Iraq 1941- Building Your Forces

This and the following pages are designed to allow the wargamer of moderate modelling ability (like me) and moderate resources to construct the combatant forces of the actions in Iraq in 1941.  As a bonus, many of the models made for this campaign will be useable in Syria, Persia, East Africa and the Western Desert in 1940 – 42.  I have used 1/76, 1/72, 20mm models for the ground forces and 1/72 model planes for the air forces.   The majority of the model soldiers are plastic from Airfix, Revell, Italeri, ESCI, HaT and so on with a few metal ones from Tumbling Dice and RHModels.  A lot of the vehicles are conversions and some are scratch built.  Most of the resin models come from Frontline Wargaming who produce relatively inexpensive basic models.

Each section comprises a historical section so that you can tailor your model forces to your rules.  Quite often I have compromised where sources vary and sometimes, with the lack f information, I have used a bit of conjecture.  When I have done this I have tried to show this clearly in the text by using italics or heading the paragraph “conjecture”.  Most of this conjectural stuff is, not surprisingly, in the Royal Iraqi Army section. 

The second part of each section is a summary of how I made my forces.   Since I have been wargaming for over 40 years I decided that they had to fit with my other vehicles and models in the collection and so they have a bit of an “Old School” or “nostalgic” look about them.  This is deliberate.  If your needs are different then these sections will be of use to make more “accurate” or more “basic” models as fits your collection, wallet or inclination. 

I’ve been asked several times why I chose the models I did to represent the soldiers and equipment for this almost unknown campaign.  I suppose the root of how I tackled this all goes back to my formative wargaming years in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  At that time there was only one source for models and this was the major influence.  Of course, I am speaking about Airfix and the Airfix Magazine.  The conversion articles and the monthly new releases fascinated me then and that has stuck.  The series of articles by John Sandars in the Airfix Magazine and then his Airfix Guide on the 8th Army in the desert were then and are, even now, very useful as a source of information and for gleaning techniques and ideas.  Also, because my collection spans over 40 years  and contains thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles artillery pieces and aircraft.  I needed to make sure that the look of this new collection was compatible with the existing “Sandars Look” models. 

This meant several things:

My scale of choice is 1/76 (Airfix, Matchbox and Fujimi) with 1/72 as second choice for vehicles.  Oddly Airfix chose 1/72 for its figure sets and this is common with many manufacturers.  I find 20mm a much less useful description with each manufacturer choosing a different size within this.  In an ideal world all the Lee Enfield rifles would be the same size.  But they are not and this makes mixing different manufacturers soldiers difficult.  I can tolerate different sizes of men because we come in different shapes and sizes but the weapons remain the same size if you are 5 feet tall or 6 feet 4 inches.  Vehicles pose the same problem I have Frontline (1/76 scale) Austin Light Utilities that are dwarfed by the Stonewall offering.  I use the latter as command vehicles with aerials attached not accurate but passable in a game.

Once I decided on “doing Iraq 1941” the first step was to read books, search the internet, visit veterans, acquire maps, photographs and other information.  A casual reader would be forgiven for thinking that only the RAF were involved in the campaign and won it all by themselves.  This is because the most readily available texts are those written about and by RAF participants.  The more I searched the more I found that there were huge gaps in their stories and these were significant.  There was almost nothing in English on the Iraqi Army of the time and little on the Indian 10th Infantry Division – both important participants!

One of the most informative documents that I discovered was the personal account by Major General Clark the commander of Habforce.  This was a carbon copy of his own account in the first person and covered the operations and gave his own analysis of them.  Unfortunately the copy I saw was lacking many of the Annexes and in particular the one on the Iraqis.

Once I had researched I organised the photocopies and articles into sections in a file box.  I kept a pen drive especially for the project as well where I stored all the electronic material.  I even remembered to back it up regularly.  Then I worked through each of them comparing what the different sources said or showed.  What quickly became clear was that the reports were as confusing as could be.  As soon as I firmed up an idea I found a contradiction.  An example is that the second line Iraqi forces in the south lacked equipment only to find in list of equipment captured  from them 3” mortars and Bren Carriers.  Both of which were in short supply to the British and Indian forces facing them.

