Advance From Habbaniya
With the airbase secured and its runway rehabilitated, the British trainers increased their offensive operations with zeal, attacking the Iraqi fallback positions around Fallujah. Their most significant result though was intercepting an Iraqi column advancing out from the town to relieve their comrades at Sin El Dhibban who were under infantry attack. The motorised column was hit hard and annihilated, leaving the road a sea of flames and shattered vehicles.
The British drive was eastwards towards Baghdad, requiring an advance through the rail and road nexus of Fallujah. The Iraqi forces in Ramadi to the west had isolated their town by breaching the Euphrates and flooding the ground between Habbaniya and themselves. In their strategic isolation they were left to be bypassed, with only reconnaissance and occasional bombing flights from Habbaniya to ensure they did not threaten the British advance.
The initial British advance plan was to build a river crossing at Sin El Dhibban and advance eastwards on Fallujah. The newly arrived engineers created a ferry, but further advance from that direction could only be undertaken by foot, as there were no roads there and the Iraqis had strategically flooded the low ground between the Euphrates and Fallujah. Instead the mechanised advance would have to be made along the main road and across the 55m steel girder bridge at Fallujah, even though that roadway had also been flooded, necessitating deploying the engineers to build another ferry there for the British vehicles. The British assault force was divided into 5 columns to position to surround Fallujah, with three infantry troops columns crossing the Euphrates at Sin El Dhibban to advance from the north and northwest, and mobile troops and armoured cars attacking west through the bridge. The most audacious element was an airborne troop to be landed east of Fallujah on the main Baghdad road to isolate the town.
During the night of the 18th the British force moved into position, with four Bristol Bombays of 216 Squadron and two Valentias of 31 Squadron landing on the Baghdad road at dawn. The airborne troops immediately cut all telephone lines and blocked the road, cutting Fallujah off from both communications and reinforcement.
As the British transports landed, the ragtag aerial fleet from RAF Habbaniya commenced a sharp bombing of the Iraqi positions in the town. After an hour a pamphlet dropping raid was carried out, urging the Iraqi troops to surrender. With no response, the RAF again attacked the town, and in a fluke of war a RAF Blenheim fighter strafed the Iraqi truck carrying the explosives to destroy the bridge, destroying the demolitions squad in a massive fireball.
The British now assaulted the bridge, and in fierce fighting the armoured cars pushed back the defenders and advanced into the town. The British columns that had been stop-groups to the north and east now moved in, while the column advancing through the floods to the northeast had made very slow going and only reached Fallujah after 5pm. By that time the Assyrian Levies had secured the town and taken 200 Iraqi prisoners.