3rd Royal Anglian Regiment in Aden 1967
By R. Leonard
M.L.I.A, (dip), FLIA, FInst.D, S.I.Aff.
Having left Berlin at the end of the tour, my first posting and where I joined the East Anglian Brigade in 1965. Posted back to the U.K. to Tidworth, which I found pretty boring, I was very excited a few months later to be off to see some action in Aden.
We had been briefed to expect a complete change from acting as prison warders to Hess, Train Guard, through the corridor to West Germany, and patrolling in three cylinder two stroke DKW's through Spandau Forest.
The first Impression of Aden as we dismounted from the RAF's version of a Comet 4b, was like someone opening an oven door the heat and humidity was enough to take your breath away. We arrived at Radfan camp 15 minutes drive away and late at night. We had not been told that we would be under canvas, but after a shower and an introduction to the NAAFI, corporals mess and cook house it was of to bed and sort out what became home for the next 9 months, in the morning.
I was a member of the signals platoon, and been promoted to lance corporal in Berlin having trained as a junior Tradesman at Kimnel Park camp in North Wales. I was given a Landrover FFR with the top off (my first convertible) in the rear was aC42 and a C43 along with an A41 back pack, radio, I was then sent over to Support Company as the Company Commanders driver /operator. As I settled in to a tent behind company HQ I remember thinking I was pretty lucky to have such a cushy number.
When I was formally introduced to Major Hoyle ( bless you Sir), I remember my first impression of him was that he was old, overweight and was toting an American M4 carbine, not what I was expecting, after driving other younger officers around, during postings mentioned above.
It is interesting when you have put your History behind you for thirty + years and had virtually no contact with either the Regiment or old mates, to start writing your recollections of a former life. I have started to remember so much that I had inadvertently forgotten about, I will however, keep this bit of personal History to the first action that I was involved in directly.
The first shock was one evening in Sheikh Othman, on a foot patrol, as I had to stand in as radio operator for one of the sections, (the normal radio operator had gone sick,) I can't even remember the platoon or the names of anyone! I was in the middle of the section who were well spread and patrolling the narrow unmettled road with walls and buildings either side, from over the wall came an object that I thought was a stone thrown by some kid.
It was only when it bounced toward me, that I realised it was a grenade. I shouted or maybe screamed "Genade!" at the top of my voice, the whole patrol including me hit the deck fast.
To my horror as I looked back to where I thought the grenade had bounced past me, it hit the corner of a wall and it was bouncing back toward me, I automatically left go of the sterling 9mm submachine gun I had been gripping vice like, reached over my head as I laid on the deck and tugged hard on top of the A41 radio...... pulling it up to cover the back of my head.
There was an almighty explosion as it went off less than a metre from my left foot. I didn't move for what seemed like ages but was less than three seconds I was later told by the guy some 20 feet behind me, when I grabbed the sterling and shouted to the section commander ...........(It came from over the wall to your right)...., by this time the section was up and moving quickly down the side street to try and catch whoever had thrown it, needless to say, he had disappeared rapidly, never to be Apprehended, certainly not by us that evening. However It was an awakening to what was to follow and made me realise that this was not a game but real life in this God forsaken hole.
From that day to this I have been much more alert to Danger.
Checkpoint Juliet was on the main Dahla Road and defended the southwest end of the scrubber wire. All the ground troops travelling up north to Radfan passed through the checkpoint. We also stopped and searched most of the civilian vehicles as they passed through looking for terrorists, weapons and grenades.
Immediately adjacent but on the Dahla Side of the barbed wire was an empty building, after dark a small section would set off quietly and covertly and get on to the roof of the building, giving us the best view of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Often we would have a firefight with terrorist gunmen and from this position we could effectively defend the sandbagged tower of Juliet, which had a GPMG mounted on it. Normally two of the section stagged on for two hours at a time but it was manned for 24/7. One particular night, late on, there was an almighty explosion. A Blinderside rocket had been fired at the tower.(I still have a piece of fragment that I picked up the following morning). Immediately the section in the building returned fire with a GPMG and SLRs. The terrorists continued firing Kalashnikovs for a short while and then disappeared into the night.
Luckily nobody was hurt, but what I do remember was the devastation that was caused by one rocket.
Another lesson in what it was like to be on the receiving end of Communist hardware!
If I remember correctly the section I was with that night was 15 Platoon with Sgt. Bagerly, Budge, Smithy, Cpl. Herbert (who unfortunately died later in the conflict) Adey, Noby Clark and a few others.
If any of you are still around please mail me.
What sticks in my mind the most is the positive attitude that everyone had..... the humour and comradeship that came from being attacked, seeing the devastation and knowing that not one of us was wounded or worse ...killed.
The Regiment as a whole had an enviable reputation throughout the tour for the amount of weapons, explosives and terrorist captures we achieved.