The Crater to The Creggan
The Royal Anglian Regiment In Aden
We are very grateful to Michael Barthorp author of The Crater to The Creggan The History of The Royal Anglian Regiment 1964-1974 for allowing us to publish part of his work.
Crater to the Creggan
A ten year history of The East and Royal Anglian Regiment
Leo Cooper (now Pen & Sword Books Limited)
ISBN # 0 85052 212 9
Copies of this book can be obtained from Military Parade Bookshop
‘When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck
Don't look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck.
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.'
Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier
In the late 1950s that part of the Army's world known generically as ‘Aden' consisted of a Crown Colony, which included the port and strategic staging post of Aden itself, the BP oil refinery five miles to the west, and, to the north east, a number of tribal territories divided into the Western and Eastern Aden Protectorates. The latter will not concern us here but the Western Protectorate, made up of eighteen amirates and sheikhdoms, formed a buffer between the Colony and the aggressive state of the Yemen, which seized every opportunity to fester discontent and rebellion among the unruly tribes of the Protectorate.
In 1959-60 the British Government formed the Protectorate states into the Federation of South Arabia, to which, in January, 1963, was joined Aden Colony itself, much against the will of its inhabitants, whose nationalism, fired by ceaseless propaganda from Egypt, was fiercely opposed to the feudal and poverty-stricken states of the Protectorate. The passions besetting this union had been further inflamed by the establishment in September, 1962, of a Republican règime in the Yemen, supported by Egyptian troops. While these political events were taking place, Britain's military requirements in the Middle East were transforming Aden from a staging post into a major base, with the setting-up of Middle East Command in 1961 and the transfer, from Kenya, of the brigade forming the strategic reserve for the Middle East; all of which added fuel to the fires of Arab nationalism in the Arabian Peninsula.
The first manifestation of the serious trouble that was to ensue occurred, not in Aden itself, but in the hinterland, in the mountainous area known as the Radfan, through which the road from Aden passed to the Amirate of Dhala, 80 miles to the north, where there was a British garrison close to the Yemen frontier. The Dhala area had always been turbulent and movement of convoys to it required a two-day operation with armoured car and infantry escorts and the hills along the route secured by picquets. For those of a romantic turn of mind, service in the Aden hinterland held echoes of the great days of Empire, the years of skirmish and ambush on the North-West Frontier of India; the burning sun, the craggy, scrub-covered hills, the wild tribesmen, each with his rifle, the wheeling hawks, the stone villages with every house built like a miniature fortress - all this provided a back-cloth of a type familiar to generations of British soldiers. In 1964, amid the towering peaks and fertile wadis of the Radfan, British troops once more embarked on what was to be the last of this type of ‘small war'.
The 1st East Anglian Regiment had arrived in Aden as a garrison battalion in early 1964 and, after providing a company for the protection of the Radfan force's base at Thumier in April, the whole Battalion, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dye, became involved in the operations in early May. Throughout the month and into June the force steadily drove the tribesmen from the area, until only the final objective of the Force Commander, the Jebel Huriyah, at 5,500 feet the highest peak in the Radfan, remained to be captured. On the night of 10-11 June, after a preliminary attack by the 2nd Battalion Federal Regular Army (Formerly the Aden Protectorate Levies) on an intermediate position, 1st East Anglian scaled the heights of the great Jebel, their route up the jagged slopes lit by flares dropped by Shackleton bombers, and by 04.50 hours were on the summit, looking down at the lights of Aden town 40 miles to the south. For a week the Battalion held the mountain, until 18 June when it returned to Aden. (A full account of 1st East Anglian in the Radfan War can be found in Last Post: Aden 1964-67 by Julian Paget (1969), pp 51-110.)
For gallant services during these operations, the BEM was awarded to Sergeant Jones, who took command of his platoon when the platoon commander was wounded, and by his leadership and example, contributed greatly to the platoon's success in its first engagement.
After the capture of Jebel Huriyah the Radfan had to be policed, and in August ‘A' Company, under Captain Abbott, carried out a helicopter-borne night assault to seize and clear the Jebel Widina, an operation thought to be the first of its kind in the Army.
