Aden's Last Hours
Some may find the adult language used in these pages offensive
As they were talking they had been walking past the back of the homemade wooden buildings between the barbed wire and the volcanic cliff face, and JK couldn't help notice the large numbers of crows perched in the nooks and crannies of the gnarled blackened rock. He mentioned this to Hugh, and was led into a world of observation he had never even dreamt of. Arab crow's bird ambush.
"They're clever bastards, look at them sitting there all silent, not one bit of noise out of the lot of them." Hugh had taken JK into one of the shacks backing up to the cliff and they were observing the crows through a screen of brown Hessian cloth that acted as a combined window, flynet and sunscreen.
"Ah hem, just keep quiet and you'll see them in action." They stood in silence for about fifteen minutes, when a Starling landed on the barbed wire between the building and the crow's cliff, it hopped and stared about in a nervous bobbing manner, then just as suddenly as it arrived it flew off. Over the next ten minutes there were a few more starling sorties following the same pattern. Still not one sound or movement from the crows. JK now began to see what was going to happen, the starlings wanted to feed on the figs and attendant insects, all in profusion in the trees growing over and shading the shacks. Soon, about fifteen birds had lined up on the barbed wire ready to begin a massed feeding foray into the trees, where no doubt they would be joined by the rest of the flock, when Bang! It happened. As if actioned by a starter pistol, the crows launched and dived on the starlings screaming like Stuka dive-bombers. It was murderous, the victims trapped between the cliff and buildings with the crows diving from above had nowhere to manoeuvre. A full body impact behind the stabbing beak of the crows and there was soon a ripping tearing noisy feast in progress. These crows were savage; over the weeks JK saw them feast on many different varieties of pray including an injured cat.
"Here we are the ‘Exclusive Club,' ah hem, our very own private bar, the coldest, cheapest, largest range of beer in Aden. Officially open with barman from 1300 hrs till our senior member on the night decides to close. Guests by invite only, except females, they are welcome all of the time." It was a large building made up of two adjoining rooms, each one big enough to hold three full size billiards tables. One room stepped up above the other, contained wicker armchairs with matching tables.
The lower room sported the bar running the full length of one side, whilst at right angles to it was a huge aviary forming the outer wall, full of dozens of tropical birds, most of them brought in by visiting aircrew from around the world. The collection must have been worth thousands of pounds in those days.
"JK, this budgie here is called ‘Whisky.' Watch this." Hugh held a glass of whisky up to the wire netting separating the birds from the bar, tilting it inwards slightly. A yellow breasted, blue winged male strutted sideways across one of the many perches, tweeting and nibbling at different females, he spotted the whisky glass and immediately flew down, settling on the glass rim and began to drink. After a few good swigs the character flew back to the perch, mounted a female, gave her a good fettling, and then flew back to the glass for a pit stop. JK could not believe his own eyes. This drunken, rampant, buggering budgie (it tried to mount males on some occasions, probably too drunk to tell the difference), performed the drink and screw operation nine times in succession. Two WRAF Corporals on leave, were club guests for a day and claimed they watched him perform twelve times in quick succession. Eventually, on this JK debut, after the last drink, this fantastic, epic, bird just managed to land on a lower, nearer perch, and finished hanging upside down, grasping the perch with one foot and fell asleep. What a character, he made a repeat performance at least twice a day.
"Ah hem, the club is owned by our section, it is famous throughout Aden, it's secure, with armed guards on the section perimeter towers at night. Gate guards check all entry, we let our own section invite their own guests as many as they like. We keep our profit margins low, and sell our drinks cheaper than NAAFI. The bar staff are from the fire section personnel on a rota basis, and they get paid for their work. We never have a shortage of volunteers if one is off sick or something. Ah hem, every member can buy and wear the club tie, which is dark blue with a single white logo of the ‘Saints' top hat, monocle and bow tie. At the end of a member's tour of duty out here we present him with a silver tankard engraved with his name and the same logo and the dates he was with us. Can you see why we're so popular?"
"Too true I can, if the work set up is as well organised as this I'm going to have a good time here, that's if I manage any time off, which seems very fucking doubtful."
After a couple of ice cold drinks in the club, Hugh took JK to his accommodation to give him the chance of a shower, and to settle in before beginning work on the ranges the next morning. His hopes of a good posting rose again when the Landrover pulled up outside a normal looking service three-bedroom house, surrounded by Alfalfa grass lawns, and bordered with geraniums and borganvillia flowers. The house was part of a crescent of similar houses and within the secure confines of the camp itself.
"Here we are JK, your humble abode, ah hem, compliments of the RAF Officers married quarters, you are now in a place called Tarshyne, overlooking Telegraph bay, and the Cable and Wireless Complex. Because of the emergency, many married families have gone home to UK and not been replaced because of our impending withdrawal, so the quarters are vacant and used as SNCO single barracks. A good break for us, what?"
"It sure is me old mate, things look more rosy every minute."
"Ah hem, come and have a wee look at the view."
They walked into the back garden and found it terminated about thirty metres from the house, in a steep cliff. This cliff was criss crossed with footpaths twisting their way down and leading into a large circular bay. Surrounding the bay were volcanic cliffs on three sides and the other opened out into the Indian Ocean. Large radio masts crowned the top of the cliffs as part of the Cable and Wireless Communication Centre HQ.
"One warning for you about this place JK, ah hem, if you go swimming, watch out for sharks the sasanacs, an officer's wife was taken by a Great White in this bay and she was only standing in about nine inches of water. An Arab fisherman tried to beat the thing off her with a boat oar, but it was too late to save her. The poor wee soul died. Secondly, keep well away from the radio masts if it looks like a storm, they attract lightening bolts by the dozen." Suddenly the place didn't seem so rosy after all, mused JK.
The married quarter was of standard design found in Middle East areas. All had high ceilings with large bladed fans in every room. No carpets, easy to mop tiled floors, spacious and lightly furnished with the basics, but with a monstrous sized fridge freezer. The whole structure was cool, and easy to clean, essential factors in a place where temperatures soar into the high nineties, and hundred plus degrees during the summer season. All the windows had fly, mosquito screens, as did the door porches, curtains were surplus to requirement. The kitchen still had its cooker, washing machine, toaster, electric kettle and fruit juicer, so one needn't go out to the mess for meals if one didn't feel like it. Everything was in the home. From the sitting room balcony there was a great view of the Steamer Point football pitch and sports track. By leaning out from the balcony a little a panoramic view of the sea running into the port of Aden and the P and O Shipping Lines HQ at Tawahi. A large semicircular shark net enclosed the small bay in front of the Steamer Point NAAFI, which had a white sand beach running down to the clear crystal water. A small metal jetty ran from the beach and into the sea for some fifty metres, and this was full of budding deep-sea fishermen after Leopard Ray or Shark, for the dining room cooks to make into a fish and chip supper for them. I can put up with this, was the predominant thought as JK finally crashed on the bed and fell instantly asleep.
Bang, bang bang! "Morning master killer trainer." JK was sent bolt upright in bed by this 0500hr start to his day. "Chie (tea) master, Chi, here now, you drink hot." Standing by the side of his bed carrying a big brass jug nearly as large as himself was a four foot tall, black skinned Nubian featured Arab boy, with a shock of pitch black hair and a grin that spread right around his face exposing large pure white molars. He was dressed in a one piece white Galabia come Futah held in at the waist with a rope belt from which hung a dozen or so green tin mugs.
"Chi now master, your Dhobi boy ‘Aiwa' here every day with chi, and take washing, clean very good, make very good starch, keep master clean, very smart master, clean boots every night, master very big man, I keep master very smart." As he was talking he poured a large mug of tea, and was ferreting around among JK's kit to find dirty clothes to take away to wash.
"Aiwa take clothes to laundry for Dhobi (wash) every morning, bring back clean and starch every day five o'clock with afternoon cold lemon drink. You like this master; you pay Aiwa one Dinah every week, for chi and lemon and ten piasta every piece of clothing wash. You like?"
"I like, but first I question, how did you get in my house and my room?"
"Master Dhobi man has key all houses, give keys to Dhobi boys when come to work in morning, take keys off Dhobi boys when go home at night."
"Your master Dhobi man, is he soldier?" JK didn't like the idea one little bit that somebody had access to troop's accommodation in this fashion, especially in a theatre of terrorist activity that was escalating every day that passed by.
"No master, Dhobi master is Mr Patel the Pakistani master of all the chi and Dhobi in all the camps in Aden, Mr Patel he very big man, very much money, pay English government much money."
"OK Aiwa, you keep me clean with my washing, what day do I pay you?"
"You pay me one Dinah start of week, like now, you pay me Dhobi everyday five o'clock when I bring and you see it is good and clean and good starch."
"That means I have to carry many Piastas every day, why don't I pay you Dhobi once per week?"
"Maybe terrorists kill master after two, or three days and Aiwa no get paid for Dhobi, you pay every day."
"OK, that's fine by me." JK thought what honest straight forward no nonsense little Arab bastard this boy Aiwa was. JK liked him. He also decided to make a thorough check on Patel and his organisation; maybe a fresh mind here may spot something wrong that others had missed by their familiarity with the day-to-day happenings.
After morning ablutions were
over and he was ready for the day, JK headed up a very steep winding hill
towards the Sgt's Mess and breakfast. The hill was known as Barrack
Hill, and did contain troop's barracks, Sgt's Mess accommodation, Public
Building and Works HQ and right at the top was the RAF Steamer Point Hospital.
The back of this hospital gave a tremendous view down the volcanic cliff
face leading to the white Arab dwellings of Tawahi. Unfortunately
it also gave a panorama of the poverty, the corrugated tin and cardboard
box Kochi dwellings scattered up the hillside, with their rivers of open
sewage flowing down towards the hard surfaced roads in the town ship below.
Between these temporary dwellings were passages no wider than three feet
to traverse one's way through them. Accurate navigation through this
Arab quarter was nigh impossible as the layout-changed everyday with some
dwellings being erected and some disappearing. This was the rabbit
warren of terrorist activity from which they would attack targets in the
main streets and commerce centres bordering the harbour. This area
was soon to be the nightly haunt of JK and his crew.
The Sergeant's Mess at Steamer Point was a large double story structure with the usual mess facilities found in all messes on the ground floor. It sported a huge upstairs bar and dance hall instead of the usual accommodation, although the dance hall was not used for its original purpose due to the shortage of women of SNCO rank, and the exodus of married families. JK found out that the room was now famous for indoor rugby matches between visiting messes. The accommodation was adjacent in single roomed one story barracks protruding like fingers at ninety-degree angles to the main building. The kitchen was staffed with Arab cooks, under the supervision of an English Sgt Mess Steward, with a Cpl assistant. Food was self-service, and as much as one wanted, though lacking in choice somewhat in comparison with other messes. There was always plenty of fish of various types, caught by the members themselves in Aden harbour. Another unusual item often on the menu was Gazelle and Ibex mountain goats that were shot by army crews moving North up the Dahla road to the Radfan, and by helicopter crews on the way to the up country airstrip at Thurmier. A good breakfast of egg, sausage, beans and fried bread washed down with another mug of tea, set JK up for the start of what was to become the five times per week shooting gallery mass shoot.
As per pre arrangement Hugh turned up at the mess with the unit Long Wheelbase Landrover to collect JK. Hugh never took breakfast himself, he felt he was putting on to much weight therefore subjected himself to a diet of one evening meal, mainly steak and about seven pints of lager per night. First port of call was the armoury; Hugh walked up to the small wire screened window of the duty armourer and handed over his service identity card. A few seconds later the sounds of locks and bolts being removed from a side door heralded the appearance of an RAF Policeman and a bloody great fearsome looking Alsation dog that kept a mean eye on Hugh's balls.
"Yea Dina ha tae be bothered with these wee canine laddies, they're well trained to kill Arabs but not us wee Englishmen." It was a mark of Hugh's apprehension at the presence of the beast that he broke into his Highland lilting dialect.
"I'll be taking the usual range detail please, ah hem."
"Sign here mate." Came the voice of the still invisible armourer behind his screen, as an A4 sized document was passed through the aperture. Hugh read aloud,
"Twelve SLRs, Twelve 303 Enfield, 6 Smith and Wesson 38mm, 6 Browning High Power 9mm, 2 Greener 16 gauge, 4 Shotguns 12 bore, 4 mk2, 4mk3, 4mk5 Sten guns, 6 Stirling SMGs, 6 Bren 303mm LMGs, 6 CS Grenades, 6 Smoke grenades. Ammunition all weapon types in full sealed containers, count and sign for on return and acceptance of used empty cases. One pack of Fire control orders Rules for Engagement Aden. One pack new weapon authorisation cards. One-pack pens. Two unit stamps and inkpad. One First Aid Pack. All correct, thanks a lot." With that, Hugh signed the form, and signalled JK back to the Landrover, the RAF Policeman was opening a side gate to the armoury compound. As they drove through, JK observed two more dog handlers watching them with the animals straining at their leashes. Hugh drove up to a large metal door just starting to open allowing two men to push out a four-wheeled trolley full of the weapons and ammunition. Loading the Landrover was a second security check; Hugh ticked off another list called ‘Weapon complete and cleaned,' as the men loaded them on the Rover after presenting the weapon for inspection by Hugh and JK.
"We do this every range practice ah hem, after firing, we clean and well oil all weapons, on return these men clean again and dry off excess oil before we collect them again, the weapons are rotated with others every seventh range to even out wear and tear."
Everything loaded and forms signed Hugh drove out of the armoury compound leaving the mean eyed police dogs looking pissed off because they had just lost some humans balls to chew.
Cemetery valley was so called because it housed an Arab burial place from as far back as anyone JK met could remember. The graves themselves were really shallow scrapes in the volcanic rock, with a cairn of volcanic stones on top. They were carelessly constructed, and it was a common occurrence when driving to the range in the mornings to disturb the ‘piard' (wild) dogs away from the graves carrying bones in their mouths. On the few occasions when heavy rain fell, the bodies were washed down the valley into the shopping streets of Tawahi. These dogs numbered hundreds and lived in the nooks and crannies of the ‘Shamsan' volcanic mountain at the head of the valley, and were a bastard enemy in their own right when one was on patrol at night, not only did they ‘pack' attack but the noise they created virtually made covert operations impossible, one of JK first decisions was to take out his crew with 16 gauge guns and eliminate the dogs on the western side of Shamsan which overlooked his main area of operations. These animals were clever, after a couple of days being shot at they moved to the eastern side of the mountain, which was fine with JK, but he and his crew still carried silenced pistols in case of ‘Pack' attack at night. On the way to the firing point JK saw the laundry facilities owned by our Mr Patel. There were huge, clotheslines full of sheets, shirts, shorts, trousers, towels and any other washable material items stretching for at least three miles. Twenty-foot diameter concrete bowls built from the ground was the start of the wash. They had wood, lava and gas fires burning underneath them, heating the boiling soap and water they contained. The finest fuel used in these washing boilers was crushed volcanic Magna, reheated with a gas lance until it was glowing red liquid giving off tremendous heat. Once melted it could be left heating the troughs for hours, to reactivate it oxygen lances were pushed in the base of the fire and in no time it was melted lava again. It was very rare to see any new material added, it seemed to last forever. Into these boiling cauldrons everything was thrown in after sorting. Underpants in one, whites in another, colours in another and so on. After boiling they were hung on an Ariel conveyor belt running under recycling water to rinse. It seemed that all the people from the Indian sub Continent and Pakistan were employed at this establishment, but JK found out as part of his investigations that Patel had to employ 50% of his workforce from the Arab NLF HQ to keep his contract, what a security thorn for JK to try and pull out of the British backside.
