HIDDEN VICTORY

Few will have heard of the subject of this book, but Tony Dudgeon argues that it could have been as important to the outcome of World War II as was the Battle of Britain.

Few will have heard of the subject of this book, but Tony Dudgeon argues that it could have been as important to the outcome of World War II as was the Battle of Britain. A flying training school in a sleepy backwater in Iraq, which could muster no more than 43 suitable pilots to fly its obsolete training aircraft, was faced with a 1,000 strong detachment of the Iraqi army complete with artillery and tanks. If they had done the sensible thing and capitulated, Hitler would have gained control of our supplies of oil from the Middle East and we might now be speaking German.

Thankfully the school in question, No. 4 Flying Training School based at Habbaniya, did not do the sensible thing. Tony Dudgeon, then a Squadron Leader, had been posted there for a rest after some fairly hectic operational flying in the Middle and Far East, so he had first hand knowledge of what went on. His recollections, and those of other survivors, differed in many ways from the official British record of events—not least since the official line was that as the Iraqis had signed a treaty in 1930 they were our allies. What happened was thus a minor insurrection, not a battle, because you don't have battles with your allies!

The Germans however called it the Iraqi War; Churchill also saw things differently from his officials, as he frequently did and praised the 'spirited defence by the Training School'. He saw the threat to our oil supplies. I can’t help feeling that the book has the ring of Captain W E Johns about it Biggles Flies Approximately East South East, perhaps? Tony Dudgeon single handedly galvanizes the (largely unseasoned) instructors into action, carries out modifications to the training aircraft to turn them into more useful bombers contrary to a written order from his CO and then leads a squadron of them into action. However he does apologise in the preface in case one should find the book egocentric, as this was not his intention.

A rippingyarn perhaps, and an excellent telling of a previously untold story. Ernie Hoblyn.