Formation Day, on 1 September, 1964, and the months that followed found the 1st Battalion, as it had become, carrying out internal security tasks in Aden, with companies rotating on detachment at Dhala and at another frontier outpost to the east, Mukeiras. In addition the Battalion spent two more periods in the Radfan before the end of the year, and suffered three casualties from a land mine on the last day of 1964: Private Frazer being killed and Corporal Andrews and Private Barrell wounded. On 17 February Lieutenant-Colonel Dye, who had been awarded the OBE for the Battalion's fine work in the Radfan, handed over to Lieutenant-Colonel Creasey. Lieutenant-Colonel Dye returned in December, 1966 as a Brigadier in command of the South Arabian Army, a most demanding appointment which he successfully held until handing over to Aqueed Mohammed Ahmed at the time of the final withdrawal of the British in December.
Though the Battalion continued to find detachments up-country, attention now became focused on Aden itself. The Conservative Government's Defence White Paper of July, 1964, had stated that South Arabia would be granted independence not later than 1968. This prompted the Aden nationalists, backed by Egypt, into action to ensure that power would fall into their hands and that the military base was rendered untenable; their methods were to be intimidation and terror. A Labour Government took over in Britain, and a visit by the new Colonial Secretary in November, 1964, was deemed by the chief subversive organization, the National Liberation Front (NLF), to be a suitable opportunity for opening its campaign. By the end of the year, NLF terrorism had caused 36 casualties to the security forces.
The two main groups of the terrorist organization with which the security forces were concerned were the NLF and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen, a grandiose title usually abbreviated to a cognomen with old-maidish connotations - FLOSY. The NLF were totally committed to violent methods from the start; FLOSY initially believed in political action but by 1967 had also adopted terror. In 1966 the two joined forces but by the end of the year the NLF had broken away and the following year both groups were not only fighting the security forces but also each other. Though both enjoyed Egyptian aid and backing, FLOSY was committed to Egyptian control after independence, whereas the NLF was not. The terrorists were equipped with grenades, mines, bazookas, small arms and mortars, and made use of all methods of insurrection: subversion and propaganda, strikes and riots, sabotage and assassination. They succeeded, quite early on, in intimidating the population and, by murder and threats, went a long way to neutralizing the Government's sources of intelligence, the Police and Special Branch.
The arena in which this scene of the grand finale of Empire was to be played out can only be described as seedy. Though Aden contained a number of modern buildings, they were a façade, a veneer of civilization, behind which festered the narrow, dirty alleys, the squalid, reeking huts and the crumbling, fly-blown houses of the bazaar, teeming with its villainous and unlovely inhabitants. The town of Aden had grown up within and around the crater of an extinct volcano, which was attached to the mainland by a narrow strip called the Isthmus. The predominantly Arab part of the town, known as Crater, was surrounded on the north, west and south by the jagged heights of the volcano's rim, and on the east by the sea. Towering over all was the highest point of the volcano, the Jebel Shamsan. To the west lay the area of Steamer Point, embracing the seat of the Administration, Government House, and the contonments of HQ Middle East Command. From here the road ran east through Tawahi, which contained the main shopping centre, hotels, the port and a large Arab quarter; then along the mile-long Ma'alla Straight, which had a large number of flats housing Service families, with a maze of Arab dwellings behind them. Beyond Ma'alla the road forked: to the right it went through a pass in the volcano's rim into Crater; to the left and north, Singapore, Waterloo, Seedaseer and Normandy Lines. Beyond the latter was the RAF and civil airfield, and further north still, at the top end of the Isthmus, Champion Lines and Radfan Camp.
The road then led off across the desert towards Dhala and the Yemen, but as it left the northern boundary of Aden State it passed through the purely Arab town of Sheikh Othman, with, to the west, the quarter of Al Mansoura, which contained the Detention Centre for suspected terrorists. Across the desert to the west lay Little Aden with the Oil Refinery and the cantonments of 24 Infantry Brigade.
