We begin with some quotes from the Blackpool Gazette & Herald, Fylde News & Advertizer of 4 September 1937:
THE ORDER OF AR RAFIDAIN
Blackpool Man's Rare Distinction.
One of the most unusual of the many distinctions secured by Blackpool men has been conferred upon Mr Philip A. Challoner, youngest son of Mr W. Challoner JP, of Poulton-le-Fylde, who has been awarded the Order of Ar Rafidain (Civil Division) by His Majesty King Ghazi of Iraq.
This is a distinction rarely granted to Europeans and it is a great tribute to a member of a family which has given distinguished public service in various spheres.
Mr Challoner is the Chief Mechanical Engineer for the Iraq State Railways, and the Order has been given him for distinguished service at Ur, in the Middle Euphrates, during a tribal rising in 1935, which threatened the railway from Baghdad to Basra.
Mr Challoner has many friends in Blackpool, where he was born. During the war he served in Gallipoli with the rank of Captain. He was at the evacuation of Suvla Bay, the relief of Kut, and the taking of Baghdad, was twice* mentioned in despatches, and received the Iraq medal for war service in Mesopotamia.
Mr Challoner is now engaged on the work of joining up the railway from Baghdad via Mosul to the Turkish railway to Stamboul, to make railway communication with Europe.
He was recently over in England on business connected with these developements.
* I have only been able to confirm one 'Mentioned in Despatches', and the certificate was passed on to his family.
EXTRACT FROM AN IRAQI NEWSPAPER IN ENGLISH
Congratulations to the Iraqi State Railway's Officers Club on the very enjoyable "Lido Guest Night" held there last night. The swimming pool had a very attractive setting, with three green-shaded lamps casting a subdued glow over the swimmers and spectators alike. The swimming and diving events were most efficiently organized by Mr Shinkfield - an expert of international renown in his younger days, assisted by Mr Shorland and Dr Lanzon.
Later in the evening the prizes were handed to the successful competitors by Mrs Challoner*. Cocktails and other refreshments were served, an excellent supper having been prepared by the wives of the British railway officers. The general arrangements were in the capable hands of Mr O St Clair Webster, the honorary secretary of the Club, whose organization of all social gatherings at the Railways Club is always faultless.
* My father's sister and the wife of Philip Challoner.
Next follows a copy of a letter which I received after making enquiries regarding my uncle's military service:
THE MILITARY HISTORY OF CAPTAIN P.A.CHALLONER AS OFFICIALLY NOTIFIED BY MOD RECORDS, HAYES.
A letter reference 82/26549/CS(R)2b?EO dated 28 Apr 1982 addressed to Flt Lt G M Ashley, P man 7b(3), MOD(RAF)PMC, RAF Innsworth, Gloucester, GL3 1EZ.
In reply to your recent enquiry, the following are the particulars of the military service of Captain Philip Austen CHALLONER - General List/Railways.
Granted a Temporary Commission as 2nd Lieutenant, 6th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment - 22/8/1914
Transferred to 8th Battalion(Pioneers), The Welsh Regiment - Dec 1914
Promoted Temporary Lieutenant - 17/3/1915
Promoted Temporary Captain - 30/11/1915
Served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia with 8th Bn - Aug 1915/May 1917
Leave in India - May 1917/July 1917
Transferred to General List(Railways) - 18/7/1917
Assumed duties of Railway Transportation Office, Baghdad(Mesopotomia Railways) - 19/7/1917
Leave in UK - Mar 1920/Apr 1920
Attached to Civil Administration in Iraq - Apr 1920/Sept 1920
Released from military service to take up civil employment in Mesopotamia - 10/9/1920
Relinquished his commission on completion of service - 8/12/1920
Mentioned in Despatches of Lt Gen W R Marshall KCB C-in-C Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force for distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty(London Gazette - 18/2/1918)
Date of Birth - 8/4/1893
Signed by J E Treble
for Deptl Record Offr(Archives)
From October 1920 Capt. Challoner became the Chief Engineer on the Baghdad State Railway and was in charge of work being carried out to connect the line to the Orient Express line from Constantinople. He also met up with Sir Leonard Woolley, who was the director of a joint British-US archaeological expidition excavating the Sumerian city of Ur, not far from the route of the new railway line.
My uncle also had his own light airplane (a Puss Moth) which my aunt was learning to fly with the help of some of the RAF personnel from Habbanyieh airfield.
They returned home from Iraq on the Orient Express shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and broke their journey in Paris where they were dinner guests at a function which included the then French Premier, M. Paul Le Brun. They settled initially in the North London area of Hendon until, at the outbreak of war, my uncle was meant to go to North Africa as staff Major to Gen. Wavell. This was changed, however, to a job in UK as an armament inspector which was considered more vital to the war effort. Separation due to this job (and an extra-marital relationship) led to a divorce although my uncle was a Catholic and they had been married in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. Soon after this my aunt returned to nursing.