1920-1939 | Kurdistan | Livestock targeted | Punitive operations | RAF crimes

The RAF strafe sheep and firebomb the tents of Kurdish nomads.

Aircraft of RAF No. 30 Squadron in Iraq – date unknown.
(HU 89404)

8 January 1925

On 8 January 1925, RAF headquarters in Baghdad ordered No 30 Squadron RAF to bomb and machine gun the grazing sheep flocks of the nomadic Jaff, who inhabited the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Iran. The official pretext given in a confidential Air Ministry report was that it was to punish the Jaff ‘for raiding a caravan in November 1924, and subsequently refusing to obey Government instructions to restore all loot.’1

The British controlled government in Iraq might have attempted a more conventional method of a police led investigation, but that option was never considered. Instead, two days later on the 10th of January, once the location of the Jaff encampments were discovered, RAF aircraft attacked the tents with incendiary bombs, returning again to firebomb any remaining tents the following day. It was at a time of year when night time temperatures in the region regularly dropped well below zero, so even those who survived the bombing may well have subsequently died from the cold or hunger.

An RAF war diary report records a ‘heavy loss of animals’ as a result of the initial dive bombing and strafing of sheep 20 miles north east of Kifri, but there was no estimate given as to the number of casualties caused by the subsequent incendiary bombing of the encampments although it notes briefly – ‘several camps set on fire’.2  

Nor was any reference made to the bombing attacks in the British press, but the Jaff people did briefly become the subject of world media attention many years later. In March 1988, Sadam Hussein, the Iraqi tyrant who Britain and the United States was backing in his war against Iran, attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja with chemical weapons. Most of the victims were thought to have been members of the Jaff tribe.


  1. War Diary, 1925, RAF operations, AIR5/256 accessed at the National Archives.
  2. Ibid.

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