Responsibility for internal security rested with the Aden Brigade, of which the 1st Battalion, stationed in Waterloo Lines, formed part, together with, in early 1965, 1st Battalion The Royal Scots, who were relieved in Radfan Camp in February by the 4th Battalion, as mentioned in the last chapter. In April, the Brigade was joined by 1st Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment.
As the terrorist campaign began to build up in 1965, the 1st Battalion had responsibilities for the first three months - manning joint military/police headquarters, providing foot patrols, four pairs of mobile patrols, a platoon at immediate notice, and cordons and searches of highly insalubrious areas in Crater and Sheikh Othman. During February several Battalion patrols came under grenade attacks; as a result of his action in one of these Corporal Day was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Gallantry. On 12 March a Blindicide rocket was fired at Sheikh Othman police station, exploding in a room occupied by 7 Platoon headquarters of ‘B' Company, seriously wounding the Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant Smith, and destroying the wireless and telephone. Private Elba-Porter, the platoon signaller, was wounded in the eyes and shoulder but, though temporarily blinded in one eye, he fetched another wireless and continued to pass orders so that effective counter-measures could be taken. Private Kent saved the life of Sergeant Smith by rendering immediate first aid, keeping him alive until help came. Both men were awarded the BEM for Gallantry and the Platoon Commander, Second-Lieutenant Copping, the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
On 2 April the Battalion's area of responsibility was defined as Crater, Khormaksar and Sheikh Othman. As the terror built up, so the duties increased. One night in bed in three became the norm and that night often meant going off-duty at 23.00 hours, in bed at midnight, and on duty again at 07.00 the next morning. To keep the seething alleys of Crater quiet, a company was deployed there each night with assault pioneers, mobile searchlights and Land-Rover patrols. This force had to find two road blocks on the two entrances into Crater, observation posts on roof tops, foot patrols in the streets, and a reserve to deal with incidents as they occurred. By day, road blocks, vehicle checks and mobile patrols were found by this company. Another company was usually committed to static guards, and the third, if available, formed the Battalion reserve. Between February and September, in Crater, 35,000 locals were searched and 8000 vehicles for a yield of twelve grenades, one mine, six pistols and a few oddments; the deterrent value of such searches cannot , however, be measured. In addition to the more conventional operations, the Battalion formed a Special Branch squad of seven under Captain Horrex which was constantly engaged on clandestine tasks, for which all its members received a Commander-in-Chief's Commendation.
As a result of the terrorists' success in intimidating the population and subverting the Police, the acquiring of information became increasingly difficult. On 19 June, 1965, men of the battalion achieved a rare break-through. At about 7.30 pm two terrorists threw a grenade into the Seamen's Mission at Steamer Point. A few seconds later, Second-Lieutenant Hawkins, who was returning in a Land-Rover from visiting the Government House Guard, saw three men leap into a car and drive off. He told his driver, Private Richardson, to give chase. Richardson drove with great skill to keep up with the Arab car through the narrow, twisting back streets of Tawahi, until the fugitives drove up a cul-de-sac. Cornered, the three men jumped out. Hawkins managed to grab one of them and brought him down. He then sent Richardson off to fetch help while he sat on his prisoner's chest with revolver drawn, amid a rapidly gathering and increasingly hostile crowd. He could easily have been overpowered but he held his ground until relief, summoned by Richardson, arrived. From the prisoner and the car a great deal of information was obtained, which resulted in many other arrests and the break-up of a complete terrorist cell for six months. Second-Lieutenant Hawkins had not only shown presence of mind but great bravery, particularly since the terrorists were armed and troops were only allowed to use their weapons in self-defence, but his reward could only be what one historian has called ‘an incongruous MBE, [Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart (1971), p 449]
Since troops in Aden were not officially on active service. Private Richardson received the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Shortly after this incident the Battalion had a break from Aden, returning to the Radfan for the last time from 28 July to 22 August. The Battalion positions came under attack twice from machine-gun and rocket fire and, on 15 August, ‘C' Company mounted a four-day patrol into the Wadi Taym which resulted in the destruction of an enemy base.
