: what aircraft type, Valentia or Bombay. For the reasons discussed, Valentia (though whether CF or 216 a/c cannot say).
    And some sort of start on service no 537812 date : if correct, from a block in use until c Mar 1938, so possibly 1937 or perhaps 1936 entry.***

    Happy to see more detailed source data and any correction arising from that.


    *** Postscript ***
    Seem to be slowing down on "connections", however, pressing on:
    Min Larkin, Old Haltonian, knows much about RAF Apprentices and as Halton Archivist has access to source records of Apprentices. A most helpful chap.
    I have asked his advice about 537812 Hacking RN and any apprenticeship/dates for him and will report back.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 8th November 2023 at 18:50.
    Toujours à propos

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