To start with, I’ll begin with the soldiers themselves.  For the British and most Indians the obvious choices were the Airfix, Revell and the Esci/Italeri sets.  Airfix produced two sets and I hoped to use the older and much more usefully posed set.  Unfortunately the sets that I won on e-bay were brittle and suffered many casualties in transit.   So I mixed the contents of the other sets together.  I did not use the Matchbox set as it was hard to find though I had a few in my spares box and I’ve found some more since.  The Airfix set lacks a useful Bren gunner so the Esci standing Bren gunner was used.  None of the sets include a Boys Anti-tank rifle or 2” mortar.  The 2” mortar is simply a 6mm length of 1mm diameter plastic rod with a 2x1mm piece of card as a base plate.  I made these in batches and fitted them to a suitable running rifleman figure from the Airfix set.  The Sten Gunner from the same set provides the basis of the Boys rifleman.  The Boys can be bought from Tumbling Dice or Raventhorpe.  Alternatively it can be home made from a 20mm length of pin pushed into the Sten gunner and the main parts and magazine made from thin card and glued on.  The battalion 3” mortars can be made from 2mm rod with plastic rod or wire supports, a card base plate and paper details.  These conversions are sealed together with thinned PVA adhesive.  Their crews come from the Esci infantryman stabbing with the bayonet.  His rifle is cut away and replaced by mortar bomb made from a piece of a cocktail stick cut from the tapered part.  My radio operators come from Esci kneeling infantry with the rifle cut away, the small pack trimmed flat and an antenna added from thin rod.  The radio set is painted black and the microphone, headphones and cables drawn in with a fine pointed pen.  Make sure it has waterproof ink!  Other figures for the Assault Pioneers and Sappers can be made in much the same way.  Bangalore torpedoes made from 20mm lengths of plastic rod.  The mine detector has a 6mm square of card glued to it which is then painted with a black rim and cross on it so that it represents the older type.  However, I have no evidence that they were used in Iraq but they are useful in the wargames.

To model the Gurkhas I used similar methods to convert the figures in the Airfix set into what I needed.  I know that the jungle shirt is wrong but I can live with that.  Indian infantry are modelled in exactly the same way that the Airfix 8th Army set.  Sikh infantry need their steel helmets removed and turbans added from Miliput or similar material or head swaps from the HaT Colonial Indian Infantry set. 

Finding Iraqi infantry posed the greatest problem.  They are supposed to wear British style shorts and shirt with First World War webbing equipment.  But most difficult of all was that they wore a very distinctive helmet with or without a neck cloth.  So I looked amongst the myriad of figure sets on the Plastic Soldier Review web site for WW1 British infantry in shorts but to no avail.  Then I found a picture with Iraqis in long trousers at Fallujah in 1941 and a further search ensued.  The closest that I could get was the HaT WW1 Turkish infantry and artillery sets.  So instead of converting hundreds of models I settled on long trousers, puttees and the roughly similar Turkish helmet.  This is closer to Iraqi winter dress but much easier than mass conversions of British 8th Army figures.  HaT are supposed to release WW1 British Infantry in shorts and these may be a better source eventually.

The Turk rifleman operating the cocking handle of his rifle was the basis of the Bren and Boys gunners.  The rifle is cut away and replaced by Brens cut from the rather oddly posed Airfix prone figure or by  a home made or bought Boys Anti-Tank Rifle.  Assault Pioneers and Engineers I converted from the marching infantryman.  The mortars and machine guns are identical to those used by the British.  I did not give them 2” mortars or mine detectors for no other reason than that none are mentioned in any accounts. 

Iraqi artillery came from various sets.  The Airfix WW1 Royal Horse Artillery provided the horse drawn limbers and the crews in shirt sleeves for Iraqi 18pdr guns from Emhar.  The HaT WW1 Turkish Artillery set provided the gunners who man my machine gun, mortars, 3.7” howitzers and antitank guns.  Spare limbers can come from the HaT WW1 German artillery set but these have no horses to pull them.

Turning to some of the more exotic troops in the campaign I will start with the Bedouin Irregulars.  These were made from the contents of the Airfix Bedouin Arab box suitably armed and painted in neutral colours.  Some got Lewis Guns, a couple got French SMGs and a few had bundles of dynamite (thin rod) glued to their hands.  A Vickers MMG crew was converted from a prone and a kneeling figure.  I only used cavalry as the Bedouins fought from horseback.  The camels will become Desert Police mounts or baggage animals for the MMG.

Town militias came from the Esci/Italeri box of Muslim warriors.  Again a few Lewis guns were added and they were painted in neutral colours with off-white predominating.  Any motor transport they had came from die cast toys, while the donkey should be used more often these are more difficult to find.  I need to find some old Airfix Zebras from the Tarzan sets for these.

The Iraqi Police of the period seem to have been a paramilitary force along the lines of European Gendarmeries.  I have only one black and white picture of a Baghdad policeman.  The uniform immediately suggested the Esci/Italeri British Infantry set from the Zulu War and that is what I used.  The set contains four officers and once their swords and flags are removed represent pistol armed policemen and officers.  These are supplemented by rifles and a Lewis gunner.   As already mentioned the Bedouin Arab box provided pack camels and also the Desert Police.  The figures I used were the rifle armed ones painted in white robes with a desert sand coloured top coat and pale sand headdress. 

Metal figures I my collection so far are limited to Tumbling Dice WW1 Arab Irregulars for the Arab Legion and Arab regulars for the TJFF both with some rearming to bring them up to date.  The villagers and the drivers of requisitioned vehicles are provided by RH Models Arab civilians.