The range consisted of a 25 metre firing point, and twelve metal target holders in the ground. All firing was done on figure targets, normally number twelve's. There was no backdrop to catch the rounds, after they passed through the targets, just a few boards and a scrape of earth and stones. Most bullets just ricocheted their way from stone to stone up the slope of Shamsan Mountain. The whole set up was one of complete well-organised, rule breaking efficiency. Weapons were laid on the firing point at the ranges the men may be expected to fire them. A brief appreciation without presenting argumentative pros and cons was as follows. Smith and Wesson revolvers 10 metres, Browning High Power 15 metres, SMGs 20 metres, Rifles, Brens 25 metres. All the weapon magazines accept the 38mm revolvers and 303mm Enfield rifles were pre loaded to lend speed to the operation. A folding flat table and chair was situated at the entrance to the firing points and this was the domain of Cpl Charmicheal. As a person arrived at the range his service identity card and weapon proficiency card were checked, both carried a photograph and these must match. The service identity card was handed back whilst the weapon proficiency was held back for a unit stamp and signature on completion of firing. The person for qualification had their name; weapon and date were entered into a large A4 size book. They were then allowed to enter the range to the back of the firing points, carrying with them the appropriate magazine or number of rounds for the weapon they were due to fire. It was nothing short of a mass conveyor belt, but it worked. The station could maintain its security requirements with everybody carrying out their fair share of duties and maintaining high standards of weapon safety. Not one man was charged with accidental discharge of a weapon during the last two years of the emergency. Personnel only fired the weapons they would carry on duty. For example Officers (RAF) fired the 38mm revolver, RAF police and some Warrant Officers plus Army Officers fired the 9mm Browning. SNCOs (RAF) fired the various Sten SMGs as did RAF driver trade group. Junior ranks fired 303 Enfield or SLRs if they were Army. Ambush teams fired the Bren LMG, and Riot Control Teams fired under CS gas and Smoke concentrations wearing their respirators during the last half-hour of the daily range. There were a few exceptions to the normal weapon allocations, mainly the IS (Internal Security) Special Patrol Teams who operated in the Arab Kochi's at night, these characters fired everything, including captured terrorist weapons such as Kalisnikovs AK47. Then of course the specialist units took over the range in the afternoons to carry out their own thing, without any spectators, SAS ‘Keenie Meenie' teams were shooting their particular style of double tap close quarter combat practices nearly everyday, with a variety of weapons.
Hugh had a style of his own when it came to giving men incentive to fire well and with enthusiasm, even though it was a range shoot he managed to create an air of authenticity in the practice as if the men were actually defending themselves against a terrorist attack. Everybody stripped to the waist, wearing just shorts, bush hats, and desert (Bondoo) boots. Even senior officers were briefed by their aids about these uncompromising actions, which took place everyday in Cemetery Valley.
One day JK witnessed a slight hiccup take place, not because of a failure in safety procedures but because of a combination of fair skin, freckles and sunshine. Admiral Sir Michael Lefanue was affectionately called ‘Ginger' by the men because of his very ginger hair. He and his staff came to the range, displaying all the rank emblems, medals and gold braid, this lead to the much-talked about incident-taking place.
"Good morning gentlemen, welcome to the range, ah hem, you will notice everyone here has removed all clothing displaying rank or other awards, you will remove your jackets and other symbols of rank and position now!" He waited whilst the reluctant party removed their clothing.
"That little action makes us all the same, a human body with human strengths, weaknesses, housing fear, bravery, and all the many other little things that make us the most complex but effective animal in the world. When we are stripped down to the basics we are not mentally conscious of being protected by the abstract power that our uniforms displaying rank afford us. We are aware of being vulnerable. We are bodies that can feel pain, get shot and die, or we can kill the murderer first. When we are dead we will decompose, ants and flies will creep into every orifice of our bodies, lay their eggs and their young maggots will eat us until we are nothing but bleach white bones without marrow. We will never see our loved ones again, we are nothing, we are has beens, we do not exist, we must train hard to prevent this happening, we must kill the terrorist and his employees first."
Hugh coughed behind his hand, his sincerity in what he was saying, and the emotion in his voice was mesmerising the ‘shooters', you could see them physically change into a potentially aggressive person rather than someone having to fire his three monthly range.
"This state of affairs gentlemen, is brought about by the terrorist, he avoids placing himself in danger if he can, he very often uses children to do his dirty work. He will give a nine-year-old Arab boy a gun and a nine pence value 9mm bullet and says ‘Shoot a white man'. He explains to the boy that a person with a lot of badges on his clothing, or people around him protecting him, or one who shouts, points, and gives orders is an important person, therefore a better person to shoot. He explains that the boy can earn two Dinah for shooting the important ‘master' instead of the one Dinah for a normal man. Did you know you are valued at 5000 Dinah, Admiral? We have to work especially hard to stay alive, don't we? No going around patting kiddies on the head out here Sir, they might fucking kill you!"
As I said Hugh had a way of his own and he didn't give a shit what rank he was talking to, his facts were correct, and it was his job to make people aware and help keep them from falling into a terrorist trap.
"Ah hem, we cannot effectively train against these types of attacks apart from maintaining our vigilance and never trusting children, any children regardless of age, although this goes against our nature. The terrorist knows this and that's why he employs them, he knows our weaknesses. The bullet fired by this boy is travelling at the same muzzle velocity as the one fired by our terrorist and will do us the same amount of damage, the only little thing in our favour is the boy is more often than not less accurate. The daily incident reports are full of shooting attempts, missed targets and child arrest with them carrying the weapon. Are there any questions so far? No? Fine, let's continue, the attack we are going to train against today is the increased number of professional assassin incidents. We know that there are at least three of these bastards operating in the townships of Crater, Ma'alah and Tawahi. We know the weapons they use and the weapon movements, this information comes from Special Branch, and put together with the knowledge of the places they have killed and resultant forensic tests on the bullets and cartridge cases. We also know the modus operandi of these budding fucking ‘James Bonds' and their days are numbered, but you have to be aware of how they attack and what you must do about it, in case you bump into them before our boys have eliminated them. One of them we believe is an East German; so don't trust any Arian looking Kraut. The other merchants are Arabs, sent to the Soviet Union or China and trained to fuck us up. Their teqnique for assassinations is to head kill; the first indication you may get of your death is seeing an Arab with a gun pointing at your head. This is how they are trained to kill. Your instant reaction if you are lucky enough to observe the attack or if a buddy yells ‘target' you drop below the terrorist point of aim. Do not forget he is frightened, if he is aiming at your head and you disappear from his line of sight he is confused. He is concentrating on your head when suddenly it disappears. We! Drop gentlemen, below his line of sight. He then has to correct his point of aim. We! Do not allow him the privilege, of the easy calculated shot, with all the time in the world to steady himself for the kill. He has been trained to work this way; it is the Modus operandi they use."
As Hugh was making this psychological and mental build up in the men's minds, he was walking around casually with a 9 mm Browning high-power pistol in a holster on his right hip.
"Notice those six targets behind me, imagine they are the enemy, and now watch this." With that statement he'd turned around the 180 degrees, dropped onto one knee and fired at all six targets inside three seconds, he then stood up and casually placed the browning back in it's holster.
"What I've just shown you gentlemen, the enemy can do, you must be able to beat him, and can you do that now? No? You will be able to by the time you have finished with me today. Let us go and look at the targets" They walked down the range together, and stood in front of the six figure targets, each target had a single shot in the belly button area.
"That is what we must
do gentleman, place every shot in the centre of the main target mass.
In this way we are giving ourselves the biggest possible target.
This should ensure our opponents are hit, the enemy will die, what's more
he knows he is going to die when you hit him in the stomach, but it will
take him a while and give us a chance to interrogate him and find out where
he got his weapons from, who he worked for, and anymore information that
we need. This will not cost us any money for a hospital bed for him; we
need them for the British soldiers. When a man is hit in the centre of
the stomach he knows he's going to die, he is in terrible pain, if you
offer him skilled medical aid and the promise that we will make him better,
he will talk his head off. That is not cruel gentleman that is fact. Notice
the way I made the 180 turn, dropping to one knee and firing with the weapon
coming up from his feet to his head, this gives you a bigger target to
hit as you can fire at anytime coming up the body, putting him off his
aim, if you hit him in the little toe he'll know about it and not be able
to concentrate on you 100%. You may have to fire more than once even if
you hit him, you must stop him and you have more time for accuracy with
a second or third shot. We know of one Arab here who was hit thirteen times
with a Browning High Power, a full magazine gentlemen and the bugger was
still holding his weapon, he was only finished off when a Para hit him
with his SLR. Now, lets go at it, lets Golly Hunt!" For the next
twenty minutes or so JK and Hugh tutored the ‘shooters on the moves, the
need to shoot up the length of the body because it gave them the approximate
5ft 6" height of the man to hit instead of the 18"width of his body to
hit if they traversed across the body. They all quickly achieved the two
handed triangular firing position, and after firing a few Close Quarter
Battle Practices they were hitting targets in the centre of main target
mass in less than a second, they were amazed at their own progress, but
were continuously spurred on to better results by the amazingly enthusiastic
Hugh and his war chant, which he had them all shout as they fired the two
shot double tap practice.
" You are firing two shots at a time at a Golly. You are trying to hit him in the area of the balls or just above. For the first two shots shout ‘Gol'-‘ly' to the rhythm of your firing. For the next two shots shout ‘Bol'-‘locks'. Got it? First shot shout ‘Gol', second shot shout ‘ly', third shot shout 'Bol' fourth shot shout ‘locks'. Rhythm men, let's practice, ‘Gol ly Bol locks'. Again, ‘Gol ly Bol locks'. And again, 'Gol- ly Bol- locks', and again ‘Gol- ly Bol- locks'. That's good rhythm men, rhythm, come on my lovely Golly Bollock hunters, shout, louder, louder!"
It was epic, everyman on the firing point and the spectators behind were screaming at the top of their voices, "GOLLY BOLLOCKS!" to the rhythm of the shooting. Talk about Mass Hypnosis? The Admiral Commander in Chief and his staff were screaming loudest. It was at this time that JK noticed the Admiral was turning a definite shade of pink, at first he put this down to the exertion he had been involved in, but then realised that him being ginger haired and very light skinned, he was probably beginning to get sunburnt.
"Are you feeling OK Admiral?"
"Yes I'm fine, thank you staff."
" Be careful of the sun Sir, It can catch up with you very quickly, before you realise it you could be badly burned. "
" I am beginning to tingle a bit, maybe you'll give me permission to put my shirt on again. "
" Of course Sir, put your shirt on now."
That was it, and that was the mark and the calibre of the Admiral. He was very badly burnt by teatime of the same day. His brigade Major came down to the Cemetery Valley Range with a letter for the staff, the Admiral had written,
"Let no one blame you for my condition, especially yourselves. I should have known myself that I was beginning to burn and told you as such. You're doing a brilliant job there, and must have saved at least battalion strength of lives with your very effective and irregular style of training. Thank you very much; I'll come for some more ‘conditioning' soon. " Signed Lefanue. How many Senior Officers would have thought and gone to that sort of trouble? He was a great man.
Today was to be a special day, while JK had been in the UK having his brief about the job from Harry; he had been given two large rectangular boxes that Hugh had asked for. It now came to light that these boxes contained the little Golliwogs or Pikaninies one finds on the side of Robertson's Jam. These had been requested from Robertson without any explanation as to their use, so they were very good to send them really. Now, the idea behind this madness was simple, they were intended to be a morale booster for the men who had to keep coming onto the range and qualify on their weapons, once they had passed their shooting qualification, they would be given one of these little Golliwogs to stick on a material wrist band and wear it as if it were a marksman's badge. The badges would be signed on the back by Corporal Carmichael, and carry the letters QGH standing for ‘Qualified Golly Hunter.' They were an instant success and everybody wanted one. There had never been so many volunteers for range practice in history. Considering the number of people who attended the range everyday, it did not take long to see hundreds of people walking about with Golliwogs strapped to their wrist.
Some do-gooders among the Headquarters personnel were frightened of what the Arabs would think about this new British emblem of ‘lethality', and tried to have the practice stopped, even issuing threats of formal disciplinary action against Hugh and JK if the issues continued. They were all politely told to ‘do their worst and fuck off'. We also believed then and still do that somebody with mega power was backing the practice up behind the scenes. Buchan? Lefanue? Who knows?
Taking into consideration the heat, the dust, and the sweat caused by the horrible humid climate, Cemetery Valley is a place of many good memories. I wonder how many men out there now reading this story will have kept their little Golliwog. There must be literary thousands; the original supply of two boxes had 1,000 Golliwogs in each. These were used and the resupply was tenfold, thank you very much to Robertson's Jam. All of these badges were issued to men who had actually fired on the range and qualified; no one had them for free.
The Seven Bomb Pattern
One morning when they were on Valley Range came the Cur- rump, Cur- rump of mortar bombs, exploding and spreading across Aden peninsula. This was a regular thing for the Arabs to perform. For some reason they always fired the mortar bombs in banks of seven, and you could count them off. They were so regular you could tell when the attacks were finished or not; our Arab never fired more than seven bombs in one salvo. On this particular morning only five exploded. JK had to rush in the Land Rover from the range to find out where the bombs had landed and what had happened to the mysterious two that had failed to explode. As it happened they were two-inch mortar bombs that had been fired and two had landed near the hospital and the Sergeant's Mess on Barrack Hill without exploding. Buchan arrived at about the same time as JK,
"Stick the fucking things in the Land Rover," he said, and promptly drove away at a very fast rate of knots with the two unexploded bombs on the back. He took them into the fire section compound, stuck a little bit of Nobel's 808 Plastic explosive on them, and with only five seconds delay on the time fuze, dropped them in a roll of unopened barbed wire and strolled away. He had two Arabs working twenty yards away, he never even told them to get out of the way.
"I bet these Bastards tell their mates in Tahwahi that we nearly had them killed today don't you think?" Giggling away to himself. What can one reply on such an occasion?
Just to finish off the story about the Golliwog saga. Many strange things happened that were hard to believe. The Royal Navy often called in Aden Harbour as part of the Gulf patrol. When HMS Sheffield arrived, someone saw a person wearing a Golliwog and asked him what it stood for. On gaining this information he rushed back to the ship and the crew turned up en mass at the ranges to shoot for the coveted QGH. They even brought their own weapons and ammunition with them. When they left Aden they called in at Bahrain and told the crew of HMS Eskimo who promptly bombed off south to fire the range for a QGH. Our Navy have never been short of being adventurous, and of course were patrolling Gulf and Indian Ocean waters all the time so they were often seen in Aden. It was unending, aircrew flying from the Far East made it a number one priority to fire and earn the emblem of British savagery. This ‘Symbol of Deadliness' had also changed in stature, there now was a QGH 1st Class, QGH 2nd Class, and QGH Marksman.
JK and Hugh were pretty cool characters, but they folded up in fits of maniacal laughter when they heard a group of Sergeants arguing vehemently about who had rated the best QGH when they had fired that day. They were so heated in this argument that they didn't see JK or Hugh standing there, when they finally noticed them they proceeded to lace them with drinks trying to wheedle another QGH out of them. Of course they were unsuccessful. No way would our stalwarts give the QGH away in a bar, Sergeants Mess or not. They refused to lower its value and importance, which made it an even more desirable piece of kit to possess. This reward was given out during 1966/67 so must be pretty tatty old things now.
Terrorist Weapons and Tactics
JK started on the other side of his work now. His first port of call was the Ammunition Technician Officer headquarters in Khormaksa. The first meeting there was with the Senior ATO. A mature very professional Warrant Officer Jonathan Griffith. It was rewarding; the Warrant Officer put him at ease straight away, and made it clear they would be working together, sharing all information, keeping nothing from each other. The ATO branch were worked off their feet every day with bombs and booby traps to defuse and had no time for the kind of work JK was to embark on, but they were extremely helpful.
When it came to JK bringing up the seven bomb mortar patterns, the Warrant Officer had a theory. He believed that when the terrorists went to train in Russia and China, they were given demonstrations on a seven Katushka rocket system.
"They've assumed this was the norm seeing their instructors using a seven-bomb pattern." Another theory was the fact that most of the attacks took place between ten and twelve AM so needed a timing device that worked best in the heat of the morning sun and needed to be set within seconds of each other, before the terrorist became a victim of his own device.
Strange things had been used as mortars such as the British 94 Energa grenade, which was used by us as a rifle launched anti tank weapon, we had left behind thousands of these in the Canal Zone. In kicking about the attacks in a ‘Chinese Court' it became clear that bombing, by the Arabs, regardless of what type of weapon or launcher was used, was dependant on the morning sun since the climate was very hot between ten and twelve, and all attacks came at this time. The long and the short of it was that the Warrant Officer and his staff were too busy taking apart bombs and booby traps that had been planted, and one of JK's special jobs was to attempt to solve the seven bomb mortar pattern dilemma.
JK's next call was at Ballycastle house in Khormaksar to see the SAS, and ask for their support in locating possible mortar base plate positions, these must be hidden and camouflaged in the Kochi huts behind the main streets of the main towns. This area was their domain of operations and it was wise to let them know what job was needed in these rabbit warrens rather than try to do things oneself. Unfortunately two Royal Anglians on under cover duties in Arab clothes were killed by the SAS as suspected terrorists because they had not been informed of the Anglian's activities. If the SAS located any of these positions it was suggested they did nothing, just reported their location then escorted JK whilst he could work out how to play dirty tricks on the Arab.
