At least some Iraqis found themselves better off after the Brits pulled out.
The first British camp to be handed to the Iraqis was looted almost bare within days of the army’s departure.
The transfer last month was widely heralded as a signal that Iraq would soon be ready to run itself.
A British soldier said that, as the last men drove away, they saw pick-up trucks being filled with equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Military sources believe off-duty Iraqi soldiers and government officials did much of the looting.
British officers privately say they blame the governor for much of the looting and believe some of the air-conditioning units are now in his private office.
The Iraqi and British governments had described the transfer of Camp Smitty on July 30, a base outside the southern city of Samawah, as a key step in handing control of security back to Iraqis.
But the looting casts doubt on official insistence that coalition troops are only withdrawing when local authorities are ready to assume their responsibilities.
The camp, which British troops had shared with an Australian contingent, had been intended for use as an Iraqi army base.
A nearby base used by a Japanese contingent was also ransacked, with townspeople from Samawah joining in.
Locals said roadside markets appeared in the following days selling computers, electrical kits, air-conditioning units, and other equipment from both camps.