Transport is better served with Frontline Wargaming providing Morris and Bedford 15cwt, Austin Light Utilities, radio vehicles, 3-tonners and so on.  These I supplemented with Austin K2 30cwt and K6 3-tonners converted from those in the Airfix RAF Emergency set.  For Iraqi transport I had some Corgi Morris trucks which look like the ones in photographs.  I fitted them with a few rolled cam nets (tissue paper), boxes and stowage on the cab roof and once painted in military colours, looked just the job.  The officers travel in staff cars made from toys.  Hot Wheels supplied a Ford Woody and an open tourer.  I found an old resin Eric Clarke Humber Snipe and used that as well. The command elements have a Matchbox “Monty’s Caravan” and some Bedford 15cwt Signals trucks from Frontline.  The RASC and Militias made use of civilian transport as much as military trucks and lorries.  For these I searched e-bay and found Lledo Mack trucks, Corgi Cameo Morris trucks, Morris tankers and busses.  These were re-painted and some stowage fitted.  Occasionally civilian vehicles would be needed and again diecasts were used – Cararama and others provide Morris 8 cars, Chevrolet pickups and more.  These can be expensive as they are designed for the model railway market.

I foresaw having to make the Transjordan Frontier Force Desert Patrol cars and the Arab Legion Scout Cars from scratch until I chanced upon David Reasoner who kindly supplied cabs, wheels, steering wheels, seats and other bits to make the job easier.  The chassis and bodywork was made from card.  The Wagner Armoured Car used by the Arab Legion used one of the cabs as a basis and the main body was balsa on a card chassis.  The bodywork was then “plated” with thin card, and details attached from paper.  The whole model was then sealed with thin PVA, painted and the last details drawn in ink before dry brushing and varnishing.  My model is a little on the large side but it looks the part.

For the Rolls Royce Armoured Cars of No 1 Armoured Car Company RAF I used the Frontline Wargaming one with a rifleman converted to hold a Lewis AALMG on a wire ring mounting on the turret.  The similar Fordsons of No 2 Armoured Car Company had a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle added to the right of the Vickers in the turret.  On the roof I again fitted a wire ring mounting a pair of Raventhorpe Vickers K guns. 

The Indian 13th Lancers needed both Chevrolet Crossley and Indian Pattern Wheeled Carrier.  The Armoured car was converted from the hull and wheels of a Frontline Rolls Royce Armoured Car with a 16mm wooden bead cut to make the turret and the rear decking built up.  Again passable.  The Carriers I’ve had for years.  I converted them from Matchbox Humber Armoured Cars.  They have a Boys Rifle on the front plate (made from a pin) and an AA mounted Bren in the fighting compartment.  They look the part even though not entirely accurate.

A photograph from the KORR museum showed a captured Carden Loyd Mk VI tankette on an RAF truck and this set me thinking about where they might be in the Iraqi Orbat.  Then I realised that the British had used then to tow 3.7” howitzers, carry mortars and machine guns as well as other utility tasks.  I placed them in some units in place of Bren Carriers.   These, too, came from Steve, the card engineer.

The Iraqi Italian CV-33 tankettes were the only “tanks” in the campaign and despite their small numbers and light armour they had quite an impact on the fighting at Fallujah.  I bought these from Frontline Wargaming and converted and extra one for the company commander by fitting an antenna.   I felt that the Mechanised Brigade commander should have something a bit different and when I found a Beaverette in a spares box.  He almost certainly did not have one.  But, painted up in desert colours it looks just the job.  A couple of “sawn off” figures provided the crew.  I mounted  a Bren gun in the front plate for self defence.

To make the trucks on both sides more useful, I made “drop in” loads for cargo trucks, seats for troop carriers and weapons fits for Vickers MMGs firing rearwards.  These allow me to use the same vehicle in different roles in different scenarios.  Each of these is built on a “floor” cut slightly undersize to fit.  Any seats, guns, men, stores etc are fitted to the floor and so can be removed and replaced as necessary.

Constructing and organising your forces is as simple or as complicated as you would like to make it.  You can spend as much or as little as you have available.  I have gone for the inexpensive end.  Others with more skill or disposable income will be able to construct much better looking armies. 

The following tables show some of the main equipments and the sources that I used to make them for my forces.


My Source




2 to a box and 4 Vickers MGs.  Airfix 13pdrs could also be converted

Horse Limbers

Airfix RHA, HaT WW1 German artillery

No horses in HaT set


Raventhorpe Light Dragon

The only dragon I could find. 

25pdr Mk1, limber & Quad

Converted Airfix 25 pdr and HaT WW1 artillery sets.