SAS activities were at a peak at this time, in the urban townships of Aden as well as up country, they were very stretched in manpower, but they agreed to assist JK as much as possible without making his request a ‘Special Activity.' They would assist in other ways. One way was to let JK go up into the Kochis with his crew on his own to carry out searches. This concession came with certain provisos. They must wear uniform, and inform the SAS where they expected to operate and approximate times. They gave him a radio call sign to allow direct contact with them. His activities were to be combined with the Duty Officer's program of the resident battalions patrols, and activities from the Operations Room in P and O Shipping HQ in Ta'wahi. They were to be his next port of call anyway.
The seven bomb patterns were only a fraction of the other work he was expected to perform. Grenade attacks were increasing all the time. Different types of grenades were showing their ugly heads with the increasing supply of Russian and Chinese F1 and RG 42 contact grenades and other equipments. These needed to be investigated and some solution found to limit their effectiveness. Attacks against guard posts and sniper attacks with high velocity weapons were on the increase with the large arms smuggling trade from up country supplying the weapons. Ever more sophisticated mines and booby traps with high tech timers and delay devices were being used with the equipment coming from the same source, although many of the booby traps were of second world war vintage, but still just as lethal to the unsuspecting. The Arabs were also very good at improvised booby traps and explosive devices.
It is common knowledge in an internal security situation that the normal activities of a local government's duties suffer, for instance refuge clearance hardly ever takes place if at all. Sewerage systems break down drains leakage increases resulting in a deteriation in hygiene, and with this the smell and increase in flies and disease. This was the case with Aden, with no refuse clearance for many weeks; rubbish was piled high on street corners. It was in these heaps of waste that the Arab used to hide his weapons to attack the patrols on the streets.
The Arab male does not carry the weapon, it is the female, and the curse of our policy overseas does not allow the British soldier on the road to search women. This must be done by our own women's services in properly prepared roadblocks with private searching facilities for the work to be conducted. So the Arab women would walk down the street with the grenade under her clothing, she would wait for the opportunity to place her weapon load in the rubbish heap on the street corner. The Arab male could be searched for weapons a dozen times an hour by passing patrols but of course he's would be clean. When the ‘tail end Charlie' goes by, (the last patrolman), the Arab would delve into the rubbish, bring out the grenade, and throw it after the patrol. This was a common practice, by the time the patrol had taken evasive action, on either seeing the grenade, or hearing a firing pin strike, or a warning shout from a patrol member, the Arab is on his way into his pre planned escape route and the safety of the Kochis, the patrol would by now have dived away from the grenade, with their feet towards it and their hands over the back of their heads. One had a little more time to deal with a grenade attack if it was the British Mills 36 grenades, because these had a four second fuse, and a seven seconds fuse if it was launched from a rifle.
Most of these grenades were thrown, not rifle launched, so we did get the chance of four seconds to do something about it. Once we were having the Chinese and Russian grenades in the theatre, they were using the standard UMF fuse, which only gave a one and one half second delay, and the contact grenade, gave no warning at all unless it was seen coming. This UMF type of fuse also gave off a loud explosion like a pistol shot when it detonated, so the drop action against the head shot pistol, had to serve as the instant reaction defence against the grenade. Men were killed because of this.
JK started work on all these things, and within a few months he and the team had overcome a lot of the problems, and turned their method of attack and weaponry back on to the Arab
Anyway that is jumping ahead of little, let us talk about how we made the seven-bomb attack less effective against us first. To carry out night searches of the suspected base plate areas, it was necessary that the team put together specialised night operations and be fully conversant with the sort of things they were looking for. This was the birth of the internal security section at Steamer Point. Of the number of people available for night time patrol activity, a few were approached by JK, and the problem spelt out to them, they were asked if they would like the opportunity to do some extra work against the Arabs at night in the Arab's nest. These men were informed they must have special training. Very hard training at that, strict discipline, complete obeyance of orders. What they were about to take part in was not a boy's club, not the boy's own organisation, it was a lethal force which might have to kill, and or would be killed. Within the first week, after word of mouth approaches to people JK thought might be suitable, over seventy men had volunteered, of these JK selected thirty of the youngest and fittest and the training began. First phase of all training were weaponry, and the ability to fire up all weapons, including captured terrorist equipments, in night Close Quarter shooting situations. These weapons were ready available from previous captures.
We could not really take up the range during the day because of the need to fire other people under the three monthly qualifications. A time sheet was worked out for afternoon and evening firing to achieve their shooting capabilities, and night firing with torches that JK knew the men would need in the Kochi rabbit warrens at night. Very little night surveillance equipment was available at that time; once again the SAS came to the assistance and lent them some of their equipment. Calculations were made on possible ranges of the improvised mortar launches to be able to select certain areas in the back of the townships where mortars may have been fired. JK spoke to as many people as possible that had worked with him in Egypt during the Moslem Brotherhood terrorist situations and in Palestine. His idea of this was to pool everybody's knowledge and see if the Aden Arab was using the same techniques as had been employed elsewhere. Mk five, Mk seven, Mk ten anti tank mines, Mills 36 grenades, Energa 94 grenades, three eight Smith and Wesson revolvers, Sten guns, 303mm Enfield rifles, Gun cotton, standard issue explosive such as Nobels 808 plastic, 33 electrical detonators and much more besides, were in the Arab arsenal. All ours left behind in bomb dumps on the Suez Canal. It made sense for the Arab to use them, and, it did help us in a way because we knew of the weapon capabilities and could work against them. The new team followed a heavy schedule of fitness training, often running up the volcanic slopes of Shamsam Mountain and then finishing off with a Close Quarter Battle shoot on the range.
JK insisted on the centre of main target mass hit in half a second even after extremely strenuous exercise. It was surprising how quickly the team came on, they had a goal, they knew the terrorist was killing and maiming British troops, and they knew they could do something about it, and in a slightly unorthodox manner. This appealed to most of them, very soon strong team morale built up, and even though JK was bias he had to admit to himself that the team, for the limited night of operations expected of them, would be as good as any regiment in the province. This of course not taking away professionalism of all the other regiments, remembering the team's limited task they were ideally suited.
In selecting the members
JK had ensured that he would get at least one years work out of each person
before they were due for repatriation to the United Kingdom. Details
of the fact they were working at night in an area were street lighting
was very sparse and rare, JK ensured the men were issued with a lovat green
light weight uniform which made them hard to see at night when they were
camouflaged, and because they had a lot of climbing and mountain work to
do, the uniforms were easy to move about in and cool.
In three weeks from its conception the thirty man I S team was ready for its first introduction to Kochi areas in the back of Tawahi, Ma'hala and Crater.
Attempt to Bomb Khormaksar
Further method of gaining information about possible base plate positions was by the use of helicopters. Every time that the helicopters were delivering troops up country to Thurmier; they would make a circle around the camps out to about 4,000 metres taking photographs. These photographs were then compared to previous ones by the photographic interpretation unit, and if they noticed any changes in things from the day previous or even two or three days previous these would then be investigated. In this way one sortie returning to camp photographed what appeared to be seven holes in the ground spaced about 1 metre apart, on checking up on these they found that they were 3 inch diameter pipes about one metre long embedded into the ground with home made mortar bombs inside them, modified French sixty-six mm weapons and they were timed by a watch timer to go off at ten am, they would have landed on Khormaksar Airfield.
This particular cache of
weapons could not be turned against the Arab, they had been buried deep
and as such attracted a lot of attention removing them from their position.
The Arabs would have noticed this and therefore any surprise would have
Later on in the campaign the Royal Air Force helicopter crews managed to get infra red imaging photography, this allowed them the extra benefit of seeing a heat reflecting source. As the sun went down, metal that had been exposed to it all day, for instance a mortar barrel, cooled down at night at a slower rate than the surrounding earth, this left a clear whitish heat halo around the end of the barrel. We soon got into the habit of photographing sometimes first thing in the morning to see if there had been any movement or placement of weaponry during the night, and then again at last light or just as dusk was setting, to get an infrared image if there was one, and then of course the backup would be the patrol on the ground during the night itself. It worked. After a while devices were being found, turned around and used against the enemy.
Energa Improvised Launcher
One such device was found by the team ground patrol on the third night of duty. It was novel if not bordering on genius with its simplicity. The patrol observed two Arabs involved in placing some sort of construction on the back slopes of Tawahi just below the Steamer Point hospital, all the hospital lights were clearly visible and one could hear singing from the Sergeant's mess, that is how close it was, quite off putting being so close to home yet in the middle of bastards trying to kill us. Remember we were in uniform, when the Arabs spotted the patrol they melted off into the shadows, the men went forward carefully in case a little booby trap was waiting for them somewhere in the darkness, instead of a booby they found a seven bank salvo of 94 Energas being prepared for launch (See Diagram at annex A), the Arabs had nearly completed their work so at long last we had a device to analyse. A quick study on the spot showed that the ingredients for a bomb cocktail were there but they had not been finally connected for launch. The seven bombs were modified to fit on tubes eighteen inches long and approximately two inch in diameter and a simple wooden base plate with wiring taped to it, plus a battery with an open clothes peg and the electrical contacts held apart with a solid piece of bees wax as the delay device. It was now obvious that the 10 AM to 12 AM attacks came as the hot morning sun melted the wax and completed the electrical circuit. The parts of the device were split up among the patrol for a detailed breakdown later with the ATO. I've drawn a diagram of this device because the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words' certainly applies in this case. The men were jubilant and JK had to kick arses to keep their minds on the job in hand and remind them that they were still in the middle of a very dangerous place.
Two men were left at the base plate position as an ambush party in case the Arabs returned whilst JK rushed the find to the ATOs branch. After detailed inspection it was found that the tubes contained a Russian low explosive powder similar to the launcher solid fuel found in the Katushka rockets. The Arab had ground this down to use in their own improvised launchers, the tail fin which gives the 94 Energa directional nose first flight, fitted perfectly on the end of the launcher tubes. Energa grenades are armed after thirty feet of flight due to two forces, ‘Set Back' which happens on the initial acceleration of launch, (same as the feeling you have taking off in a car at high speed) this action makes free the firing pin allowing it to initiate explosion when the Tungsten steel tip on the nose of the weapon impacts. The second force ‘Creep Forward,' settles the firing pin in the correct position for flight as the ‘Set Back' recedes.
JK and the ATO soon worked out an evil scheme to give the Arabs some of their own medicine. They emptied out the low explosive from the tubes and refilled them with a mix of Pentolite and RDX explosive, this would still launch the bombs, and still ensure ‘Set Back' took place, but on launch it should blow the tail fins off. This would mean the bombs had no directional flight, but were armed. After a period of climb, the bombs would fall back on the Arab Kochi huts and explode; they wouldn't have the faintest idea why. From now on in, if we found the launch pads when they were about to attack us, they would be bombing themselves. It was imperative we took the weapons back to the base plate position before first light. We required the heating rays of the sun to melt the wax and set them off that morning, otherwise the Arabs would come looking and possibly notice something amiss. Our two field men left at the scene did not report patrolling, and our Height Observation Group at the Steamer Point hospital yard, which overlooked the launch site, had seen no Arab roof observation activity. Quickly we moved the weapon back into place, disguising any sign of our presence as much as possible, and headed back to Steamer for breakfast before the fun started.
It was absolutely bloody epic. By 9am we had the long range photo and video crews in place unobtrusively under the Steamer hospital barbed wire perimeter fence, we wanted everything filmed to help us make any further adjustments to any more devices we might of found. We all made ourselves comfortable and waited.
From our position, we couldn't see the device itself, but the locality was clearly in our camera vision. Hot, humid stickiness started to build up as the globe of the sun climbed in the sky, turning colour from red to yellow, then white, the temperature build up in South Arabia is fast and breathtaking. Very soon the base plate position area was covered in a shimmering screen of ground heat, which slowly rose in height as the day became hotter, and hotter. We were all becoming a little apprehensive and conjecture as to why the bastard thing hadn't blown was rife. Had we wired it up right? Had we used too much wax? Was the impedance of the wire too high for the battery power? Was our improvised explosive mix going to work? Many more horrible tantalizing ideas for possible causes of failure were being knocked about when suddenly at 10 20am exactly, Whooomf, Whooomf the bombs were being launched, in five seconds they were all in the air, clearly visible, spinning and tumbling, not having any directional flight, they were completely out of control. Our cameras and videos were working double time as the bombs (now counting seven) reached their peak of trajectory and seemingly lazily, started to fall back to earth. They tumbled nose first because of the slow pull of gravity against the tungsten steel impact tip, then Vawoom, Vawoom, they started to explode on the ground in an estimated 100 metre radius of the launch pad position, right in the middle of the Arabs Koches. What a tremendous, roaring success, we had begun to beat the bastards at their own game. They were running around in complete confusion; they never knew what hit them.
At the sound of explosions the follow up action was automatic, and carried out by the Royal Anglian Regiment. They instantly blanketed the area of impact with troops, carried out detailed searches for any forensic evidence (we never told them we were the cause) and took endless photos of the bomb craters and bloodstains found in the area. The Arabs assured them that no human deaths had occurred, that the bloodstains were of donkeys and dogs. When questioned about the possible cause of the attack, the Arab spokesman believed it was an attack on the NLF by the other terrorist group FLOSSY. This was great news because it gave JK the chance to exploit the situation by playing one terrorist group against the other in tit for tat reprisals. A new era of operational procedures had been born.
Attack on Flossy HQ
JK's first move in this new direction followed the same night. He had the intelligence support unit to produce leaflets in Arabic, blaming the Flossy for the dastardly attack on the NLF at Tawahi against innocent women and children blah blah blah, and called on all true Arabs to support the NLF in their fight against this danger from within. To show the people their strength and determination it had been the NLF who had blown up the Flossy HQ that night.
Leaflets ready in advance, JK gathered the team together and drew a captured Brant Blindicide Rocket Launcher and two bombs from the ATO stores and set off for Sheik Othman and the Flossy HQ. This equipment is dangerous to fire as one often gets a flame flash back, it therefore has a chain mail face guard to stop you frying yourself, this makes seeing the target difficult, to compensate for these limitations one must get very close to the target to ensure a hit. JK positioned his crew in such a way as to ensure a safe withdrawal route when the shit hit the fan, and commissioned four groups to distribute leaflets by throwing them from the roofs of houses en route to the target, and in Sheik Othman Township about fifteen minutes after JK's arrival. Weapon armed, JK and Mike Rourke as his no 2 loader with the second bomb, slowly crept along between the piles of rubbish and litter, they managed to find a good fire position about thirty metres from the Flossy HQ, and at exactly 12o'clock fired the first rocket into the building. Vicious sheets of flame shot back from the antiquated launcher and roared, as the rocket seemed to spiral in flight towards its target, then Wahoom! The whole building was enveloped in flame, the second floor instantly collapsed on to the street facing as flames shot fifty metres into the sky, then explosion after explosion literally blew the building and the next two houses into obliteration. JK, withdrawing from the scene as fast as possible, was burnt on the hands and face by the searing heat emitted from the inferno, it was obvious the initial rocket had set off a chain reaction of explosions of the Flossy weapon arsenal stored in the buildings. JK in his wildest dreams could not have imagined the devastation caused by one single rocket.
Arab activity was stirred up into a hornet's nest within twenty minutes of the big bang, by this time they were all reading the leaflets and calling on Allah to punish the NLF infidels, they were soon in a frenzy performing self flagellation and other forms of mass Arab self torture in the mass hysteria to take revenge on the perpetrates of this heinous crime. JK and co was pissing themselves with laughter at this Laurel and Hardy performance-taking place all around them. Arabs were so intent in finding NLF Arabs they never spotted the sneaky British bastards in the shadows.
JK finally managed to arrive back at base just as first light was breaking, he felt contented, he had completed a mission against the enemy and successfully blamed it on the other enemy, and because of the way of the Arab his next plan was made for him, he now had to blow up the NLF HQ as a reprisal from Flossy, things were getting easier and the stupid black bastards had no idea who was behind it all, nor did JK or his crew let on to anybody else, only the ATO and the SAS at Khormaksa knew the details.
Keep it hot, keep up the momentum, don't give the bastards time to think and appraise the situation, keep their hatred and blood lust for each other on the cooking stove, hurt the bastards as often as you can, in as many ways as you can, in the shortest possible time, allow them no time to think, such were the continuous thoughts rushing around in JK's head the following morning. The die was cast. From now on in a series of events took place in quick succession, the men had the idea in which direction to go, to make the enemy's life a misery.