Returning to Aden the Battalion found itself plunged into intensive operations, following the murder in Crater of a British Police Superintendent and the Speaker of the Legislative Council. A dawn to dusk curfew was enforced on 2 September, nineteen days before the Battalion was due to leave Aden. The number of men this required, plus other duties, together will all the arrangements for the move, imposed a great burden on the Battalion; ‘C' Company, for instance, spent their last four days in Aden on continuous duty. Finally, on 21 September, the Battalion handed over its duties to 1st Battalion The Prince of Wale's Own Regiment of Yorkshire, the companies moving straight from their operational tasks on to the aircraft.
The 1st Battalion had had an extremely arduous tour in Aden, being almost constantly on operations, which, as the GOC said in his farewell address, had given them a knowledge and experience of internal security duties second to none. From these duties, they went to a very different role, that of a mechanized battalion in BAOR. Recognition of their prowess in Aden came the following year with the award of the OBE to Lieutenant-Colonel Creasey in the Birthday Honours.
Meanwhile the 4th Battalion had left Aden before the 1st, having gone out only for a six-month tour from Watchett in February, 1965. Whereas the 1st Battalion had been able to rest from their labours in the modern barracks of Waterloo Lines, the 4th, by virtue of their temporary sojourn, had to endure the rigours of Radfan Camp, a euphemism for the for the sand-blown tents of the transit camp.
On 15 February, three weeks after arriving, the 4th Battalion moved up to the Radfan proper, and for two weeks enjoyed the novelty of picquets and patrols. Then it was back to Aden to take over the area west of the 1st Battalion in Crater. Their duties were similar, companies rotating every three or five days between guards and internal security tasks, with one company detached up-country.
In June ‘B' Company came under command of 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in the Radfan. During an ambush action, Private Ryder was severely wounded by a grenade, but thanks to the skill of the Company RAMC orderly and helicopter evacuation to Aden, he was on his feet in five days. Shortly after the Company's return to Aden, it carried out a very successful cordon and search which divulged a quantity of ammunition and explosives. The information which led to this operation came from the 1st Battalion, so it was very much a Regimental success.
With two of its battalions in the same brigade, the significance of the ‘Large Regiment', then a novel concept, was soon made clear to the rest of the Army in Aden. As a correspondent to Castle wrote: ‘In conversation we were always referred to simply as "1st Battalion" or "the 4th Battalion". There was no need to mention the Regiment.
In addition to their duties in Aden or the Radfan, platoons and companies also took their turn at finding garrisons for other up-country locations: Al Milah, to protect sappers engaged on road maintenance; Perim Island, 200 miles west of Aden, and Mukeiras, all of which the 1st Battalion had also experienced. The 4th Battalion also managed, despite the troubled times, to maintain its sporting reputation by winning the Middle East Land Force Soccer Cup.
From the beginning of July through to August, the companies began to move back to England as the relieving battalion started to arrive. On 16 August 9 Platoon was waiting, in plain clothes, all weapons and equipment packed, ready to fly home next day. At 7.30 pm three incidents occurred in Aden. Within 45 minutes the Platoon was in uniform, armed and fully equipped, sitting in their vehicles ready to move. Such were the hazards of life in Aden in 1965.
The following year was to see a marked increase in pressure on the security forces. The Defence White Paper of February, 1966, not only confirmed independence by 1968, but also announced a complete withdrawal of all forces by that date. Politically, for the Federal rulers, who had always believed in British support for their sovereignty, this was seen as betrayal. Militarily, it meant that the security forces could no longer hope for any local support in their struggle against the terrorists; no Arab was going to put his survival after 1968 at risk by aiding the British in 1966. For the terrorists the news was a godsend and their activities increased, in quality as well as quantity.
The performance of the bomb throwers - known as Cairo Grenadiers - became more effective, and the mortar began to replace the rocket launcher as a favourite terrorist weapon. Sabotage and murder were stepped up. The primary means for curbing terrorism was the search for suspected terrorists and weapons. One measure to restrict and check movement into Aden was the construction of an 11-mile long wire obstacle across the desert from coast to coast, just north of Shiekh Othman, known as ‘The Scrubber Line'; all traffic coming down from the Yemen and the Federation now had to enter Aden through one of four check points.
