Tales from Aden 1955 to 1957
Rabbi served 12 years in the RAF Regiment from 1954 to 1966. He served in Egypt, Cyprus, Aden, UK, Cyprus 2nd Tour, Libya, Malta, UK, Singapore, Borneo, and UK. He was Demobbed April 1966 at RAF Catterick.
I remember when we were in Aden in 66 Rifle Squadron and we used to go up country when the natives got restless. One time we were going up with a convoy of supplies and we came under fire. The orders were to dismount and take up defensive positions.
We did this then my section and Cpl Handiside's section were told to go up the ridges left and right of the column and search for any dissidents that may be hidden there. What they used to do was find a crevice in the rocks and crawl in with their rifle, some food and water and lie there waiting for a convoy, having one of their friends seal up the crevice except for a hole to fire out of. When we got to the top of the ridge and checked we could not find anything. Another two sections were sent up on the next ridge and you continued like that until the convoy commander decided that they had debunked.
They always made their own bullets and they used some old French Lebel rifles and/or .303 Lee Enfields they had managed to steal or take off the dead bodies of any one they caught napping. They also used to come down from the Radfan and from the Yemen and join the Government Guards or the Aden Protectorate Levies then after a while desert and go back to their homes with a rifle and anything else they could klefti (steal).
We also used to garrison some forts up country and we were on our way up to Fort Attaq one day when we stopped for a halt for tea and of course the desert was empty whilst we were moving but as soon we stopped the tribesmen appeared from nowhere.
Anyway Ken Handisides and I were having a cup of tea and a fag when this one came over to us looking for buksheesh (like hard tack biscuits) or anything he could scrounge. He also took a shine to our weapons and showed his. It was an old Jebail and was a musket. His bullets were about an inch long and made of pure lead. He showed us how, if it hit you, it would cause quite a big hole in you. Ken showed him a Very pistol and told him in Arabic that at the front Katir (big) hole and at the back Mafish (No) hole. He decided to leave and go and scrounge elsewhere. Sometimes it would get hairy at the forts as the tribesmen came down to shoot the place up and see if they could get away with anything that wasn't nailed down, but it was mostly sniping and when we called the Vampires in they left in a hurry.
Occasionally we would be ordered to go out on a sweep with whatever Army Regiment was in place at the time, I have done them with the Durham Light Infantry, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.