To give the reader an idea of the extent of how the situation deteriorated during that particular time, during 1966, troops were called on to deal with 480 incidents, in 1967, the last year of the British presence, there were nearly 3,000 similar outrages, undoubtedly 1967 was a black year for the British army in Aden.
Aden had always been an unpopular posting with the army and, even at the best of times was commonly referred to as ‘Arabia's arsehole.' Reasons for this unpopularity were not hard to find; the country was a wild inhospitable place that offered few attractions to the army's young recruits. Its people showed us no affection. Some soldiers unlawfully used excessive force and methods during frequent and usually violent demonstrations against the British government's decision to include Aden in the Federation of South Arabia, and this also gave us a bad name. If the troops disliked Aden, in general they reserve the greatest hatred for Crater, for it was in this teeming town that most of the terrorist attacks by their National Liberation Front (NLF) and their rivals the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen philosophically and militarily took place. Crater, nestled in the crater of the volcano, known as Jebel Shamson; was surrounded by jagged volcanic cliffs on all but the seaward side, was the most hated hotbed of terrorist activity riddled town to patrol. During the sixties it was excruciatingly hot by day and bitterly cold at night, the surrounding cliffs only served to extend this heat and cold and help to contain the numerous smells rising from the open sewers, which ran down many of the town's narrow streets except at two points, a fortress which the white walls of the volcano denied access to, or exit from, to the east of the town. Marine Drive ran between the rock and the sea before passing along the waterfront. On the harbour side to the west, another road climbed to a break in the cliffs known as Main pass. After the pass, the route descended into Crater to become Queen Arwa Road.
It was ideal ground to wage a protracted terrorist campaign, a maze of tortuous streets and small narrow alleys, far too small for a military vehicle to traverse. It provided a perfect base from which the NLF, unforeseen, could launch their attacks from a safe haven on British security units. Using their group's large arsenal of grenades, small arms, mortars, and rocket launchers. Often, the terrorist orchestrated riots to bring the troops within range of snipers.
The PAC VAC Mine
After the NLF began its urban terror campaign it became increasingly difficult for security forces to maintain their grip, as the number of the terrorist attacks grew to almost unmanageable proportions. This was the time that a new weapon came into the NLF armoury. This little device was known as the Pac Vac mine, a terrible little thing no bigger than a 50p piece, but with enough explosive power to be able to blow a mans foot off, it was so small it was easily smuggled into bases and into camps. It could easily be sprinkled in the sand at the side of the roads and short pathways. A group of Arabs would gather on the hard tarmac of a path, and force the soldier off the path onto the sand and Bang, he would be minus one foot. They also placed them under toilet seats and any other convenient place where they could do damage to our British soldiers. Not only were these devices damaging, they were very demoralising to the troops because they could be found almost anywhere due to their size. They were Czechoslovak by source and had arrived along the smuggler route from Yemen over the mountains. Armed with this small amount of intelligence, the ATO arranged through Command Headquarters for the up country special troops, like the SAS and the Parachute Regiment to make special efforts to ambush troop convoys coming in from the Yemen and see if we could get our hands on some of these Pac Vacs for our own use. This we managed to do after about three months. So began our little operation, to return the Pac Vacs to the Arabs on their own ground tenfold in quantity compared to their gifts of these horrible things they had planted on us. Our favours to the Arabs never ceased.
During the night in the Kochi areas, it is very quiet, and in the narrow alleys there are no hard surfaced roads, everyone who lives there seems to congregate in the main village square where there is plenty of light. Arab food stands are in profusion cooking exotic aromatic dishes that would give a Brit the shits for a month if one was stupid enough to eat some, and the weird Arab music and street performers provide some form of entertainment. Within 30metres to the side of the square there were no lights, no hard surfaced road, only silence and shadowy figures. It was in these alleyways between the Kochi, that we paid back the Pac Vac quota to our Arab friends.
During the same night, every single township in the colony of Aden received a fair share of our captured presents, all placed in sand and walkways away from the main streets and right in their terrorist playground. The morning intelligence reports on the ticker tape from headquarters told us the story, every night Arabs were carried into local hospitals with injuries relating to explosions obviously caused by our little friends, the 50 piece sized bomb. After this successful blitz on the Arabs by ourselves with this weapon they ceased to use it against us.
I repeat that 1967 was a very black year for the British Army in Aden, and it was in this year that the Argylls began their tour of duty; they couldn't have picked a worst possible time, they were due to replace the Northumberland Fusiliers in Crater. Just five days before takeover, British forces had suffered their heaviest losses of the entire campaign, losing 22 men killed, and 31 wounded in a series of ambushes and mutinies.
The first mutiny occurred in the former headquarters of the Federal National Guard, now a training centre for South Arabian Police. On hearing rumours that the Federal Army were being attacked by British troops in Lake Lines, the local police set ambushes and killed eight and injured eight men from 60 Squadron Royal Corps of Transport. Later the same rebels inflicted casualties on British troops in nearby Radfan Barracks and on troops sent as a relief force. As two British Landrovers passed by the Aden Armed Police barracks on Queen Arwa Road, the police opened up with rifles and machine guns, killing a further eight troops, three of which were Argyll and Sutherland Islanders due to relieve the Northumberland Fusiliers. A further patrol of four men sent out to investigate what was happening never returned and were never seen again. Three more attempts to send in rescue parties were driven back by murderous crossfire and a Sioux helicopter was shot down at one stage injuring everyone on board.
As nightfall came, British
troops were withdrawn from Crater and it's immediate area, but now came
payback time. During that night covert SOG and SAS patrols saw grizzly
examples of what these local Arab bastards were capable of. Armed police
issued rifles and weapons to all comers, members of the NLF and FLOSSY.
Plus local criminals released from jail all became gun owners.
Stupid farcical mock trials of the dead British soldiers were held amongst great rejoicing, then bodies were mutilated, ritually hanged and burnt, some nailed to doors. Now was the time for some fast decisive action, and it happened, but not on the orders of the British High command who were quite happy to seal off Crater and contain the mob. Individual covert operations made the Arabs pay tenfold for what they did that day and night, and paved the way for a very successful return of the British troops to Crater in the splendid musical march of the Argyll's back into the town.
British snipers ringed the volcano rim surrounding Crater; these men were drawn from all Regiments, and shot anything that moved on a rooftop. The official version says they were ordered to fire only if they saw an armed person, and in fact the figures state that they killed ten terrorists armed with AK47 assault rifles. This in truth is a load of bollocks, JK and Hugh lay side by side on the crater rim with 303 Enfield sniper rifles and a range spotting telescope between them, they also contained a detailed gridded map and Arial grid photographs of Crater. Over the next five days it was like being on a Bisley Long Range Competition. If either one saw anything suspicious move, a grid reference was checked and passed on to whoever's turn it was to shoot, they were talking all the time, they observed hits and kept score sheets, shooting in turn at any opportune target that presented itself. During the dark, under the starlit Arab sky, the borrowed SAS night surveillance equipment kept them going and able to observe and shoot the enemy. Sandwiches or soup, coffee, pep pills, and adrenalin tablet issue to keep them awake arrived at last light. They fired a total of 4,700 rounds and calculated a 98% successful hit rate, if the reader does the sums, and multiplies by at least fifty sniper pairs, one can see a lot of Arabs died because of their atrocities to our men. Over and above this sniper work, SAS and SOG units worked in the warrens of Crater at night and took out a lot of known terrorists who had been clever enough not to expose themselves to the sniper fire. All this specialist work was ‘Kill by knife' and each kill had the index finger cut of for print identification on who had died. Nearly all known terrorist had print records because before they became terrorists they worked for the British and were issued with identity cards. A lot of Arabs died this way because they were known and deliberately ‘targeted', on one nights sortie an operative tipped out of a bag carried between his legs under his Arab Fut. (Skirt) a total of 40 finger tips on to the Brigade Intelligence Officers desk and calmly said,
"Here you are mate, earn your fucking money, who have I ‘molested'?"
The IO, all smart in his starched shirt and highly polished Sam Brown belt vomited all over himself, such is life. A further simple method for ‘Targeting' suspects was the simple deduction if an Arab was running up hill he was running away from a crime he had committed on one of the main streets, the Arab walks up hill with head bowed in deference to Allah, if he's caught running up hill ‘Neck' him was the order of the day. Known Koch areas in the back of town that intelligence had indicated were HQ areas or meeting points for terrorist groups were simply razed to the ground by sustained GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) fire, and this of course meant anybody in that area went to hell as well. All in all, pay back time for the Arabs was a very costly procedure. I know, I interrogated a few captured specimens later, to a man they admitted they lived in fear those few days and never believed we would do what we did because we had been so soft on them before because of British politics, and as shown by our Suez invasion fiasco, too worried about world opinion to complete a military operation. Abdul Gammel Nasser had told them that on the radio. Some said they had been indoctrinated by the same stories when they did their terrorist training in Egypt, China and Russia. If only our politicians, once a decision has been made for use of military force, could keep their bloody noses out of it and let the services get on with the job, we as a nation would be much better thought of and respected around the world.
The Coup de Grace of these
Crater activities was the reoccupation of Crater and the follow up operations
by the Argyll's and their Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell
Mitchell, or ‘Mad Mitch' as he was fictionally known by the news media.
‘Mitch' joined the Argylls late in 1945 and saw some action in the PO valley campaign in Italy. He served in Palestine, Korea, Cyprus, Kenya and Borneo. He was wounded by terrorist action in Palestine. He therefore brought to the theatre of terrorism in Aden a high level of experience, but this was tempered by a panache or flair that did not endear himself with his command pears, especially the General Commander of Aden Forces General Towers, so much so that he found after Aden, promotion prospects were non existent nor was he awarded the customary DSO, that normally graced the uniforms of all senior officers in charge of units on completion of a campaign. One supposes that some compensation for this lack of official recognition, was the affection and high esteem he was shown by soldiers who served in Aden plus the press, TV and the British public in general who bestowed on him his title ‘Mad Mitch'
‘Mitch' was appalled at General Towers softly softly approach to the Crater problem, especially galling was the flaunting of NLF flags and open showing of rifles by the terrorists in Crater before the sniper teams made them go to ground. These taunts were infuriating to the Northumberland Fusiliers who were responsible for Crater, and the Argylls who where to relieve the Fusiliers on the 25th June, especially considering the great loss of life suffered by both battalions when the mutinies took place.
Historians have written much
since the retaking of Crater and the infighting between ‘Mitch' and General
Towers came to light. ‘Mitch's' plan was for a bold aggressive two-pronged
night attack carried out by the Argylls, and his own night patrols and
SAS patrols thought that this strategy would cause us little trouble. Towers
argued that a ‘bit by bit' type of less aggressive action would cause less
Arab casualties and avoid the chance of another mutiny by Federal Forces.
Mitchell's horror at this suggestion and scorn for its conception is well
recorded and was openly televised at the time, his argument that this method
would allow the enemy to consolidate each position after the ‘nibble' and
force his men to fight dozens of battles against people dug in and prepared
for defence. As history shows, the Argyll ‘Stirling Castle' plan was eventually
accepted by Towers, and brilliantly carried out by the Argyll's and armoured
cars of the Dragoon Guards, who flew the red and white Hackle of the Fusiliers
from their radio Arial masts. The Argylls went into Crater to the piper's
strains of Moneymusk, the tune that had preceded every Argyll attack for
Crater came back into British hands with no further British casualties during the attack, the Arabs in Aden were awakened by the Argyll's pipes and drums playing ‘The Barren Rocks of Aden' from the rooftop of the Chartered Bank which Mitch had commandeered as the Argyll's Headquarters and renamed ‘Stirling Castle.'
The firm hand taken by the Argylls against the Crater Arabs made the place one of the quietist and safest places to be in the colony, armed men who used the local mosques for protection were wheedled out and eliminated, as the Arabs lost this sanctuary they had nowhere to go after an attack and soon decided it wasn't worth dying for. Unfortunately there were a few British casualties, some very unfortunate as was the Corporal killed by a 2" Mortar bomb that landed on the small roof of the ‘Stirling Castle', that bomb could never have been aimed with accuracy at such a small target, a lucky shot for them but a loss of life for us.
During the months of June 1967 everything started to reach fever pitch. Both military and politically, the two warring factions were now at open warfare, apart from fighting each other, they were still making even more effort to prove to the people that they were the ones throwing us out of the colony. Grenade attacks were happening more often with a greater variety of grenades being used as their supply from the Yemen increased. Our dirty tricks brigade now had some very hard work on their hands, we had made the British Garrison troops carry out more searches over the rubbish that had built up on street corners looking for these grenades, when they found one they left it in situe and called a code signal to JKs organisation who were then turned out to removed the timed fuse from the grenades, for instance the 1 1/2 second fuse from the Russian F1 grenades, and four second fuse from the Mills 36 grenade, and replaced them with instantaneous fuses, any Arab trying to use these grenades removed himself from the face of this earth instantly. It was amusing to see the ticker tapes reports coming into the GDOC in HQ stating Quote ‘Grenade attack number three street Tawahi, no known target. Casualties, one local national male plus two goats.' The RG 42 impact grenade was a little more troublesome; this consisted of two explosive charges each with individual firing pins and detonators separated by 40 foot of copper foil (See Diagram at Annex). Our grenadier would put his finger in a loop at the start of the foil then throw the grenade, it was safe as the foil paid out, but as it finished, the moment one of the two charges touched anything, even a glancing blow, the weapon would explode. We did eventually defeat this device by taking off the foil and replacing it with narrow strips of toilet paper and then disguised the last four-foot with the original foil. Often the terrorist when he used this weapon tried to stay out of sight of the patrol he was throwing the grenade at, he managed to do this by bouncing the grenade off opposing walls or off a rooftop. He was safe doing this while he had 40 foot of foil to play with. Once we had replaced the foil with toilet paper, he was not safe, as the toilet paper did not have sufficient resistance to stop the grenade explosive charges from striking the detonator pin the moment they touched anything, so he could now blow himself up the with the grenade four feet away from his body.
One off these grenades caused JK problems in July of 1967, a patrol sergeant of the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire saw a Mills 36 grenade lying in the road with it's striker lever stuck to it's own body with adhesive tape. He quite rightly believed this was a booby trap, and called up JK on the unit code. On turning out, JK observed the grenade through binoculars and thought it may well have been a case he had met before, when the terrorist had used adhesive tape on striker levers to hide and or avoid fingerprints. Some how he assumed this tape had become stuck to the main body of the grenade. Taking the usual precautions, he instructed the patrol sergeant to make sure he had height snipers covering the object, and then he slowly made a cautious approach to the grenade. When he was approximately 6 feet away from the grenade an RG 42 grenade came over the wall at the side of the road and exploded right between JKs legs, he was lucky because the grenades position blew him straight up in the air away from shrapnel which moves outwards and upwards. As he lay on the ground in a dazed and confused state, he saw one of the local shite hawk birds swoop down and grab a piece of meat in it's talons and fly up on top of a lamp post and start eating the very bloody juicy morsel. JK recalled to me after his immediate thoughts at the time;
"That's part of me that bastard birds wolfing down it's fucking throat." JK slipped into unconsciousness, the next thing he remembered was coming round in Steamer Point Hospital with a nurse leaning over him with a blue cape, over her shoulders and squadron leaders badges on the epaulettes. She was a member of the Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service. When this lady of mercy noticed that JK had come round, she said to him.
"How do you feel?"
"Am I going to be all right?"
"I hope you are not planning on having any more children, are you?"
The meat the bird was eating on the top of the lamppost was one of JK's balls. What a fucking diplomat she would have made, she certainly missed her calling.
JK spent ten days in hospital all together and then came out with a vengeance, any time he managed to free himself from work, he would go to the armoury and draw a sixteen gauge shotgun and a box of 50 rounds of ammunition, then go and sit on top of Barrack Hill, shooting any shite hawk in sight and screaming mad gibberish such as;
"You are not passing on any of my genes to your mates while I'm around this Aden, I have plenty of time to do this you fucking Arab bastards."
JK had me in fits of hysterical laughter a couple of years later when he gave me the final outcome of this disastrous event for him. If a man is married and has children, he is not entitled to any disablement pension for the loss of his testicles. If a man is single and has not procreated, he could claim a pension for the loss of his balls. All they will give the married man with children is a pair of synthetic balls in a substance similar to what women have as breast transplants. The cosmetic effect was supposedly good for moral. JK went to Central Medical Establishment in London to see about this cosmetic implant; he was taken into this small room on the fourth floor, a very dingy musty smelling place. In this room there were shelves of balls on the wall display. Low and behold, the size of balls one could have issued depended on rank, for example; a private or an aircraftsman would have a pair of balls like a £0.05p piece. A Warrant Officer would have a pair the size of golf balls, whilst a Lieutenant Colonel would have a pair the size of cricket balls, JK decided against it, it was silly and petty and he would not play the game. One good thing came out of JK's forward planning on his approach to the suspect weapon; the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Wales Sergeant's height snipers killed the grenadier.