After the departure of the 1st Battalion in September, 1965, there was no Royal Anglian pressence in Aden until May, 1966, when ‘B' Company of the 2nd Battalion arrived from Cyprus for two months security duties around Khormaksar airfield. Writing in Castle of this episode, a member of the Company vividly portrayed a predicament common to the security forces, governed as they were in the face of increasingly ruthless terrorism by the principles of minimum force and the use of firearms only in self-defence.
‘The back of a 3 tonner. It's dark and we are waiting to go. "It's like this as I see it. This chap comes at you with this bomb, you see. He throws it and then runs. You've got your rifle ready cocked, people everywhere ... the bomb goes off ... you can see him running through the crowds ... you can't shoot, can you? ... I mean, can you? Bloody dangerous this 7.62 stuff ... goodness knows where it would end up".'
Soon it was the 3rd Battalion's turn. Arriving from Tidworth in October under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Leng, it moved into Radfan Camp for a nine-month tour and took over responsibility for Sheikh Othman and Al Mansoura. This was probably the most unpleasant and most crucial area in Aden at that time, and the terrorists were keen to control it. The main road to the hinterland, down which came men, arms and ammunition from the Yemen, ran through it. It could not be sealed off, as Crater could be, by blocking the two entrances. Since Crater was regarded as the real capital of Aden by the nationalists, the disturbances there were of a less destructive kind. Sheikh Othman, on the other hand, became increasingly the scene of a trial of strength between the terrorists and the security forces, the former using small arms, mortars, rockets, grenades and mines in their efforts to defeat the troops in open street warfare.
The 3rd Battalion soon began to get a taste of what was in store for it. On 3 November a mine blew up a Land-Rover carrying the Commanding Officer, who was shortly to hand over to Lieutenant-Colonel Dymoke; fortunately there were no casualties. A grenade attack on a patrol on 20 November seriously injured a soldier. Sergeant Allan of the Battalion Medical Team heard the contact report on the radio and, without an escort, drove to the scene of the incident and gave first aid to the wounded soldier. Sergeant Allan later received the BEM for gallantry and the citation recorded that his ‘skill and initiative undoubtedly contributed to saving the soldier's life'. On 3 December Captain Cox, RAMC, the Battalion Medical Officer, reached a wounded man within three minutes of a grenade attack and, while giving first aid, another grenade exploded only five yards away. Undeterred by this, Captain Cox continued treating the wounded; he was subsequently awarded the MBE for gallantry. Two days later Radfan Camp came under fire from drainpipe mortars, but of the thirty bombs the terrorists planned to let off, only five exploded inside the camp perimeter.
The Battalion was not slow to score a few successes against the terrorists. Corporal Jarvis captured a suspect digging holes in the road, which led to more arrests and the break-up of a mine-laying gang. On 30 December a quantity of arms and explosives was found in a house in Sheikh Othman. This coup was the work of the Battalion's Special Branch Squad, formed from ten men of the Reconnaissance Platoon under Captain Light. This squad operated with speed and surprise, mostly at night, and though they became prime targets for the terrorists, they were only attacked twice; the first attempt resulted in the death of a Cairo Grenadier, killed by Private Bourke, and on the second Sergeant Hutchinson ambushed and captured three terrorists before they could make their attack. By the end of the Battalion's tour, the Special Branch Squad had captured 105 grenades, five automatic weapons, three pistols, two rocket launchers, a quantity of bombs, ammunition and explosives, and fourteen terrorists, including the second-in-command of FLOSY and the leader of FLOSY in Crater.
As the tempo of terrorism stepped up in 1967, the Civil Police, to whom the Army had hitherto been in support, became increasingly less effective. Early in the year, therefore, the High Commissioner decided that, in future, the Army was to take over primary responsibility for internal security, with the Police in support. This meant that, instead of waiting for a call for assistance to disperse illegal assemblies, the Army was to take the initiative to prevent crowds gathering.
11 February, the anniversary of the formation of the Federation, was designated by the NLF and FLOSY, as ‘the Day of the Volcano'. However, the volcano failed to erupt, for, in pursuance of the new policy, the troops deployed the day before and a curfew was imposed.