Used by Habforce/Kingcol

25pdr Mk2, limber & Quad


Straight from box

3.7” How


Rubber tyre or spoked wheel versions

4.5” How

Raventhorpe or HaT

Spoked wheel for Habbaniya, rubber tyres for Iraqis and Indians

6” How

Raventhorpe or scratch build

 Indian Medium Regiment

20mm ATk

Convert RH Models Spanish Civil War 20mm

Converted mounting, wheels from the Frontline Polish trailer can be used.

2 Pdr ATk

Reiver Castings, Scratch build

Raventhorpe also make these

Rolls Royce Armoured Car

Frontline Wargaming

Add AA Lewis gun to turret

Fordson Armoured Car

Frontline Wargaming

Add Boys ATkR and Vickers K guns

Bren & Universal Carriers

Frontline Wargaming, Airfix

Both the early version and the Universal were used.

Vickers Crossley Armd Car

Frontline Wargaming

Iraqi one had the square turret.

Chevrolet Crossley Armoured Car

Frontline Wargaming conversion

13th Lancers

Carden Loyd MkVI tankette

Special commission


Indian Pattern Wheeled Carrier


Matchbox Humber Armoured Car

Arab Legion Scout Car

Resin cab conversion

Ford cab

TJFF Desert Partrol

Resin cab conversion

Ford or Chevrolet cab

Wagner armoured car

Resin cab conversion

Balsa wood body, miliput turret, card plating


Frontline Wargaming


CV-33 command

Frontline Wargaming

Converted by adding antenna

Horse drawn wagons

Imex, Airfix


Iraqi armoured truck

Scratch build

No information on what these looked like.

Chevrolet Trucks


Others are available in resin and metal.

Iraqi Trucks

Corgi Cameo Morris trucks


Fiat Trucks



Austin Trucks

Airfix Emergency Set

Frontline K-6

Bedford, Morris 15cwt

Airfix & Frontline

Conversions and basis for many types

Requisitioned Bus

Corgi Cameo


Civilian cars & trucks

Toys, , Corgi, Frontline

And others

 There is quite a bit of scope for individualism here because a large number of civilian vehicles were used by both sides.  The very lack of information allows some leeway in what you field in your armies.  It is even possible that the “old antitank guns” used by the Iraqis were ex-WW1 German 3.7cm TAK antitank guns.

The Aircraft mostly came straight from the box.  However, some of the more difficult ones were bought on e-bay or bring-and-buy sales as vacuum formed kits.  I discovered that my modelling skills are not as good as I thought!  These are horrific things for the uninitiated.  Thank goodness I found out before I bid on a vac form biplane.


What I used

Alternatives & remarks

Airspeed Oxford MkII

Novo (ex Frog)

Pavla make the MkI with turret and this would be better but it failed the price test!  Both types were used.

Hawker Audax

Airfix Demon

Message hook added and rear cockpit built up.

Gloster Gladiator

Matchbox & Airfix

Matchbox and Heller are better because Airfix one is a very dated

Westland Lysander


Matchbox/Revell also do a good one.  I had an Airfix one so I used it.

Vickers Valentia

Maquette Vernon

Also marketed as a “Vickers Commercial”.  There is Vac Forrm Valentia for those with lots of money and more patience and skill than I have!

Bristol Blenheim IV


Can make either the fighter or bomber version from the kit.

Hawker Hurricane


Any early Hurricane with desert filter can be used as both MG and cannon armed aircraft were used.

Curtiss Tomahawk


This came with RAF markings.

Hawker Nisr

Airfix Demon

Message hook added and rear cockpit built up.  Radial engines from Gladiators used in conversion. 

Douglas 8A


MPM make one of these now with Iraqi markings.  More expensive but if I was doing it again I’d buy these.

Breda Ba 65


Another and even more difficult to make vac form.  Azur models make one – the single seater.  The Iraqis used the two seater most.  Again the Azur one is expensive but might be worth it if your vac-form skills are like mine!

Savoia Marchetti SM-79B


I have the Airfix tri-motor (unbuilt) but it should be the twin engined version.  I only know of the Aerofile Mixkit but cannot find one.  The Azur was is very expensive.

Messerschmitt Bf-110


Comes with German ZG-76 markings.

Fiat CR-42


Diecast model bought at a car boot sale.  There are plastic kits by Revell and Italeri.

De Havilland DH-89


Use either as it is as a transport or convert to the DH-89M by opening a dorsal MG position.

Heinkel He-111


Use an early version with the glasshouse dorsal position.


Back to Iraq 1941


Back to building Forces

Die cast toy van painted as an Iraqi Ambulance.


Build the Royal Iraqi Army

Build the Royal Iraqi Air Force

Build the defenders of RAF Habbaniya

Build Habforce and Kingcol

Build Arab Legion and Transjordan Frontier Force

Build 10th Indian Infantry Division (Iraqforce)

Build the German, Italians, Irregulars and Police

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