Another very slender victory we won against the terrorist was with a supply of the AK 47 assault rifles, which came in from the Yemen. These weapons were of Chinese manufacture and someone, we know not who, but are led to believe that the SAS played a very important part this, interrupted the weapons at source and modified them by a small sliver of metal placed under the rear sight. This made the weapon fire 10 ft high at 100 yards range. The terrorist had no ranges to practice on, as we had closed down both the FRA and the police ranges, so they had no chance to zero their weapons and find out whether they were accurate or not. The final result of this intervention was 500 inaccurate weapons in the hands of the NLF; they were very brave now, and openly showed themselves to fire at British checkpoints and patrols. Of course with their shots going 10 ft high at 100metres they were hitting nothing and making them a sitting target for the British squad. This new development was kept secret from the squadies, as we did not want him becoming complacent. The NLF never seemed to switch on as to what was happening with their weapons.
A new development towards the end of July early August '67 was the increase in land mine attacks against vehicles. Previously land mine attacks had been on the main road to Dhala the main route to Yemen, now attacks were happening on the beach roads that ran through the colony past the old army barracks such as Radfan Camp. In a way we were fortunate because the landmines they were using in profusion were British Mark 5s and the Mark 7s from our arm's dumps in Egypt. We were very familiar with these, and worked out a strategy to defeat them, we produced a document on old paper saying ‘Instructions for use, and emphasising that these mines should be buried arm's length underground. These instructions would be placed into any arms catches, and left in places like cafes were terrorist could pick them up and gain this valuable information on how to plant a mine and blow-up the British infidel. Our dear enemies took note, we began to have a spate of mine attacks on vehicles and light armoured personnel carriers where the explosion was happening after the vehicle had passed. This was what we expected, as the pressure from the front wheel past over the mine and caused a compression initiating the explosion, because the mines were so deep their vehicles rear wheels was already passed it as the thing went off, we just changed convoy procedure and gave vehicles wide area spacing to prevent a following vehicle running into the mine debris. Once again they never did catch on to this clever ploy we used, and for the rest of our time in Aden the Mark 5 and Mark 7 mine were planted at arm's length. We were lucky, at the end of October Chinese and Russian rigid plastic mines began to show their face in the colony in large numbers. We would have a bigger problem with them but we were leaving in early November, so we didn't care. A few of these things had always been in Aden, but very rarely used.
Everything in the colony was now becoming chaotic both with the military and Politically, every day and every night one heard gunfire, machine gun fire, explosions, and this of course was the battle between the National Liberation Front and Flossy, and a few daring skirmishes with the British, I say daring because with their new supply of inaccurate AK 47s they always lost.
HMS Bulwark the Royal Marine Commando Carrier was now in Aden harbour with twenty-four other ships to assist in the withdrawal if needed. The Commandos of 42 Commando had taken up positions as a perimeter defence around the British troops, with special emphasis on the airfield at Khormaksa. It was quite funny in a way that the Commandos received a very warm welcome from the NLF. As their helicopters with the large slings underneath carrying their equipment approached the shoreline the NLF decided to use them as target practise from the rooftops in Tawahi. The marines instantly put in ground forces and started house-to-house clearance, whilst their helicopters were still flying overhead delivering stores. JKs group sat on top of Barrack Hill overlooking the rooftops of the hundreds of flats in number one, two, and three streets in Tawahi picking off the red and black cheque turban terrorists who were firing at the marines. It was a Turkey Shoot.
At this time in the debacle approx thirty thousand troops had been evacuated and their personal goods and belongings had to be left behind. Cars were abandoned everywhere, some with fuel and keys in, most in immaculate condition because the hot climate helped to preserved them. It was sometimes the policy for patrols to just jump in one of these abandoned cars to use as a patrol vehicle, this was excellent for the terrorist, they now had a new way to get at the British, and started to booby trap the cars left lying about, they gained quite a few casualties this way. Orders went out instantly for troops not to touch abandoned cars, and the JK and his group blew everyone up that they came across, except some they booby trapped for the Arabs to use after we had left, regardless of value.
One helicopter pilot at Khormaksa had a beautiful white sports car; he was heard to say that ‘no fucking Arab' would have his car. Together he, and his friends, tied the car into a sling underneath a helicopter and flew it to a selected site and deposited it on top of a high mountain point in the range of hills, which surrounds the British Military Cemetery in Silent Valley. Even to this day, civil pilots flying into Aden from a certain direction use this car as a reference point for landing.
The preparation for withdrawal from Aden was now at a frantic state; one of the major tasks that had to be performed was the unloading of the giant arms dump situated at the junction of the Mhalar main and the Mhalar Bandhar. It was during this operation that JK nearly got himself court martialed. The Royal Air Force at that time were armed with Second World War weapons, 303 Enfield rifles, Sten sub machine guns of different marks, and 38mm Smith and Wesson revolvers. Some members for instance the RAF Regiment and the RAF Police did have SLR, Sterling's, and the 9 mm Browning high-power pistol. As the bomb dump was being emptied it was taken for granted that everything would be thrown into the deep water harbour, JK noticed that the working party of a Marine Logistics unit was loading on to lighters for the trip to the deep water channel, boxes of SLR rifles, Stirling sub machine guns, and the Browning 9 mm, plus tons of ammunition for the same.
JK had a word with a Colour Sergeant in charge of the working party, and pointed out the stupid fact that the Royal Air Force were using antiquated Second World War equipment and here we were throwing away modern arms and ammunition. It would be a good idea if we took a lorry load of the good weapons to the Royal Air Force at Steamer Point and brought back the old weapons and threw them in to the sea. This seemed to be a common-sense thing to do. Our sergeant agreed wholeheartedly, common sense, a quick radio message to his unit at Steamer Point and a four-ton RL vehicle was quickly on its way. Whilst they were waiting for the vehicle to arrive, JK and the Colour Sergeant had a very interesting conversation about what was happening around them in the dock and at the bomb dump. Apparently everything could not to be moved in time, and a party of Royal Engineers and a Bomb Disposal unit were very busy booby-trapping the large bombs, such as thousand pound aircraft bombs, and large artillery shells. The sergeant said the bomb dump would be a blowing up for the next 500 years. JK decided the Arabs may be having their moment, but they would have nothing left when we finally made our exit from that bloody hellhole.
The vehicle arrived from steamer Point and JK ordered the crew to instantly load up the new weapons and ammunition. They set to with a will and had nearly finished loading when an Army Major came up and asked what was going on. JK and the Colour Sergeant explained the process in hand. The Major went red, the then blue, then white, then grey, and started to splutter as if he had been on a severe piss up, all this combined with what seemed uncontrollable shaking, at one moment JK thought he was having an epileptic fit.
" You can't do that, where Is your paperwork, who gave you the authority, if the Royal Air Force wanted these weapons they should have submitted a requisition order, well answer me."
" Am I correct Major in saying that these weapons are going to be thrown into the sea?" JK was having control difficulties.
" It's immaterial where they're going, show me your paperwork now, for all I know you may be selling these weapons to the Arabs, you look a shady character to say the least."
" No wonder the British army is in the shit like it is at the moment with stupid bastards like you as Officers. These weapons are going to the Royal Air Force at Steamer Point, don't try to stop me or I'll fucking shoot you, check with the Royal Air Force that they have received the weapons, and Oh! By the way, I'm bringing a load of Second World War weapons back so you can play at throwing things in the sea."
" Colour Sergeant, arrest this man, arrest him instantly, he is not to leave these docks with any weapons, he does so over my dead body, arrest him I tell you, now!" he was turning an even brighter shade of red and dribbling from his mouth.
" Arrest him yourself Major, there is no way I'm to tangle with that bastard, and after all what he's doing is only common sense."
" Place yourself under arrest Colour Sergeant, you are disobeying my direct orders, I don't know what that the world is coming to, this would never have happened in India in the old days."
"Go and fuck yourself you stupid old bastard." was the Colour Sergeants final remark and he walked away to continue the work with his Royal Marine ‘Loggies' who had watched with humour the whole incident, waving to JK as he left.
JK finished loading the wagon with the equipment he felt necessary and ignoring the arm waving and idiotic gibberish and screaming from the Major he mounted the vehicle and headed to Steamer Point armoury. Now came JKs second big surprise, on arrival at Steamer Point the Armament Officer, a Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant, refused to accept the weaponry and ammunition because there was no paperwork with the reference numbers of the weapons on it. JK went nearly blue in the face trying to explain the situation, under no circumstances could he seem to make this Officer understand just what the Royal Air Force was gaining. After a while, a very frustrated JK drove to the Royal Air Force fire section and saw John Buchan. Buchan switched on straight away.
" Bring the fucking things in here, store them in the back room, we'll sort out details later, meanwhile I'll go down the docks and educate this fucking Major about how to fight a war."
" Thanks a lot Sir, I just can understand were these fucking officers minds are, they're obviously living in a very different world to me."
" That's the trouble, peacetime amateurs, only out for a civilian type job and a living, if they have to fight for the fucking money they're paid they wouldn't earn ten bob a week, the only thing to remember is that these twats have no fucking minds of their own. The only thing that keeps them going is paperwork and more fucking paperwork, combine this with the rules and regulations and they don't have to think any more, this is what we have to put up with nowadays, anyway I am going down to the docks to piss this Army bastard off, see you later."
The outcome of this saga turned into quite a complicated affair, the Army were filing charges against JK and the Marine Colour Sergeant, Buchan and some high-powered Royal Air Force people, managed to calm things down, and all charges were eventually dropped. The weaponry and ammunition was packed into crates, labelled as MT spares, and sent to the Royal Air Force Regiment Ground Combat Training section at Muharaq near Bahrain.
At Muharaq the majority of personnel finished work at one o'clock lunchtime, and many of them went to the 25metre ranges in the afternoons to fire unit competitions for crates of beer prizes. The weapons used on these sporting afternoons was the ex Aden supply of SLR rifles, Stirling sub machine guns, and the Browning 9 mm high-power pistols. Thanks to JK and Buchan, and a few unsuspecting Argosy pilots and their crews who flew the ‘goodies' up the Gulf, hundreds upon hundreds of Royal Air Force, Army and Navy were trained and fired the new weapons with unlimited ammunition, thanks to SAS assistance. No questions were ever asked as to where the goods had come from, they were not kept secure in the armoury as is the usual practice, but resided in the RAFR target store behind the range stop wall. This practice was still taking place when JK left Bahrain in April 1968. As to the finale of this story, the Royal Air Force packed and sent all it's Second World War weapons and ammunition to their RAF stations such as Salahla, Masira, Sharja and Muharaq in the Persian gulf, who I wonder made that brilliant decision, it must have been at the least a Squadron Leader, and imagine the humour and comments when the equipments arrived at Muharaq.
The Rain Floods
Mother nature came to the British forces assistance at this confused and critical time in the most unnatural way. A freak thunderous heavy rainstorm slowed all terrorist activity practically to a standstill. Mudslides crashed down the sides of the Shamsam volcano washing away everything in their path. The dreaded koochi huts disappeared into a twenty-foot high, one-mile long heap of twisted tin, cardboard and other rubbish along the Tawahi main road. Graves from cemetery valley were washed up, along with arms caches stored in them. It was a devastating blow to the terrorists. The rain was continuous for two days, walls crashed down under pressure of the weight of water, It was a common occurrence when wading waste deep from the resulting flooding to find skeletons from the graves floating by, and strange to be able to pick up rifles, mines and other weapons at the waters edge.
Rescue the Jews
The British used this quite time to evacuate the Jewish refugees under our protection in the Kumara Hotel in Tawahi. During the Arab, Israeli Yom Kippon War in June 1967(the six day war) the Arabs in Aden savagely attacked Jewish enterprises, schools, religious buildings or anything else to do with the Jewish existence in the colony. We rapidly fought our way in and rescued these people from the mobs of marauding, half craved, looting Arabs, but not before a large number had been killed or injured. It is a myth that the Moslem and Hindu religion forbids the use of alcohol because these rioting Arabs had looted supermarkets supplying the ship bound tourists of all the booze. They were drinking the stuff, and screaming around the port area pissed out of their silly little minds. Many British soldiers, with the full knowledge of their superior commanders took advantage of this Arab looting to look after their own wives and families with watches and jewellery that was small and easy to carry, Why not? Was the attitude, we're being fucked about here with these Arabs. Let's give ourselves a bonus, why leave it all for the Arabs? That frame of mind and thinking process made sense at the time. We loaded all the Jews on to the impounded freighter the ‘Stainless Carrier' and sailed them back to Israel. These thankless although provoked people were screaming insults at us all the time because we hadn't saved their stocks and therefore their livelihoods. It was not in our interest to show them any watches or other goods that we had looted from them, all these goodies were kept at base and out of sight. The Norwegian Captain of the rescue ship was later shot twice in the back of the head outside the Chartered Bank near P and O Warf
The Rains Continue
One strange sight that JK and I watched during these storms and resultant flooding was at the football and sports stadium at Steamer Point. This stadium was approximately six hundred metres from the swimming beach at Steamer, and shark nets protected this beach. The floods covered the land between the stadium and the beach, and the outward rush of water to the sea from the hillsides washed the shark nets off their anchors and out to sea. Sitting in JKs billet we actually saw six sharks fins circling round and round in the sports stadium. Storms such as this one are extremely rare in South Arabia, consequently building planning and buildings themselves are not made to withstand them. Many military buildings collapsed because of these factors, and a tremendous amount of improvising by the Brits took place to maintain operational efficiency. Drainage systems cannot cope either and streets became open sewerage channels. I saw a skeleton float by me once with a big thick turd of shit sticking out of its mouth just like a cigar, desperate as the situation is, one cannot help but keep a sense of humour when confronted with such an hilarious sight as that. True to form, as the floods receded, the Arabs asked us to help them clean up the mess, the cheeky bastards, they're trying to kill us one minute and then want us to help them the next.
It doesn't take much guessing to understand what we did, being British we helped them of course, the Royal Engineers had to drop all they were doing in preparation for our withdrawal and bulldozed everything away from the streets, assisted in the building of temporary accommodation, gave them a fresh water supply, re installed electricity and power. Our medical staff had to deal with hundreds of casualties; they put out field teams to spray the area to prevent mosquitoes breeding and causing outbreaks of malaria, and helicopter spraying to prevent outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever. We supplied them with food aid, financial aid for damage to businesses; basically we put them on their feet again. By the time it came to the end of October, they were trying to fucking kill as again. The bastards. Only the British would be so stupid and soft with an enemy who doesn't give a shit about us. I wonder who made that decision to spend the British taxpayers money, who ever it was should be hung as a fucking traitor.
The excuse for these endeavours given to us by military command was that it was necessary to perform these functions to protect ourselves, what a load of bollocks, inside our bases everything was working perfectly, we did not need to carry out these ‘Fairy Godmother' activities on our behalf. We did it for the bastard Arabs full stop.
Blow the Oil Tanks
Starting up their terrorist activities again brought in a new dimension. They surprisingly started to blow up and rocket the fuel storage tanks in the scattered depots around Aden harbour. This caught the British by surprise as they were destroying their own future income; these actions were never predicted by our intelligence services for that very reason. Why they were doing this self-destruction exercise, no one could begin to understand. One of these storage tanks was situated on a lava flow running from Shamsam to the sea between Tawahi and Mahler. This unit towered approximately 50 ft above the main road, during the night the terrorist had fired a Brant Blindicide rocket at the base of the tank, fortunately the tank did not exploded but the very large gash in it's side allowed the contents to run freely down the hill, across the main road and dockyard, and into the Aden harbour. The slick of oil running down the hill was approximately 100 metres wide and 2 ft deep, and obviously with gravity assistance it was flowing very fast indeed. Buchan and JK turned out to this incident, after an assistance call from GDOC. On arrival Buchan made a decision, he simply knew in his gut feeling that the fuel would not ignite and equipment held in the dock store compound on the other side of the fuel flow would assist in diverting it, making the flow narrow, and therefore more easy to control.
"JK, get your arse across that fuel flow and get the ship oil leak safety equipment out and start using it from the other side." this equipment was used to contain oil spills from ships if they accidentally leaked oil into the harbour.