In April came the fruitless visit of the UN Mission to Aden. The strange behaviour of its three members produced moments of pure farce, though the humour of the situation was probably none too evident to the 3rd Battalion, who bore the brunt of the ensuing terrorist activity. On the day before the Mission arrived - appropriately it was April Fool's Day - Aden endured one of its rare rainstorms, in which six inches of rain fell in seven hours. Streets were flooded, everything came to a halt, and troops spent the day helping to clear up the sodden mess. Small thanks they got, for the next day the NLF called a strike, which brought crowds into the streets, giving cover for the terrorists to throw grenades and snipe at the troops. The next day the tempo increased, particularly in Sheikh Othman. As Castle put it; ‘ "Disperse or We Fire" banners were hastily rolled up and street fighting tactics became the order of the day'. The Police Station was besieged by mobs and had to be relieved by the 3rd Battalion and armoured cars of The Queen's Dragoon Guards. After a quieter day on 4 April, trouble again exploded on the 5th, when the Mission had to be escorted to the Al Mansoura Detention Centre, a visit which provoked pandemonium within the Centre, and a blazing gun battle without. Finally, on 7 April, to everyone's relief, the Mission left Aden, and the terrorists, who had used this visit as an opportunity to try to take over Sheikh Othman, withdrew.
As a result of their work during this turbulent week, Lieutenant Harrington-Spier and Corporal Valentine received the MBE and BEM respectively. The action in which they won their awards, typical of the Aden operations, was graphically described by Corporal Valentine in Castle: ‘Grenade', the shout that had so many times sent men of the 3rd Battalion diving to the ground was now pounding in my ears. I turned quickly to see Pte. Anderson appear from the smoke of the explosion and the grenadier making his bid for escape towards the Main Mosque. My mind racing, I let off two quick shots and yelled for pursuit. Before the section had gone 50 yards, I was shouting at them to take cover from the heavy automatic fire which was being directed at us from roof tops across the street. The firing stopped, we had silenced the guns, or more likely they had served their purpose. Our wounded grenadier had escaped the Mosque, which we were forbidden to enter.
The date - 6 April, 1967, Aden was in the grip of a General Strike, specially laid on to greet the UN Mission. The time - 0900 hrs, and 13 Platoon, ‘D' Company, commanded by Lt. Harrington-Spier, was moving into Section ‘B' of Sheikh Othman in two patrols. Mission - to detect terrorist activity - mines, mortars, and generally to get a feeling of the strike-bound town. In the preceding two days there had been many shootings; energa and hand grenade attacks, but no riots.
I quickly checked Pte. Anderson and found him to be only slightly injured from grenade splinters. The order ‘continue the patrol' followed my sitrep. Once again the section pushed forward, moving steadily and slowly, each man covering the next as we slipped from doorway to doorway right along the front of the Mosque and then across the road into Street 5. Only half of the section were across the road when all hell broke loose from terrorist positions at the end of the street, in the Mosque itself and from tall buildings on either side of us. I heard a heavy exchange of fire from the Mosque behind me and realized that my 2IC, L/Cpl. Jarvis, and Ptes. Donald, Theophile and Butcher had been pinned down. Further back the platoon commander and his patrol had come under fire from the positions we had encountered earlier in the grenade incident. Fire was also coming from the streets to my left as Sgt. Green's patrol tried to work their way round to lend us support. Pte. Lanaghan and I covered each other as we moved in short dashes to the end of the street, searching for a way out. There seemed little hope at present, for on rounding the corner Lanaghan hurriedly dived back, as if blown by a mighty gust of wind!
Returning along the street, I checked on ammunition and Casualties ready for the next move. The fire had not lessened. It seemed that the terrorists had plenty of ammunition for their Russian-made automatic rifles.
