1920-1939 | Bombing towns & cities | Collective punishments | Kurdistan | Punitive operations | RAF crimes

RAF drop 400 gallons of petrol and incendiaries on a Kurdish town

RAF aircraft flying over a British frontier fort in Iraq –
© IWM (HU 56848)

10 July 1922

On 10 July 1922, the small Kurdish town of Rowanduz was subjected to the first of a series of bombing raids by the RAF. Rowanduz was situated in northern Iraq, a country which was then under British military administration and a colony, in all but name. Group Captain Amyas Borton explained in a telegram to the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard, that Rowanduz had been attacked ‘on account of increased Turkish activity and propaganda in this district.’1 The local population, who lived close to the ill-defined mountainous border with Turkey, was suspected of providing shelter to Turkish agents and soldiers and having been exposed to their propaganda, it was feared that they might now be considering rebellion against British rule.

The RAF therefore decided to inflict a harsh lesson on the town’s inhabitants. Accordingly, on 10 July, 19 aircraft dropped two tons of bombs, 400 gallons of petrol and incendiary bombs but the results were considered to be disappointing. The fires from the incendiaries had failed to spread, as the land surrounding the town was uncultivated.2 So the population was subjected to intense bombing again the following day, again on the 18 and yet again the 20 July.3  

After a pause of a few days,  bombing operations against the town then restarted at the beginning of August. According to the British High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox, they were subsequently maintained ‘almost continuously’  until October, when Cox reported to Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for the Colonies, that since ‘the Rowanduzis’ were now ‘worn out by the continual bombing’ and ‘in the interests of economy the bombing of Rowanduz has been temporarily suspended.’4


  1. Telegram from Group Captain Amyas Borton to Chief of the Air Staff Sir Hugh Trenchard and other government departments, 11 July 1922, AIR 5/256 accessed at the National Archives. The Kurdish town of Rowanduz is today spelled and pronounced as Rowandiz.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Telegram from Group Captain Amyas Borton to the War Office, 25 July 1922, AIR 5/256 and telegram from Borton to the Air Ministry, 19 July 1922, AIR 5/256, both documents accessed at the National Archives.
  4. Telegram from Sir Percy Cox to Winston Churchill, 6 October 1921, AIR 5/256, accessed at the National Archives.

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