"You must be fucking joking! What happens if the Arab fires an incendiary bullet or another rocket into the middle of that lot?"
" He won't, he's too fucking stupid to think of that, and the stuff wouldn't fire up anyway, it's shit Arab fuel."
"OK then wise guy, you wade through it and do the business if you're so sure, I'll wait here for you."
"That's no good, I have to wait here with the radio and keep updating the powers that be plus stopping anybody else from trying to cross."
"Why don't we just let the tank run dry? The damage to the sea and the harbour are already going to need a major clean up operation, a little more oil won't hurt or change the situation, why take fucking chances now?"
" Because if we act now we can save thousands and thousands of gallons of valuable fuel get over there and do the job, it's expected of us."
" I know what your game is Buchan, if you save some thousands of gallons of oil, you will be looking for some back pocket money from the oil company at my fucking expense, what ever you receive I want half, OK?"
"OK, now get going, your losing hundreds of dollars a minute."
JK gingerly started to wade through the oil slick, it's consistency was similar to Cod Liver Oil, blackish brown in colour, smelt exactly like petrol, and gave of pungent fumes and vapours that burnt the eyes and throat, the contact on the legs burnt like hell. Half way across, JK started uncontrollable vomiting, his lungs were burning, they seemed to be on fire, his eyes were streaming and he had difficulty keeping them open, his legs and feet were like lumps of raw meat. A thought crossed his mind, and he was muttering it aloud to himself for the rest of the way;
"70% to 30% to me Buchan you bastard, fuck you and you're 50/50." This chanting gave him a second lease of life and he eventually came out of the other side of the slick. A large ship spray cleaning hose and high powered water was available on the dock side, the first thing JK did was to strip off all his clothes and spray himself liberally with the water trying to remove as much oil as possible from his legs and feet. Free from oil but still burning badly, JK recruited some local Arab dockyard workers and began to position the leak boom in place. So far there had been no fire threat, and JKs confidence was beginning to rise when he saw a sight that made him freeze in his tracks, Buchan started driving the Land Rover through the oil slick, with a hot exhaust. JK screaming and yelling at the top of his voice;
" Are you fucking crazy or something, don't you realise that exhaust will set the oil on fire?"
No answer, just a rigid like zombie with a fixed determined expression on its face kept coming, creating a large bow wave of oil as he did so.
JK grabbed his work men and any body else in the area and ran about 50 yd to get out of the way in case Buchan fired the oil, guessing all the time at Buchans motive for this madness, and expounding on the stupidity of British Officers, the college and university system that bread such strange things, and Buchan was one of the better ones of course. Eventually Buchan drove her out of the oil with fumes and steam coming from the exhaust pipe. God only knows how there was no fire. As Buchan dismounted from the Land rover he gave JK the stupidest grin and said,
" I came to give your hand old chap, I thought it looked a bit too much for you myself, and I remembered the fact that I have used this equipment more often than you have." JK was closed to bursting point.
"Buchan you twat! I have come to a decision about you, if you had another fucking brain, you would have an aggregate total of one."
With that he mustered the work force and continued to channel the oil with the boom, he dare not speak anymore or would have eliminated the stupid grinning Buchan. Eventually the boom principal worked and it channelled the oil into a fast moving slick about 10 ft wide and this was directed into a large lighter tied up to the side of the dock. Buchan was correct, they did save thousands of gallons of oil; JK never saw a single penny in commission for his efforts.
As all these mad little schemes taking place leading up to our withdrawal, so was the political scene in the state of chaos and madness. The Flossy leader Abdullah Asnag, who had all of the union support from the docks, was finding it very hard to stay in contention with the National Liberation Front. He left for Cairo to try to persuade the Egyptians to give him more support. He had been receiving help from them for three years but insufficient in quantity for the escalation of fighting. Unfortunately Egypt with its economy screwed up, could not afford to give him any more money or weaponry. The NLF being stronger and better financed, undermined Asnags FLOSSY with superior strength not only in the townships, but also in the guerrilla wars being fought against the Sheiks up country.
NLF Becomes Stronger
In an attempt to ‘Broker' some concessions from the NLF, Lord Shackleton went to Aden in an attempt to meet the terrorist much to the annoyance of the Colonial Office. Mr Sam Falle a Foreign Office advisor, made arrangements for the Lord to meet with the NLF in a house in Crater. He offered to release the NLF prisoners, and to recognise their party. Lord Shackleton was told ‘No Deal.' The NLF insisted that they must be seen to throw us out of the colony and no truce or ceasefire was a negotiable.
The N LF became stronger and our intelligent became weaker because no Arab would speak to us, or to be more correct, no Arab dare speak to us for fear of death. The British troops became very frustrated and began to be tough, they were rounding up Arabs and sticking them in barbed razor wired compounds were hooded informants (which we had taken from ‘Death Row' at Fort Morbet jail) picked out known terrorist. The propaganda machines were full time against us, broadcasts over all the Arab state radios emphasised the tales of British brutality in Aden. An independent assessment was made by the International Human Rights Committee who agreed that the British were being a brutal in our interrogation techniques and in our arrest procedures in that unfortunate colony. They should have tried running the show themselves and seen what we were up against, they may have sang a different tune if they were being shot, murdered, blown up and mutilated. One thing that was never explained, and did cause a lot of outside concern, even after intensive interrogation by these international bodies, was the complete disappearance without trace of a large number of known terrorists captured over the last three years of fighting. Two cases in particular that was seized on like a dog after a bone was the disappearance of two terrorists who had been shot and sent for treatment to Steamer Point hospital.
The British gave a reason for these disappearances stating that the people in question had died in captivity and had been cremated with the remains being buried in-unmarked graves. This was a very logical explanation, and it makes sense. Rumours upon rumours were beginning to circle around the townships that we were up to some very dirty tricks indeed.
For years, the British had grown their own pigs for their supply of bacon and pork. To do this they had established a number of pig farms on at the sand stretches leading to the sea on the coast road past the army camps. Waste food from all of the kitchens and Messes was collected twice daily and delivered to our pig farms for the pig's consumption. As at the British troops started to withdraw, the food from the remaining camps was in excess of the small supply needed to feed the few animals that were left. This excess was loaded still in its dustbin containers onto helicopters and flown out over Aden harbour and tipped into the sea. This practise carried on for weeks and eventually it was quite easy to see the large influx of shark's fins swimming around the food supply area. The shark seems to have a built in clock, they arrived in their numbers at the same time every lunchtime and evening just after dark as the load of waste was being tipped into the harbour. After the spillage of oil into the sea by terrorist activity, we did find a great reduction in the number of sharks swimming about, we also discovered many corpses and even though the bay was tidal, with water rushing in from the Indian Ocean, we still had a lot of damage to the fish and the eco system. The rumours had it that it was not only the excess slop from the army camps that went into the sea for the sharks, but terrorists who had given us a lot of problems, and could cause more problems in the future politically. This was a good way to get rid of them. A common saying by troops in Aden at that time, if they were talking about someone that they had just arrested, depending on the severity of his crime, was ‘this one is shark bait mate'.
Nobody ever proved if we were doing this exercise or not, helicopters were often seen late at night flying out to the deep water channel, (Bait Area) then back to land again. I wonder where we really doing this, I think this will remain a mystery.
The Sultans began promoting Federation officers from the army and the police force, hoping for their assistance when the NLF came to power on our exit. It came to be understood that the mutiny and slaughter of the British troops in Crater in June, was the beginning of the end for the Sultans and the Federation. Twenty-four hours after that mutiny the Emir of Dhala was deposed and within a few weeks the Sultans fell one by one of to the Federal Army and the NLF.
As the final days before
our exit came to a close, our patrol activity and terrorist baiting practically
ceased, we had a number of fixed defensive machine gun positions, and 42
Marine Commando were acting as the perimeter protection force for the withdrawal.
We had the ships out in the harbour; some of which could give Naval gunfire
support if we were really in the shit. Basically, most people stayed in
their bases until such time as they were allocated either aircraft or ship
to make their final farewell to the Colony of Aden.
Quart an al Ashabi, the NLF commander, was now openly holding press conferences, explaining to the International Press the intentions of the National Liberation Front once they had got rid of this British infidel. He was invited to London and wined and dined, and treated very well by the British Government, and all this was going on whilst the NLF were still committing terrorist atrocities against our troops in the ‘Arsole of the world.'
The situation wasn't all rough going; some lucky troops were really living in a paradise situation. The Sergeant's Mess at Barrack Hill in Steamer Point had closed, and been relocated at the beach NAAFI, which was a single story rambling building right on the beach in Steamer Bay and 20 yd from the edge of the sea. There was a marvellous dining room, television rooms, reading room and bars in idyllic settings, with a swimming pool on one side of the complex in case you did not wish to risk any sharks in the sea (remember the shark nets had been washed away after the flood). With the troops having a lot of free time now there was not much work to do in the form of patrolling and anti terrorism, and having a protective circle of Marine Commando all around them, they had little to do but lie about on the beach and sunbathe, have a swim, either in the pool or the sea, go to the bar, watch television, read or fish from the beach or volcanic rocks surrounding the bay and they still had the same laundry and servant facilities as before, all of them had now moved into vacated married quarters. Apart from the fact that a few mortar shells dropped in now and again and the odd sniper shot from the rim of Shams an it was a paradise.
JK still had plenty of work to do trying to slow down as much of the terrorist activity as possible, also he had the task of ensuring the security staff at the British Embassy, which was located in Steamer Point station itself, understood all the terrorist weapons and tactics, and how they had use them against us. He had to take them to the Cemetery Valley Range to make sure that they were proficient in their personal protection weapons and the heavier weapons available to use for the protection of the embassy building itself, this was necessary as the embassy was staying functional after the troops had left. This was one of the strangest embassies that JK had come across, because it was the only one he had seen without serving troops acting as protection. Security elements at this embassy were civilian guards, mainly men in their late 40's and 50's, ex service men, recruited on completion of twenty-two years of military service, and then, after application to the Civil Service, selected for embassy security duties. JK spent as much as four hours a day with these people over the last five weeks of occupation, they were very good men indeed, especially in close quarter combat. They were armed with their Browning 9 mm high-power pistols as their own personal weapons and of course had the standard British weaponry in the Embassy including general-purpose machine guns, which were very few and far apart in the British army at that time.
To make the last few weeks even more enjoyable from JKs point of view, were four female British secretaries at the embassy, plus some local typists. The situation outside of the camps did not lend itself for people to go out to bars, restaurants or hotels to enjoy themselves, consequently, when JK offered the ladies invitations to the Exclusive Club where they could drink in safety and have a good time, they obviously agreed wholeheartedly. There seemed to be a lot of last war abandon present at the time, everyone lived by the hour and enjoyed each other. The girls went for sex as if it had just been invented. The lady that tied itself onto JK could have won the Miss World Competition and she had a rampant sexuality about her, which could not be ignored. Unfortunately he had no balls, and became very frustrated, he had to hand the charming lady over to friends who were on hand when it came to the shagging stage. He would talk with her, drink with her, snuggle and cuddle with her, make her come on heat, make he randy, then hand her over for somebody else to fuck. JK really hated the Arabs now he realized what the future held for him sexually.
It was quite obvious that the SAS Keenie Meenie squads were still very active in the Kochi areas of the townships. One could always tell when they were about doing their dirty business if you were refused permission to enter any certain patrol areas. You sometimes went into the patrol headquarters of the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire for briefing by the duty officer, and he would indicate areas, which were out of bounds to your patrol, that meant the SAS were in that area of doing something.
The NLF leader, Ashabi,
became a personal target for British troops in Aden. This was nothing to
do with government orders, JK and his counterparts decided this, and they
concluded that the bastard must die before they left the place. This action
was brought on by his open gloating against the British to the press, radio,
television, and the fact that the bastard had been back to England and
treated like a king by the stupid fucking Labour Government, especially
Denis Healy, the two faced lying bastard who had started this bloody show
down anyway. Mohamed Farrid the Federation Foreign Minister from 1962 to
1967stated that the Federation was completely betrayed by the British,
and especially by Healy, who reneged on promises made by Duncan Sands at
the 1964 Arab conference that the federation would have the protection
of the Aden base at Khormaksar. Sands were furious. Healy lied.
Many of the tricks that we used against the Arabs cannot obviously be disclosed because we are still using them in certain theatres of operations and we would be teaching our enemy our tricks if I spoke about them now. In those days, there were a certain amount of remote control explosive devices and detonator devices but not many. Most of the equipment's that we relied on was our own improvisation and tactics from weaponry used by our Special Operations Executive and their equipment's during the Second World War, and of course this equipment we had in plenty.
One of these equipment's was called a ‘trembler' device, it was simply a tube of plastic with a ball bearing inside and electrical contacts at each end leading to a detonator and explosive charge (See Diagram). One could place an explosive charge in a briefcase or tin or any type of container, connect everything up and then place on either side of the ball bearing two knob pins as they are often called to restrain the movement of the bearing. These devices could be left lying about, after pulling out the two restraining pins the unit was armed and the ball bearing free to roll either way to make the electrical contact and initiate an explosion. Any one picking up the case would set the ball bearing rolling to one end or the other, consequently making an electrical contact, which would set off the detonator and explosive charge (see diagram at Annex)
The TWAT team held a ‘Chinese Court' and decided that they could take out Ashabi by using a device with a trembler in it. It was obvious because of his protection and his numerous bodyguards that we could not go leaving odd briefcase lying about in the hope that he might pick one up. It was necessary to use another tactic, across from the NLF headquarters in Crater, was a large shop-selling many varied Items and a large range a briefcase. Some how if we could get one of these items to him from this source it would be less suspicious and might work. We still had the problem then to arm the thing, we could not leave anything in the shop armed in case of killing innocent people, although one of the ideas on the ‘Chinese Court' was to plant a large suitcase full of explosives in the shop and blow the HQ up across the road and anybody caught in the blast had hard shit.
It was pointless trying to break into the shop and leave a briefcase or other devices lying about in the hope that Ashabi or some of his men came in to buy or ‘appropriate' an item. If we used this idea the shopkeeper himself would be a problem by probably noticing the item was not one of his regular stocks. Two methods were open to us, first, we had a man standing in this shop with a device waiting until the terrorist leader went into his headquarters, when this happened he would then walk across to the Headquarters, pull out the two pins arming the weapon on the doorstep, and make a pre planned exit to join up with the others in case of pursuit or a fire fight. Secondly, we arrested the shopkeeper, and make him write a letter to Ashabies security men, instructing them that they should visit him in jail to collect keys to his shop to pick up a matching set of luggage for Ashabi to use on his forthcoming visit to Russia. We would tape over the trembler position and put the restraining pins in through this strong adhesive. As the luggage was unwrapped and the adhesive pulled off, the pins would be withdrawn with the tape and the weapon would explode when it was picked up. Walla, that was the choice, Number two had the vote.
The plan was instantly put
into action, a ‘whirlwind' (surprise) raid on the street which contained
the headquarters and the shop was organised, during this raid the shopkeeper
was arrested in a very high profile fashion, not one of Ashabi's people
could be in doubt that we had him in custody. Troops stayed in the shop
supposedly making intensive searches, and whilst this was happening the
people placed the matching luggage ready for collection by the security
men from across the road. Everything went as planned, the security men
fell for the luggage for Russia story hook line and sinker, it was collected
as planned and unwrapped in their HQ.
On the second of October 1967, the NLF headquarters in Crater exploded majestically. There were no survivors. Ashabi was not present. Oh well, we cannot win them all, but it was a bloody good try. FLOSSY were made the obvious scapegoats and blamed for this attack therefore another set of ‘Tit for Tat' reprisals started between the bastards, thus leaving the British alone.
We did have another go at killing Ashabi, thanks to some SOE equipment and tactics they had used. This was a piece of equipment that exploded should there be a sudden and rapid change of light, for instance it could be placed on a train and would not exploded with a normal change from sunlight to darkness, but if a train entered a tunnel into sudden darkness it would explode.
By this stage of the game the NLF were very clever at finding destructive devices and booby traps, let's face it they had plenty of experience. JK and his crew felt that if they used the darkness to brightness method with the device, for instance switching on a light to cause an explosion, the NLF would be suspicious at this time. We ourselves would expect a possible booby trap to detonate when a light was switched on, or a car engine, but not when it was switched off. JKs idea was to modify this device and place it in one of their headquarters whilst the lights were on, then when the lights were switched off, the building, possibly weaponry and communication equipment inside would be destroyed with minimal loss of life, but it was well known that the last man to leave from the Headquarters was very often Ashabi and his bodyguard. If we could kill him it would be a bonus.