‘Reorg. on Street 10.' The order came from the platoon commander, with the news that a Saracen APC and Saladin armoured car would be covering our move. We regrouped at the end of Street 5. Counting the men, I found two were missing, Theophile and Butcher. Lt. Harrington-Spier. With Lanaghan, McCormick and Anderson moved back down the street to help them. They were still pinned down opposite the Mosque. A grenade came from the top of one of the tall buildings and landed not three feet from McCormick, giving him a chance to exercise his lungs. He carried on shouting ‘grenade' until it did what was expected and went off! Luckily-no casualties. Theophile and Butcher were retrieved and we started the move one step by step, from doorway to doorway, corner to corner, down to Street 11 to behind the cattle shed where Company HQ and 14 Platoon were in position. We dashed the last 200 metres across open ground, and the patrol was out. It was over. We could relax a little.
In addition to the perils and excitements of keeping order in Sheikh Othman, the Battalion had responsibilities for manning check points on the Scrubber Line, a monotonous duty frequently enlivened by terrorist mortar and rocket attacks. On one occasion, Check Point Golf, then manned by the Corps of Drums, came under fire for forty-five minutes. The Drummers held their positions and Sergeant Sutcliffe and Lance-Corporal Ford received Commander-in-Chief's Commendations for bravery.
The Royal Anglian pressence in Aden had been inccreaed in early 1967 by the arrival of ‘C' Company of the 4th Battalion, who came for a two-month tour from Malta to take over security duties at RAF Khormaksar, the same role that the 2nd Battalion company had undertaken the previous year.
On 24 May the Royal Anglian's part in Aden emergency came to an end, when the 3rd Battalion handed over Sheikh Othman to 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment. In six months the Battalion had had 459 incidents and 174 casualties, fortunately none of them fatal.
The Aden experience gave the Royal Anglian Regiment its baptism of fire. In so doing, it proved that the formation of the Regiment, considered in some quarters as purely an administrative convenience, had in no way been detrimental to the qualities required by infantrymen on active service. In The Regiments Depart, Gregory Blaxland, himself an ex-infantryman, wrote: ‘The intimate pride of belonging to a regiment can be a powerful support when under ordeal by fire and steel'; after quoting examples from Korea, Malaya and Cyprus, he went on: ‘It was to be seen again in Aden, displayed both by old regiments and those recently born of amalgamation, such as the Royal Anglians.' Perhaps it might be said that, as the holocaust of the Great War finally welded together the old county regiments, formed from the numbered regiments in 1881, so the bullets and bombs of the Radfan, Crater and Sheikh Othman helped to cement the 1964 union of four regiments into a living entity, recognized and acknowledged throughout the Army.
Castle is the Regimental magazine
The dawn of 1 September, 1964, was similar to any other as far as those East Anglians who were serving in the Persian Gulf at this time were concerned. They could not realize that many members of their new Regiment, the Royal Anglian, would contribute so much to the stability of the area in the coming ten years. At this time Brigadier Holme, later to be Deputy Colonel of the Regiment, was responsible for the security of the Gulf as Commander Land Forces Persian Gulf, based in Bahrain. Further away Sharjah was the Headquarters of the Trucial Oman Scouts where the DAA and QMG was Major Worthy, and commanding the training depot was Major Dinnin, later to be a security officer with an oil company in Oman.
In Muscat and Oman a rebellion had just been started by a small group against the rule of Sultan Said bin Taimur. Soon the uprising was to be developed by subversive groups in Bahrain and Aden into a war sustained by professional revolutionaries based outside Oman.
The Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF) were to be fully involved in this war for many years to come. One of the first to be launched against the initial rebellion was the Northern Frontier Regiment until recently commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Daglish whose reconnaissance platoon commander was Captain Swallow; both at the time were still Royal Leicesters. Also serving in the country were Major Wooddisse and Captain Peat, the latter on the strength of the Trucial Oman Scouts at Sharjah.
More Royal Anglians were soon to join on loan the slowly expanding Sultanate forces. Major Raven served there continuously for six years and enjoyed many amusing experiences, including his successful leadership of a small expedition of soldiers with the Sultan's permission, to capture a live white Arabian oryx - the mythical ‘Unicorn'. Major Aris and Captain Baily served in the Headquarters at Muscat, while Captain Peele was serving in the Muscat Regiment, where he was known as ‘Captain Shadeed' because of his physical toughness. In October, 1968 the Commander of SAF wrote to the Colonel of the Regiment a letter which was full of praise for these four officers and said: ‘I feel I should tell you how pleased I am with the officers of your Regiment'.
