Southern Asia 1941: Anglo–Iraqi War

In April 1941 the British-backed government of Iraq was overthrown in a coup. The new government threatened the RAF bases in the country and requested German support. Britain responded by invading Iraq and reinstalling a friendly regime.


Changes to the map 6 April 1941–22 May 1941

Anglo-Iraqi War: British troops from Transjordan have crossed the frontier, capturing Rutbah and Fallujah, and relieving the RAF base at Habbaniyah. In the south, the 10th Indian Division is advancing north from Basra.

East African Campaign: British forces from the west have reached Addis Ababa, while in the south they have captured Soddu and Jimma. The main Italian concentrations are now around Gondar, Gimbi, and Assab.

French Indochina: Vichy France has ceded disputed territory to Thailand.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India’s influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or ‘princely states’. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

2–31 May 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War

On 1 May 1941 the RAF airbase at Habbaniyah discovered it was being surrounded by Iraqi forces with artillery and responded with airstrikes the following day, driving back the Iraqis by 6 May. Meanwhile, under German orders, Vichy Syria began supplying arms to Iraq while the British in Transjordan and Basra launched a full-scale invasion. The British captured Baghdad on 31 May, bringing the war to an end just days after the pro-Axis Prime Minister Rashid Ali’s escape to wikipedia

9 May 1941 Tokyo Peace Treaty

The Kingdom of Thailand signs a formal peace treaty with Vichy France in Tokyo, Japan, bringing an end to the Franco-Thai War. By the terms of the treaty, the Vichy French agree to cede the French Indochinese provinces of Battambang, Pailin, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchay, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, and Xaignabouli to wikipedia

20 May–1 Jun 1941 Battle of Crete

On the morning of 20 May 1941, Germany began an airborne invasion of the island of Crete—where Greek and Allied forces had gathered following the German conquest of mainland Greece. The battle saw the first mass use of paratroops, with German Fallschirmjäger seizing control of Maleme airfield on 21 May despite suffering heavy casualties. Forced south in the face of German reinforcements, the Allies evacuated the island on 28 May–1 wikipedia