The plan went ahead with the assistance and expertise of the ATO branch. Three devices were modified to explode when a light was switched off. These devices were quite small, about the size of a packet of 500 sheets of A4 office paper. We noticed a continuous supply of this item to the three NLF offices in the colony. JK upped the anti and intended to blow up all three, increasing the odds on eliminating Ashabi. It was a simple procedure to infiltrated the paper supplier and include one of these new devices in an NLF office delivery, a patch of clear freezer bag at the end base would allow the darkness to work on switch off. The plan was initiated and ready to go. After the previous suitcase explosion the NLF occupied a new HQ. JK decided to watch the newly commandeered NLF building in Crater himself, he felt that this was the place where they stood a better chance of killing Ashabi. As he entered Crater over the Shamsam volcano rim, a major firefight was taking place between elements of Flossy, NLF and the Argyll and Southerland Islanders.
JK was pinned down behind a low wall, there were bullets flying everywhere but felt pretty secure in the position he had managed to achieve. Once he had sorted himself out he noticed that he was not alone, a rather rotund, friendly faced, sunburnt little chap was lying behind the wall with him. In a rather quiet the voice his new companion said
" These are not very friendly people are they, I doubt that anybody knows what they are shooting at, its the same everywhere I have been today, Sheik Othman, El Mansoura, Little Aden, everywhere, the crazy bastards are at it all over the bloody place, it's a waste of fucking time don't you think?"
" What's a waste of time?"
" Television mate, film projectors and screens, photocopiers, I risk getting shot every day trying to retrieve these things from the military establishments we lent them to".
" What organisation do you work for?"
" The Army Kinema Corporation. Why I wonder it's so important to collect this stuff in? I would have thought it expendable at this stage of the game but it seems Gerry Prosser, yours truly, is the only thing that's fucking expendable. I'm not worth nine hundred TV sets." Just then about twenty machine gun bullets passed about three feet above his head and hit the wall on the opposite side of the road.
" I'd feel very inclined to tell your bosses to fuck off, if I was in your shoes, why don't you?"
" I have done on many occasions, it's like hitting your head against a bloody brick wall, they need this equipment in the other Gulf stations rapidly because of the increase in the number of troops that are being stationed there, for instance the ones being the kicked out of Aden now are only moving up the Gulf, they're not homeward bound. Our lot should send a Hercules load of new gear for the Gulf Stations, but while they have a fool like me here they will try and save money and kill me instead. It's hard to believe it but the military police make the job fifty times worse, they insist that when I go over the ‘course way' (a road running over Aden harbour) to the stations on Little Aden side of the water, that I have a Military Police Land rover escort. Now imagine you are a terrorist on the other side of the course way, you see a military police Land Rover followed by a military staff type car and then another military police Land rover following up in the rear and you think to yourself, ‘ It looks as if we have a prime target here with all these police escorts, alert all sniper and machine guns, let's kill everybody in the convoy because we may as well have the military police scalps on our trophy wall as well as the man riding in style in the car in the middle, he must be assumed to be a very important person, let's hit him with rockets or machine gun fire.' This has happened to me on a number of occasions. I keep telling the military police I don't want an escort. The stupid idiots insist I have one, they're trying to fucking kill me themselves. What do you think, do you think they're stupid?"
" I'm sure they are Gerry, I've never liked their calling and they're always poking big noses into other people's business to justify their existence. I suppose we need them in a military organisation the same as they need police in civvie street, but I could never understand the mentality of a man joining any organisation who'll gain his promotion by fucking up other soldiers." As he was speaking, two loud bangs suggested the Dragoon Guards were entering the fray with their big stuff.
" Never mind, when I've finished here, I shall retire and buy a bar somewhere, then relaxed and take the piss out of old soldiers coming in for a drink and telling me their war stories. I've seen more fucking fighting in the last three months than most people saw in the whole of the last war."
"Good idea, let me know where you are and I'll come and drink myself stupid with you, agreed?"
"Agreed." the fighting and sounds of gunfire had gradually died away allowing JK and his new found associate Gerry to carry on with their business. JK did find out the later when serving in the Gulf, that Gerry of the AKC was awarded a very high civilian citation for his work in Aden. Much later, he found out that Gerry did retire, did achieve his bar ambition, and is still in the bar today taking the piss out of bullshiting old soldiers. Call in ‘Gerry's Bar' in Lloret de Mar in Spain and see for yourself.
JK did not have to stay long in Crater to witness the results of the work and planning that he and his crew had put in, that night at approximately ten thirty pm, the NLF building exploded, there were numerous secondary explosions suggesting that the weaponry contained within had also detonated. Later that evening he received intelligence information that five people were killed in the building but not Ashabi, he had been very prominent about the townships and in the media during that day but JK still had two devices in place to kill the bastard, hopefully that night.
‘Shabby' was like the proverbial cat with nine lives, he had only just left the Ma'alah Banda HQ by ten minutes when that blew sky high, but it did add six more to the terrorist body count. JK was very pissed off with this close shave but even more sickened when the third device blew up the stationary suppliers warehouse. The bomb had obviously not been delivered.
Personnel were now beginning to get their flight details or shipping times for the final movement from the Aden colony, the last people to leave was going to be the Royal Marine Commando perimeter protection force and the Royal Air Force Police Customs and Air movements staff. These people would keep both the military and civilian air traffic under control until such times as the Arabs had qualified people to do the job. Of course the British embassy would stay.
For a number of weeks now an organisation called the NLFB had been pushing a load of anti British propaganda over the Saana and Taiz radio waves from the Yemen, calling on the Arab nationalists to throw the British out of the whole of the Persian gulf and follow the good example set for them by their fine brave heroes and friends in South Yemen and Aden. Because of this development it was decided that JK should take all the captured terrorist equipment and booby traps that he had accumulated in Aden, and fly them up the Persian gulf to give lectures to British forces stationed there and show them what had been used and how it had been used against the British forces in Aden and South Yemen. This hopefully would save lives if the NLF started to try and kill soldiers in the Persian Gulf as their propaganda had suggested.
This little task caused problems
for a number of reasons. Physically the Russian and Chinese grenades and
explosive charges with their detonators were old, live and sweating off
volatile explosive inflammable fumes, consequently they were very unsafe
to handle and move. At this time we had no equipment available to steam
out the explosives from these devices, nor could we turn round and ask
the Russians, Chinese or the terrorists to give us samples of demonstration
equipment for training. These problems meant the unstable gooey stuff would
have to fly in RAF aircraft to the Gulf stations, it would be too unstable
and take too long by ship. The Royal Air Force would never agree to this,
so once again the goodies was packed in cases and labelled as MT spares.
JK was to fly with them to help avoid causing suspicion amongst the Air
movements and customs staff. JK told me afterwards that he sat between
two cases of his pet captured equipment for two and one half hours on board
an Argosy flying to Bahrain. He remarked,
" Never mind the explosives sweating, I must have sweat away pounds upon bloody pounds and every time the aircraft bounced in a thermal current I nearly shit myself. Everybody on that aircraft was happy leaving Aden and all that. If they had known what was in my cases they would have jumped out of that fucking air taxi without a bloody parachute."
The safety of forces left in the colony and the completion of our withdrawal was now firmly in the hands of Colonel Dia Morgan of 42 commando Royal Marine. His barrier of 340 marines was now the complete airfield perimeter protection at Khormaksa. Other units such as the maintenance and servicing yards on the cemetery valley road and the garrison camps along the beach road had all been closed and were now deserted of British troops but rapidly becoming Kochi townships for the Arabs. The beautiful football and sports stadium at Steamer Point was now full of corrugated iron and cardboard Kochi huts and open running sewage. It was hard to believe that not many weeks before, JK had sat and watched sharks swimming around in the same place.
Our Final Humiliation
The first weeks of November was really the end of the end, the troops were moving out by aircraft on a continuous basis, those who were going to the nearest coastal stations such Salahla and Masira boarded ships for their Indian Ocean cruise the lucky bastards. Those flying further up the Gulf to Sharja, Bahrain, Cyprus, and some for Malta had all departed between the 10th of November 1967,and the 25th October 1967
No farewell parades took part in the colony at all; we literally sneaked out with our tail between our legs, something that has never happened on our withdrawal from any other place in the world, even if we had been fighting them. Previously, any withdrawal was carried out with it a feeling of nostalgia, the last post being played, and the flag would be lowered, then the new one raised. Our enemy's of the past shook hands with us and we promised the best for each other in the future, the Egyptians even laid on massive piss up parties (against their religion) when we handed over our bases on the Suez Canal (before we took them back again in 56). Not so with Aden, no parties there I'm afraid. We expected to have to fight our way out at the bitter end.
Sir Humphrey Trevelyon took the final salute on board HMS Trepid to avoid any last minute terrorist show of force against us. It's hard to believe we were so humiliated that we couldn't carry out this ceremony on land. After all the men who had died, and maimed for life, the sweat and hardship went through by thousands of others, our exit was a disgrace. We should have had our parade the British way, and shot any bastard who tried to disrupt it, as we did when the Argyll's marched back into Crater after the mutiny.
Looking back at our military achievements in Aden, one can see it was a valuable experience, we learnt a lot, we learnt a tremendous amount about Marxist terrorism and how the Chinese and the Russians were attempting to undermine everything that the Western and European powers did overseas. We learnt their weaponry; we also had a very good insight into the psychological profile of our terrorist. We knew how and where they would use their equipments. We also knew how to use their weapons; we knew how to make them fail, we knew how to keep the terrorist confused, unsure, frightened and mostly ineffective and unsuccessful in his urban attacks, although his mountain work upcountry was good to start with. Most importantly we tried and tested our own embryo equipments in an operational environment against a real enemy, this gave us time to modify, adjust, redesign and retest to make us stronger. We knew we could beat these communist trained terrorists anywhere in the world. This we proved in the Oman over the following few years, thanks to our Aden learning curve.
Colonel Die Morgan's Royal
Marine Commando was lifted out of their defensive airfield protection positions
at 2pm on the 29th of November 1967 Die flew around all the perimeter checking
everything was cleared away before he left, and observing if there were
troop movements against the airfield. There was no enemy troop movement
at all, the NLF threat of showing they could ‘throw us in the sea' to appease
their people and prove that they could defeat us in battle was one big
load of bullshit.
Die Morgan finally left for HMS Bulwark at 3pm on the 29th November 1967. When asked by the media his thoughts on the situation, he said,
"It's hard for a soldier to sit by and watch civilian or uniformed men enter a building, then hear gunshots and screams indicating damn well that people are being killed, and be unable to do anything about it because of orders and politics. Trained soldiers should never be placed in this type of no win situation." Sources in the Commandoes told me later that Colonel Morgan was deeply in the shit with certain people because of his very truthful professional soldiers comments.
Later on in the months of January and February 1968, JK met members of the RAF Police travelling from Aden through Bahrain on their way home. They had stayed in Aden running customs and air traffic; apparently all had a beautiful time. The NLF accommodated them in the best hotels, paid all their bills, gave out extra spending money on top of their British service wages, and generally wined and dined the lucky few making the recipients of these favours feel very important and very welcome. Some of the descriptions of favours given may well have been exaggerated but who would believe that these generous people to our police were the same bastards who employed so many evil tactics trying to kill us a few months earlier? I doubt if JK or I could have accepted their generosity, or if we had we would have definitely ripped them off. Our police were relieved from their duties in Aden by Russian controllers.
Aden became the People's Republic of South Yemen, a Marxist state, and an ally of the Soviet Union. It is still a ‘Duty Free' port and the tourist trade is a continuous source of income with the cruise ships calling in for shopping tours nearly everyday, plus a booming international trade in oil. Even though the place has all this wealth it is still a very torn up area, incidents arise daily, inter tribal fighting is commonplace, the hill tribes are always at each others throats, and they now have the added bonus of being able to raid over the mountains into what was known as the old Yemen. They've been fighting for centuries, why stop now? Hostage taking is a favourite hobby and money-spinner with exorbitant ransom demands for the victims' release. Even now, as I write, the news has just been broadcasted that the British Embassy has been blown up in Saana in the Yemen, and a suicide bomber in a rubber dingy has just seriously damaged an American warship in Aden harbour killing six servicemen on board.
We cannot finish our Aden's
Last Hours without writing about some of its humorous legacies sent up
to the Gulf States
JK was well know by forces in Bahrain and Muharaq because many of the men had come up from Aden, and had attended the Cemetery Valley ranges qualifying for the QGH 1, 2 or 3 Golliwog badge. It didn't take long for the RAF Regiment Ground Combat Training Section to start up the same competitions and awards. This unit also held the JK and Buchan weaponry and ammunition that had been flown up from Aden after being saved from a watery grave in Aden harbour. This meant that all of the Army, RAF, and Navy could fire modern weapons with as much ammunition as they needed. The SAS contingent based at Sharja ensured a continuous supply of ammunition from we knows not where.
It was at this time that JK managed to get himself kidnapped. The friendly ship HMS Eskimo was in the harbour, these good men one may remember came to Aden to fire for their QGH, even bringing their own weapons and ammunition with them. Once they heard that JK was in Bahrain they headed for the 25 metre ranges at Muharaq to earn the coveted decoration once more. They duly fired the full range of weapons with great success, then destroyed about ten cases of Stella beer, in the target store behind the butts, before returning back to the ship with JK in tow, he had accepted an invitation to a King Prawn grilled dinner in the CPOs mess.
JK had a great time, excellent food, copious supplies of booze, some bar games including the single file hop around the deck, with both hands on the shoulders of the man in front, and singing ‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho, as off to sea we go' a famous melody in tune with the song sang by the seven dwarfs from Snow White. JK realized he'd had enough to drink to last him a month and asked the ships Master at Arms to call him a taxi to take him home.
" No need JK, we have a liberty bus leaving in a couple of hours, you have a lie down in the night duty officers bunk, and we'll give you a call when we're about to leave." JK did so gratefully. When he awoke from his obviously very deep beer induced slumbers he was at a loss for a few moments as to his wareabouts. Gradually slow recall became effective and he realized he was still on board ship, a glance at his watch brought him bolt upright causing an excruciating headache, he had been sleeping five hours, there was a vague memory about a bus leaving in two hours, and somebody going to wake him up, plus other confusing mixed up thoughts. He gave up as waves of nausea were sweeping over him, he then realized that the boat was swaying and rocking and he could now hear what he assumed was the sound of water banging against the ship. Gingerly he managed to force himself off of the bed, washed his face, and combed his hair, feeling slightly better he wandered through the CPOs Mess onto the deck of the ship. He couldn't believe his eyes, there was water in every direction and not one spec of land in sight. Whilst he had been sleeping the ship had put to sea. As he stood against the safety rail contemplating his position one of the CPO Mess stewards came out in his white monkey jacket carrying a tray with a large drink which he presented to JK with a flourish,
" The drink is Gin and Angostura bitters Sir, compliments of the Master at Arms, he will be along to see you shortly, if in the meantime you need anything please ring the bell at the side of the door." he indicated a triangular type of bell often seen on films outside the cook house when they're calling the cowhands for meals. The drink was a magic potion, after a few sips JK felt almost human again and actually began to enjoy himself.
"JK you old bastard, how
are you?" The rancheros, stentenorious greeting came from our friend the
Master at Arm's, he slapped JK on the back in what he assumed was an affectionate
manner and nearly managed to cave in JKs ribs during the process.
" You've surfaced at last, you looked so peaceful sleeping there, and you'd looked after us so marvellously that we thought we'd leave you alone to sleep the booze off and then bring you as our guest on this little five day patrol."
"Look you stupid Naval Twat, I have lectures booked and people at the Highest level of command to advise, I don't want to appear ungrateful, far from it, I'm very flattered by all this but you must take me back."
"Sorry me old mate, no can do, even if we wanted to, this is a set series of routines we have to perform. We have to promote British goodwill plus a strong presence in the area. We have to call in at certain places on a schedule, we have to deliver things to places at precisely set times, we have to collect things from places or risk political upheaval. Simply, we cannot renege on what we are doing at the moment; we cannot lift your out by the helicopter because it's fucking useless and the mechanics are working on it now. On top of all that we have already radioed Royal Air Force Muharaq for a ransom for your return."
" Thank you very much you bastard, well I suppose if I've got to stay here I might as well make the most of it, I'll have another gin and bitters, incidentally, how much did you ask Muharaq to pay you for me?"