In 1969 Lieutenant-Colonel Turnill took over command of the Desert Regiment and in February, 1970 moved to Dhofar where he was outnumbered by the enemy on the jebel and was restricted almost entirely to operations in defence of Salalah on the plain. Soon the position was to change, for on 23 July, 1970 the Sultan's son, Qaboos, replaced his father in a bloodless coup and initiated a programme, not only to increase the size and equipment of his forces, but also to reform and develop the country.
The new Sultan almost immediately gave a fresh impetus to the campaign. By September the first surrenders came in and during October information was received that a complete platoon would give themselves up. A total of nineteen arrived and Colonel Turnill noted that they were well turned out in jungle-green uniforms, Chinese caps and web equipment; he also observed that when he spoke to them they were as restless and tense as a row of tethered falcons, but hard men nevertheless. This group was later to be the nucleus of the forces known as Firqats who were formed to fight for the Government against their former comrades.
In the north of Oman the Muscat Regiment was then commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mackain-Bremmer, who had the unusual experience of co-ordinating a complete change of currency in the absence of any civil government in his area of responsibility. Apparently many produced vast sums of money, especially Maria Theresa dollars, which had been hoarded for many years and, although used as currency, had not been recognized as such by the Government.
Just before the coup the old Sultan had agreed to the formation of a fourth infantry battalion. Lieutenant-Colonel Worthy, who had returned to Oman, was selected to raise, train and take to war this new battalion, later to be named the Jebel Regiment by Sultan Qaboos. Before assuming his new command he had been the first GSO 1 Plans at HQ SAF, a temporary appointment involving the detailed planning for the build-up of SAF in Dhofar and the subsequent offensive operations.
Part of the Royal Anglian contribution to SAF was now three of the four commanding officers, and this at one of the most critical times in the war as the first major offensive against the enemy was about to be launched. Help was provided by the British Army in the form of training teams. Captain Brogan served in one of these teams and did much in the eastern area of Dhofar.
At the end of 1970 Lieutenant-Colonel Worthy was sent as the Sultan's Liaison Officer to the Joint Forces Headquarters at Sharjah. There, the lavish organization was described by one cynic as similar to Southwick House prior to D-Day, especially as the Commander had similar weather problems! One of the Trucial Oman Scouts squadrons was commanded by Major Barnett, and in a SAF company was Captain Alpin, who had great difficulty in persuading the Royal Navy that his dhow was legitimate and that he and his crew were not a boatload of inept immigrants. Later, on his return to northern Oman, he was involved in helping the local people on the Jebel Akhdar, the scene of much fighting in 1958-59. On sending a signal to regimental headquarters for a flying doctor to visit the villages to circumcise many of the boys at the inhabitant's request, he received a reply: ‘Reference your request for circumcisions - delighted - do any British officers require, query.'
As the size of the Force increased, so did the Headquarters. In 1972 the Dhofar Headquarters was renamed Dhofar Brigade. Major Sincock was the first Brigade Major, and in August, 1974, Brigadier Akehurst assumed command of the Brigade. When the Brigade was formed, the rank of Force Commander was raised and Major-General Creasey was appointed to this task.
At the close of this history of the first ten years of the Royal Anglian Regiment the Deputy Commander of the Union Defence Force (formerly the Trucial Oman Scouts) was Lieutenant-Colonel Robinson, and in SAF the Regiment provided the General, the Brigadier, Lieutenant-Colonel Dale commanding the Desert Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Green the GSO 1, Captain Harrington-Spier on the staff, and Major Shervington serving in the Jebel Regiment. Captain Shipley, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1975, was also serving in the Jebel Regiment at the time.
There is a long tradition of service by British officers on loan to locally-enlisted troops, dating back to the formation, in the seventeenth century, of the Honourable East India Company's forces, later to become the Imperial Indian Army. The services of Royal Anglian officers to the Arab forces in the Gulf are part of this tradition, and it is to be hoped that, with positions of responsibility being increasingly assumed by the indigenous population, their efforts to train and lead will not have been wasted.