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The RAF in Aden and the Rafdan

1958 saw turmoil in Southern Arabia, with a state of Emergency being declared in Aden when Yemeni Forces occupied Jebel Jehaf. At the same time the security forces were reorganised with the creation of British Forces Arabian peninsula of which the RAF was a part. Venoms and Shackletons were in the thick of the action form the start, attacking Yemeni forces at Assarir and Qatabah and losing three Venoms to ground fire in the process.

VampireIn July, No.42 Squadron returned to Khormaksar at short notice having left Masirah following the Iraqi coup. The unit was sent onto Sharjah where it joined No.288 Squadron in bombing rebel strongholds in Oman. Photo-reconnaissance Meteors were put to good use in Oman, frequently joining Venoms in strike sorties. One of the venoms was lost to ground fire during the campaign. In January 1959 a squadron of SAS supported by No.8s venoms attacked the remnants of the 700-strong rebel force and managed to take its mountaintop stronghold at Jebel Akhdar. The rebel leader escaped to Saudi Arabia and the revolt in Oman was over and British forces were withdrawn. A month later, the Federation of Aden's Arab Emirates of the South was created.

3 Argosy aircraft of 105 Sqn flying
over Aden. Photo courtesy of
John Belcher

There was a brief lull in RAF operations, although Royal Navy aircraft did strike mountain tribesman during Operation 'Damon' in 1960. BY then Britain had left all its major military bases in the Middle East and Aden was chosen to become Headquarters Middle East Command. This decision was opposed by both the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen (FLOSY) and the Marxist National Liberation Front (NLF), which were sworn to rid the region of the British. The political situation worsened when Aden town joined the federation, subsequently renamed the federation of South Arabia. As a result of this unpopular move, British forces were soon to find themselves operating against internal terrorist groups as well as the Yemeni-backed rebel tribes which stepped up their raids form the nationalist base at Taiz in Yemen following the Monarch's overthrow in September 1962. Khormaksar came under sniper attack in December of the following year.

HunterOne of the largest post-war engagements began with attacks on the Federal fort at Thumier by the Quteibi tribe in the heart of their arid mountainous homeland, the Rhadfan. Situated some 60 miles north of Aden town, the 400 square mile area had been subject to RAF strikes for nearly 20 years. Another State of emergency was declared at the end of 1963 following a mounting wave of attacks by the NLF-backed tribes culminating in a bomb attack on the High Commissioner in which his assistant was killed. In March 1964 the Federal Regular Army (FRA, an Arab force with British officers, moved into the Rhadfan to begin Operation 'Nutcracker' assisted by British Army units; air support was provided by Shackletons of No.37 Squadron and Hunters of the Khormaksar wing, comprising Nos 8, 43 and 208 Squadrons. After a few inconclusive skirmishes, the overstretched FRA was withdrawn and overall responsibility for bringing the Quteibi to heel was given to the British Army. 'Radforce' consisting of units of Royal Marines.

By 1965, Kormaksar was the busiest RAF station anywhere, housing no less than three wings of nine squadrons, the security of which was a constant cause of concern as Aden was at this time being subjected to a rapidly mounting wave of terrorist attacks, some 286 in 1965 and almost double that number a year later. The Hunters of No.43 Squadron were responding more and more to requests from political officers to take out suspected terrorist hideouts which were often situated in built-up areas. A 15-minute warning of an attack was dropped over the target by reconnaissance aircraft and the squadron soon built up a reputation for being able to destroy a single building in a street without damaging its neighbours. By the end of 1966 the recently elected Labour government had announced that Britain would quit Aden by 1968.

Throughout the conflict, Blackburn Beverleys of the Royal Air Force and Dakotas of Aden airways provided transport in and out of the country as well as transporting troops from their staging areas to the trouble spots.

The Wednesday Shuttle Bus
The Wednesday Shuttle Bus leaves Salalah
The shuttle leaves Salalah Feb 1968 The shuttle leaves Salalah Feb 1968

The shuttle leaves Salalah Feb 1968 taken with a 2 1/4 square box camera with hand wind between frames.
Our thanks to Owen Vaughan for these pictures.

78 Squadron flew Pioneers aircraft from Khormaksar from April 1956, with Pembrokes and Twin Pioneers joining its strength in 1958. In 1959 the squadron relinquished its Pioneers and Pembrokes, and received Westland Wessex helicopters in 1965 before the squadron left Aden for Sharjah in 1967. 84 Squadron was reformed in December 1956 when the Aden protectorate Communications and Support Squadron was renumbered and flew Valettas, Sycamores and Pembroke aircraft from Khormaksar, giving up its Sycamores and Pembrokes in 1957, and receiving Blackburn Beverleys in 1958. The Beverly's were exchanged for Andovers in August 1967 and a month later the squadron left Aden for Sharjah. 233 Squadron flew Valetta's from RAF Khormaksar in 1960 when it was formed from No.84 squadrons' Valetta flight until it was disbanded in January 1964.

Our thanks to Owen Vaughan for the following information on 123 S.U.:
123 S.U. were stationed at RAF Steamer Point, upto the closure of the station in Nov 1967. In Nov 1967 123 S.U. R.A.F. then went and took over from the Army who where based at the R.N. Station of HMS Jufair.
123 S.U. Detachment went to RAF Salalah in Dec 1967 and had two rooms under the Control Tower, working as a highly classified unit in conjunction with SAS and Senior British Army Officers in the Sultans Army.
I was detached from HMS Jufair to RAF Salalah in Jan 1968 my initial 3 year unaccompanied posting was cut to 1 year so I was returned to HMS Jufair in March 1968 and posted back to a U.K. station in April 1968. 123 Detachment remained at Salalah long after my return to the UK.

This was all happening at a time when another 123 S.U. Detachment was serving aboard the assult Carrier HMS Hermes in the Gulf.

Rolly Vince and Chris Evans joined up with me in 1963, there where both later posted to what was then known as W.O.P. Spec training again with myself, however both where returned to what we used to call "Straight Signals" i.e. Comcen work.

Rolly and Chris were killed at the filling station at the Steamer Point (west) end of the MAALA. They were employed at Commcen Aden at Steamer Point. On the day of their death they had visited us at Khormaksar to sort out living accomodation as Commcen Aden was about to move to Khormaksar as part of the rundown. They were travelling on a motorbike and stopped for petrol. They joined the RAF in 1963 as B/E. telegraphists.(49th entry) Rolly was with me in A flight and Chris was in B flight. Chris is buried in Aden, Roly in Portsmouth.


The Sultan's Air Force used a mixture of aircraft, some photos showing types are shown below, our thanks to Owen Vaughan for these pictures.

The Prop Provost used prior to the introduction of the Jet Provost
Prop Provost Prop Provost

Sultan Air Force 3 Beaver, here being readied to go up to Dhofar to evacute casualties
Sultan Air Force 3 Beaver, here being readied to go up to Dhofar to evacute casualties

Also See The RAF in the Radfan

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