Biplane fighter pilots


1st Lieutenant Abdul Salam Yahya al-Katib

1st Lieutenant Abdul Salam Yahya al-Katib served in 4 Squadron RIrAF during the short British-Iraq war in May 1941.

On 4 May, the Iraqis were busy redeploying their aircraft from Rashid AB to the airports of Washash and Baquba.
At dawn, eight Wellingtons from 37 Squadron - followed by two Blenheims - attacked Rashid AB. Buildings were bombed and aircraft strafed, a direct hit being reported on one small biplane. Iraqi fighters took off and much rifle and machine-gun fire was encountered. Squadron Leader Riviett-Carnac’s aircraft was attacked by a Northrop 8A-4D, but the rear gunner got in some good bursts and the Iraqi aircraft was last seen smoking and with flames coming from its engine. Sergeant Noden was also attacked by either a Northrop or a Breda Ba.65 when 16 km south of the target, this aircraft finally breaking away in a spiral dive with smoke streaming from its engine. Pilot Officer Castello had an indecisive engagement with a single-engined biplane over Baghdad. Pilot Officer Rash flew low over a 20mm AA battery while being attacked from astern by a Gladiator. Both fighters and guns hit the Wellington and shortly afterwards it crash-landed. Wellington IC T2711/D from 37 Squadron had taken off from Shaibah at 02:20 to attack Rashid. It crash-landed 32km south of Baghdad (near Ctesiphon). The crew consisted of the Pilot Officer Rash, Sergeant L. A. Ward, Sergeant Douglas George Campbell, Sergeant F. C. Daniels, Sergeant C. Kemp and Sergeant J. E. Howard, which all were taken as PoWs with the exception of 23-year-old Sergeant Campbell (RAF no. 748172), who died in Baghdad hospital of injuries inflicted by Arabs. Campbell is buried Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery. The prisoners were held until the end of May when all PoWs were handed back.
The Iraqis reported that two Gladiators from 4 Squadron took part in the interception, one of which caused slight damage to a Wellington. Finally, the second Iraqi fighter pounced on a bomber that had already been hit by anti-aircraft fire over Rashid AB and had fallen behind the rest of the formation. Using his .303in (7.7mm) Vickers machine gun, 1st Lieutenant Abdul Salam Yahya al-Katib caused so much damage that the crew was forced to make an emergency landing outside Baghdad, where they were promptly taken prisoner.

Abdul Salam Yahya al-Katib ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 04/05/41 dawn 1 Wellington (a) Destroyed Gladiator   Rashid AB 4 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Probably Wellington IC T2711/D from 37 Squadron.

Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942 - David Gunby and Pelham Temple, 2006 Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-234-9
Wings of Iraq: Volume 1: The Iraqi Air Force, 1931-1970 – Milos Sipos and Tom Cooper, 2020 Helion & Company Limited, ISBN 978-1-913118-74-7

Last modified 07 September 2021