" Three hundred cases of Stella beer, five cases of whisky, five cases of rum, five cases of gin, five cases of vodka, five cases of mixed liqueurs, after that supply being met, the WRAF contingent must bring them aboard and drink them with us on a gorgeous piss up on our return to Bahrain."
" You must be crazy man, there's no way the Royal Air Force are going to pay that much ransom for me, I'm not even stationed at Muharaq."
" That's what they said in as many words."
" What did they actually say to you then?"
" They told us to fuck off in no uncertain terms, and even said we should throw you overboard."
" What happens if they refuse to meet your Naval demands?"
" It looks like you have joined the Navy until they do."
"Oh well, it could be, worse, I might as well have a good time and enjoy myself, is there anything you would like me to do on board ship?"
" No, just have a good time, have plenty to drink, loads to eat, and mega amounts of sleep, you deserve it after your fucking job down in Aden, we'll keep updating you on the ransom stakes."
" That's fine by me, I'll have another gin and bitters, thank you."
That is just what happened, JK had a great time; he was invited to drinks in the Officers Mess known as the Ward Room. He was drowned with drinks in the company of the men down below decks. He had drinks in the CPs mess, which was the CPOs mess at different times, and given guided tours of all the different departments. He calculated if the RAF paid any ransom, he would have drunk most of it during his forced holiday. On duty sailors showed him the work that they had to do, most of this important information went over his head as he was too pissed to understand. On a few sober occasions he conducted ‘CQB' close quarter battle training, and the men fired all weapons over the ships stern. He gave a few lectures in the different mess decks on terrorist weapons and tactics as employed against us down in Aden, but without the use of the sensitive training aids he had collected. Every evening at about eight o'clock he was awakened from his drunken slumbers by one of the CPOs, and went to their mess for his ‘roster slot' evening meal and update on the ransom negotiations. He was not doing very well on the ransom stakes with the Royal Air Force, or anyone else for that matter, they kept telling the Royal Navy ‘go fuck yourself' and stated that they refused to pay anything at all. One telex even told the Navy to ‘Throw him overboard bound and gagged.'
The Navy tried to ransom JK to many places with the same results. Sharja said ‘He's not one of ours, we only see him when he's down here practicing parachuting from helicopters with this knew Para Commando chute.' Masira said ‘The only time we see him is when he drops in trading ‘blue films' and buying Cray fish from the locals.' Salalah said ‘the only time we see him is when he calls in to sell us blue films and Cray fish, go fuck yourselves.' Time flew, before JK realized it they were on the last day at sea and docking at eight am the following morning. At this late stage no ransom had been decided, and the last telex from the Royal Air Force made the situation quite clear that they were going to give the Navy absolutely nothing at all. Another message from the RAF Medical branch informed the Navy that on landing, JK was to be put in animal quarantine on the docks, and subjected to a barrage of tests to see what infectious diseases he'd picked up during his five days exposure to the same whilst living with the Navy. JK told me afterwards with a slightly puzzled expression on his face,
" I was rather disappointed at the RAF, they seem to be quite a load of mercenary bastards don't you think?"
Eskimo docked with all the non-working crew lining the ships rail looking resplendent in their white tropical uniforms. Certain rituals took place that involved a lot of toing and froing by people in obvious positions of power and all accompanied by a cacophony of sound from penny whistles called ‘pipes.' JK spotted a couple of Arabs and a large retinue of what one assumed were female harems coming on board, this made JK chuckle to himself when he thought about all these rampant Navy sex machines on the ship, all ogling this feast of women hood trained to satisfy the needs of men in all their sexual fantasies or so the rumours had it. Only one WRAF was in sight, she carried Warrant Officer rank and looked very smart in her KD tropical uniform, she was grey haired, granite faced and looked very strict and pissed off at the same time, but the most intriguing thing about her was the lone case of Stella beer at her feet. This turned out to be the RAF full final ransom payment for the return of JK, and was to be consumed by the WRAF representative and the ship Master at Arms before JK was released to the ladies kindly care. The RAF had been generous and forgone their quarantine demands.
No one came to welcome JK back at all, as soon as the coast was clear of the dignitaries and the VIPs the WRAF Warrant Officer made a beeline for the Master at Arms, clutching the case of beer to her skinny bosom. JK stood there alone like little orphan Annie, he noticed a Land rover with the insignia of the 7th RHA on the side, he knew these were stationed at the Army Camp at Muharaq, so he scrounged a lift from the driver back to their base. On the way back to camp the driver commented that the ship in the harbour, HMS Eskimo, had once captured a man accused of stealing weapons in Aden and took him out to sea and threw him up overboard. I wonder who that was? JK somehow had a feeling that the man was talking about him. Back at Muharaq things were just as normal, nobody said anything about his trip, welcomed him back or asked about the ransom, it appeared to JK that the whole exercise never happened. One day JK said to me,
" At least I know what my value is to people and especially to the Royal Air Force, exactly fucking nothing," he laughed at his own comment, and then said in a resigned sort of way.
"I don't give a damn anyway."
Another incident in the Gulf is worth talking about, again involving the Aden crews of adventurous soles. Cray Fish was in great demand in the Officers and Sergeant's Messes scattered around the Gulf area, especially for cold buffet type meals at dancers. These types of activities still took place in the Gulf because the married families and civilians working for the government had not been evacuated as had happened in Aden. Everything seemed normal on the surface; people didn't realize what shit was festering underneath unless they were in the know such as JK and his henchmen. The greatest supply of Cray Fish came from Masira on the southeast tip of the landmass. 104 Argosy Squadron, called The Gulf Communications Squadron, based at Muharaq were tasked to make the trip called the ‘milk run' everyday. This involved stopping at Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Masira and Salahla delivering and collecting stores equipment and buying Cray Fish at Masira for sale in the ‘Messes' on the way back. The sales goodies also included dirty sexual orientated magazines and blue sex films by the thousands made by the local Arabs. Everybody profited and was happy with these arrangements.
Nothing can go wrong, go wrong
On odd occasions the ‘milk run' had to add an extra dimension to it's normal task, mainly that of dropping paratroopers in the ‘Golden Valley' dropping zone near Sharja. On one of these training descents the 7th Royal Horse Artillery (RHA), were heavy dropping their 105mm Pack Howitzers, and jumping themselves on a three day exercise. Nobby Hall, the RAF Parachute Jumping Instructor (PJI) attached to Muharaq, cleared JK to help him out, jump with them, and then lift back to Sharja by helicopter to continue the ‘milk run.'
Everything went according to plan, the flight to Sharja was uneventful, the RHA managed their ground training pre drop drills with additional RAF Instructors attached to the SAS at Sharja. The take off, flight and drop went off without one little snag. Within ten minutes of landing and wrapping up the parachutes, a helicopter of the Army Air Corps (AAC) picked up JK and Nobby from the DZ and flew them back to the Sergeants Mess at Sharja, the agreed meeting point. Now things started to go wrong. It was hot and sweaty, people had been involved in heavy stressful work, flying aircraft, parachuting, etcetera, so a couple of cold drinks were in favour and couldn't do anybody any harm, after all they were seasoned, operational, proven men, not a bunch of new recruits. Such was the thinking between them at the time. A happy half hour followed, nobody consumed any spirits, just ice cold lager, and this was consumed in small quantities but it caused problems to both Load Masters, I'll call them S and G for reasons which will become apparent.
As the crew arrived back at the aircraft, an air movement officer informed them that thirteen unexpected passengers were waiting on board to fly back to Muharaq, they only expected to fly freight, hence the little illegal drink in the Sergeants mess. Oh! Well, it would be OK, everybody was sober, the passengers just meant a little extra work looking after them on the two-hour flight, and everyone would have to behave seriously and not clown about, as was the norm on freight runs. Most crews used to do their own cabaret acts and impersonations of well-known artists. JK was good at taking off Lita Rosa, the singer with the Ted Heath band. (Not the politician) GH the pilot carried out his pre take off checks whilst S re stowed the cargo and G ensured the passengers were secure in the side nets (nets on the side of the aircraft that act as seats when carrying freight). The passengers were a mixed bag of different Regiments and ranks. An RAF Wing Commander Padre, a Wing Commander with pilot wings and many medals, a Blues and Royals Colonel, three Army nurses, four evil dirty looking bandits covered in shit with no regiment or badges of rank symbols in sight, looking at the passenger manifest they had names but no more information, when it came to dishing out the plastic egg sandwiches they wolfed them down as if they were starving, they didn't look starving, they looked bloody menacing.
G took the tannoy microphone from it's clip and began his pre flight address to the captive audience seated before him, this was the first indication that the drink had any effect on any of them, JK included. Just imagine the passengers faces as they sat there, probably nervous because the Argosy is a noisy bumpy plane, not the silent forty million pound smooth VC10 airliner that RAF passengers were used to travelling in, and heard this welcome.
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Gulf Communications Flight number thirteen, unlucky for some. I say unlucky for some because we have had problems on flight thirteen's before and also when we have flown on the thirteen-day of the month. We shall be taking off shortly for our two-hour flight to Muharaq. That is if the starboard outer engine manages to work properly, you may hear the pilot revving up the engine now to see if he can build up enough power from it to take off. We've had problems with the bloody thing for weeks and the engineers that do our servicing have too much work to do and the ones we wanted to borrow from other aircraft that could manage to work for us have been sent off on leave.
The Argosy aircraft is the work horse of the Royal Air Force, it is powered by four Rolls Royce Dart engines which are famous for being unreliable, especially in sandy desert conditions such as we fly in, the filters and carburettors and things block up with sand did you know? Unfortunately the Royal Air Force cannot afford any better engines, there is not enough money in the coffers, hence our grin and bear brave attitude and settle for the tenth worst product on the market. One hour forty minutes of our flight will be over the ocean. Normally underneath your seat net we keep a life jacket for the likely event of ditching in the sea. We do not bother to carry them with us now, the water that we over fly are infested with man-eating sharks. Tiger sharks actually for those of you that are interested, therefore the life jacket would be of little use, it would only prolong the inevitable horrible death that awaits us. Unfortunately with this being a freight aircraft, we have no proper toilet facilities, should you need to go to the toilet for either a number one or a number two, would you please go to the bucket situated to the rear of the aircraft." With that statement he pointed to a normal standard bucket without a seat positioned at the back end of the aircraft just before the ramp and in full view of everybody on board.
The passengers look a sickly white, tinged with shades of green, some had blue streaks to the extremities of the body, ears, nose and lips obviously caused by oxygen deficiency as a result of shock, and I feel it may be possible that some of the aircrew felt the same, not for their own fear but for the effect on the passengers. This little broadcast had not had been rehearsed and nobody, including the crew, had been informed that this narrative was about to be performed. It came on its way out of the blue. Now the gang was again surprised by a conclusion to the speech,
"I have just been talking to the pilot ladies and gentlemen, he states that the starboard outer engine has not made its proper power output and he intends to take off and fly the route on three engines. We should be OK unless they start to overheat, don't bother yourselves, this is something we do on many occasions and all fail safe systems on this aircraft model are duplicated, it's very rare that anything ever goes wrong, goes wrong, goes wrong, goes wrong" and more. It sounded as if the tannoy had broken down and acted like a sticking gramophone record, of course it hadn't, it was all part of the passenger ‘windup' and a good example how the supposed fail safe systems didn't work. The Royal Air Force padre was openly praying by this time. The only people seemingly unconcerned about this goings on were the dirty looking menacing bastards who were still eating plastic egg sandwiches. The nurses were all holding hands. The RAF Wing Commander pilot had a notebook on his knee writing copious notes in a furiously frantic manner. All were to see that notebook again in less humorous circumstances. Unfortunately for the passengers, it was a very very bumpy flight, even JK felt slightly airsick, combine this unfortunate situation with their detailed pre flight briefing about the aircraft problem and one can see it wasn't a pleasant situation for them to be in.
During the course of the flight the usual niceties were observed, tea or coffee was issued round and of course the proverbial plastic egg sandwiches. For the uninitiated the plastic egg sandwich comprises of normal eggs cooked in the station of departure Sergeant's Mess. They are prepared in bulk (forty at a time) on a large aluminium tray that had been slightly greased on the bottom and the eggs broken on top. They are then finished off in a low heat oven until the aircrew needed them, which could be more than one hour. This left the white of the eggs fairly well cooked and rubbery and with the yokes seemingly untouched, these eggs were often referred to by the troops as a ‘portion of piss in the snow.' Strangely on this flight, nobody seemed hungry with the exception of the evil four.
Apart from the rough flight and the surplus of food, everything went off according to plan, a normal flight infact, apart from G and his antics. GH bounced heavy on the tarmac at Muharaq due to the strong cross winds and turbulence and this set the Wing Commander pilot off on another furious writing spree into his notebook. As the passengers disembarked, G was standing at the door wishing them ‘bon voyage.' ‘Hope you had enjoyed the flight,' and ‘please come and fly with 104 Gulf Squadron again,' plus all the other things stewards and stewardesses say when one leaves an aircraft. Everybody smiles back and shakes hands with the people they've learnt to love and trust during the few hours and minutes they've shared together. The noble people who have helped them put their feet on the ground again. Humans are grateful for little things provided by characters that they assume lead a glamorous adventurous life such as aircrew for instance. This particular bunch of nervous wrecks did not exude this normal graciousness towards the aircraft staff.
The Wing Commander pilot turned out to hold the appointment of Wing Commander Administration at RAF Salahla and was making a journey on the ‘milk run' to see his mate the Station Commander at Muharaq. Any complaint against an air crew by a character with that level of command and who can boast buddies on the same level is bound to be treated very seriously, even though he was scrounging a free bee flight at tax payers expense. Sorry about that statement, I'm being petty, but I'm trying to relate how JK and the crew felt when they told me about their escapade, and how they scorned that individual full of his own importance and obviously blinded with the abstract power reflected by his rank. The disrespect for this individual by the crew was intense. They expected a rollicking, dressing down, or some sort of penury punishment, maybe an extra duty Officer or Sergeant. This man wanted them destroyed in the worst possible way for their high jinx and twisted aircrew type of humour. He was demanding disciplinary charges, leading to boards of enquiry and court martial, and discharge from the service with ignominy no less.
JK and Bobby Hall were not included in this fiasco because they were not officially the aircraft crewmembers, they, even though part of he Argosy operational task group was classed as passengers. The danger they calculated was to be called as witnesses on any enquiry and have to tell the truth on oath against the rest of the jockey's team. The RAF could fetch them back from anywhere in the world for such an occasion, but JKs idea was to be as far away as possible in the hope that the powers that be wouldn't deem it worth while on such petty charges. JK organised in double quick time a trip to lecture on terrorist weapons and tactics to the British army detachments and oil company workers based in Kuwait, he also gained permission for N to accompany him as an assistant, (a lot of heavy equipment to move about pays off sometimes).
Disciplinary action against GH went ahead as he was the aircraft pilot and therefore in command of the rest of the people involved. Even G, who had carried out the infamous cabaret speech and performance, (which is now mimicked at mess piss ups at stations around the world.) was let off scot-free. GH was awarded a reprimand and this accompanied with one year's loss of seniority. Cheers to the RAF adjudicators as GH only had eight months service left before retirement.
News soon filtered down to the troops that the rank happy miserable Wing Commander, who had insisted on the charges being filed, was berated in the Officers mess bar by his mate the Station Commander. He was accused of being guilty of interference in the way things were run at Muharaq. ‘Lowering the squadrons aircrew moral and trying to destroy the Battle of Britain camaraderie his chaps felt. A type of teamwork he had promoted and which was essential in that theatre of operations to help combat the stress and strain caused through long hours of flying that his men had to endure.' Well-done Station Commander! That interfering jerk really ended up with a dollop of plastic egg on his face.
Many authors have written their stories about Aden and the Gulf. Finishing this narrative does not cross over these boundaries, for instance the operations in the Oman, the SAS ‘Battle of Mirbat,' and other great victories against Marxist, Communist Adou and terrorists. There is one thing certain however, we won the military battles. Our politicians lost in nearly everything they did, and are still at the same level of incompetence. God bless their little cotton socks. JK did his little bit as part of the overall campaign. A hard fought campaign that lasted many years.
JK came back to the UK in May 1968, after blowing up his collection of goodies, they were too unstable to use anymore. Troops in the Oman were putting together another more transportable collection. These things of course would be of a more updated variety for training our new arrivals out there in the arsehole of the world. JK once said to me,
"Lets always keep at least
one hundred steps ahead of our enemies and hopefully out of his range,
but ensure we keep him in ours."
I reckon that's good advice for military men anywhere they serve.