Aid to a Civil Power Aden 1956 to 1957
By Rabbi Burns RAF Regiment
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.
This is the story of an incident in Aden during Ramadan, when I served there in the RAF Regiment with No 66 Rifle Squadron at RAF Khormaksar, in January 1957. The Dutch Shell Company were in partnership with AGIP, an Italian company, at Little Aden and they had sacked a lot of Arab workers for some reason, I can't remember why, probably because they wouldn't work. Anyway, they started to riot and the Aden police post became surrounded and put a radio call out to their HQ at Aden.
The rioters had cut the telephone lines so the police could not call in reinforcements, but didn't know about the radio link. The Police Chief contacted the Governor for assistance to quell the riot and we, as duty flight, were ordered to assist. We duly paraded, drew arms and ammunition and mounted our vehicles, which were two Landrovers, a Bedford Q.L. truck, and a Motorcycle Don/R, and then we set off towards Little Aden. At the Maala Crossroads a police Landrover was waiting with a British Chief Inspector on board and joined the convoy. Our strength was one Flying Officer, one Sergeant, three Corporals, and thirty-six airmen armed with .303 Lee Enfield rifles and three Bren guns. The Officer and the Sergeant were armed with Mark 5 Stens.
The police officers had their pistols and the two Constables had their .303s as well. As we came along the causeway into Little Aden, we could see the fires from the burning buildings just outside the oil compound's gates closed gates. There was a large crowd of Arabs milling about with some ringleaders encouraging them to break into the compound. We dismounted and formed up in an open square, with the open end farthest from the crowd, and got set up ready for action. The drill was that you unfurled a banner written in Arabic ordering them to disperse and you rung a hand bell to get their attention. The vehicles were placed inside the square with the Landrovers facing the crowd and the Bedford truck at the back. This was to allow the Bren guns, mounted on the Landrovers, a good fire position. At the same time the Police Inspector was telling them in Arabic to go home and he and the Regiment Officer, in charge of us, were marking out the ringleaders, to be dealt with once we had received permission from the Governor to open fire.
Three times the warning was given and was ignored so the Don/R was dispatched to Government House with a report from the two Officers, with a request for permission to open fire at the mob if they would not cease and desist from rioting. The mob continued throwing stones and insults at us and we were ordered to fix bayonets and load our weapons, which we duly did. After about 30 minutes, the D/R was back with the permission to open fire. We again gave them three more chances to disperse but to no avail. The front rank was ordered to kneel, to allow the Bren guns mounted on the Landrovers a clear field of fire in case the crowd tried to overrun us. The next command was for a picked rifleman to shoot the ringleader, who had been picked out by the Officers as the main stirrer. The command was, "No 3 rifleman - one round to kill at the man in the brown turban".
This was done and then three more ringleaders were shot. Then the command came for No 1 Section, kneeling in front of the mob, for one round of fire to wound. This was done and the crowd then took to their heels and scarpered. We advanced at the ready while the stretcher-bearers picked up the dead ringleaders for identification and loaded them onto the Bedford truck. Once this was accomplished, we started to pick up the wounded. By this time ambulances and civil medical staff had arrived and began to take care of the wounded. The Officers then went to talk to the representatives of the Oil companies while the policemen in the police station came out and started to do their duties.
At about 1600hrs we mounted our trucks to return to the Squadron lines at RAF Khormaksar where we were debriefed by the Commanding Officer, the 2i/c, and the Squadron Warrant Officer, and then dismissed. This happened a couple more times during my tour in Aden, once in Crater and once in Maala Village.