By the end of January 1964 the Regiment arrived in Aden as part of the Aden Brigade, seeing active service in the Radfan on the border with South Yemen as part of Radforce, fighting Egyptian-supported guerillas and losing a number of its soldiers in the process.
The Regiments time in Aden saw them take part in two clearly defined campaign’s.
The Radfan Mountains are located 60 miles north of Aden. The emirates and sheikhdoms in Aden had accepted British protection since the 1870 Turkish invasion of Yemen and its surrounding territories.
By 1964 the situation had turned for the worse. The new republican government in adjacent Yemen, backed by Egypt’s President Nasser, was actively fermenting trouble in the Sultanate of Upper Yafa, which was one of the Western Aden Protectorate states that was refusing to join the Federation of Saudi Arabia.
It became clear that a campaign was being waged against the Federation of Saudi Arabia, mainly by the Yemen and Egyptian-backed Radfan tribesmen. Their main objective was to attempt to close the main road from Aden to Yemen’s frontier town of Dhala.
However, the campaign mounted by British personnel, with Federation troops, quickly and effectively defeated the tribesmen.
Aden (South Arabia)
This campaign is related to the Radfan Campaign, because both were attempts by Egyptian-inspired insurgents to end the British presence in Aden and destabilise the embryonic Federation of Saudi Arabia.
The terrorist campaign of 1964 to 1967 was a rival affair between two groups attempting to gain control of the area, and ensure that the British did not retain a military presence after the planned independence of the Federation of Saudi Arabia which was scheduled for no later that 1968.
This 3 year long campaign saw numerous terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets. In both Radfan and Aden, the British Army suffered 90 personnel killed and 510 wounded.
In September 1964, while still based there, the Regiment amalgamated with the three other remaining regiments of the East Anglian Brigade on 1 September to form one of the new ‘large’ regiments, The Royal Anglian Regiment; the 1st East Anglians became the 1st Battalion (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) The Royal Anglian Regiment.
The qualifying period for the GSM with clasp South Arabia was 30 days service in the Federation of South Arabia between 1st August 1964 and 30th November 1967.
The Battalion was stationed in Waterloo Lines Aden when the Royal Anglian Regiment was formed on the 1st September 1964.
The Battalion departed Aden in September 1965.
RADFAN – 1 ROYAL ANGLIAN
A Fighting Patrol (One of Thousands)
Around the turn of the century myself, Patrick Moore and a few like minded nutters were up at 0200hrs hoping to see a shower of meteorites punch there way into the atmosphere from the direction of the Pleiades. No such luck with ten tenths cloud. The Leonids came but unseen.
Thirty three years earlier I was in the Radfan Mountains as a Lance Jack in an infantry rifle platoon, to be more precise, I was a section commander, there not being enough Full Screws to go around! We were in a picket and patrol base known as Hotel 10 (Two x 10 metre Sangers and a DTL).
My Platoon Commander called me in for a briefing, he said that the “Head Shed” had decreed that in future only Full Screws and above were to take out all types of fighting patrols. I was however to take out tomorrow night’s ambush. “I’m doing a Nelson” he said. It seems there had been an ‘Int whisper’, a fire base was to be machine gunned and possibly rocketed, so the ambush was intended to cover the most likely approach to Monks Field.
The impending ambush excused myself and my patrol members from stagging on that night and I had a good nights sleep. During the morning I gradually got uneasy about the patrol, a ‘This ones got my name on it’ feeling. The detailed briefing made it worse. The ambush was to be set within 400 metres of Monks Field, too close for any sort of comfort. If we fired the ambush we would almost certainly attract so called friendly fire until it could be stopped. My patrol consisted of myself, three riflemen and my usual machine gunner Pte Thunder, the battalions only American Indian, and the best practical ‘gimpy’ gunner in the Aden Garrison area.
My foreboding was getting worse, I had never had it before, I didn’t understand it and just hoped I could control it, I knew I must not let it spill over to the patrol. I presented my patrol plan to the boss for approval, route out was via a feature known as Ludgate Hill, an Engineer 4 tonner track down the side of a cliff, the top of the cliff was to be the first RV and from there a compass bearing to the final (bug out) RV and into the Wadi to be ambushed. A three hour ambush period followed by the withdrawal phase via an abandoned sanger on Rattle Snake and back to H10 by prearranged time and direction. The boss being a teacher of maths on a three year wasby, tested me on my backbearings and passed the plan.
With my misgivings I went a bit over the top with kit and ammo, 400 link, 4 mags per rifle, Very pistol, 3 x 36 Grenade, 2 x smoke and a very big first aid bag. All this was not lost on my Platoon Sgt who said he would make sure that everybody at Monks Field knew that I was out in front of them, especially the Gunners (105’s). He was a super man destined to get his face mangled in front of me in a Balindercide rocket attack months later in Sheikh Othman.
The route out was uneventful. Due to the ‘Int whisper’ Monks Field was blacked out and silent. I managed to get my team in place with cover from any fire back from the Wadi and small arms fire from the direction of Monks Field. Hour two came and went. Because of my unusual state of mind I had more mental sensors out than the Star Ship Enterprise. I had just turned my head to focus my better ear up the Wadi when I saw a radient of meteorites coming straight at me; there must have been sixty or more, completely silent of course and over in a second. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen before or since, and from that moment the dread left me, and the Dizzi’s never came.
The withdrawal and return leg went smoothly and at the debrief I found that none of the patrol had seen the radient, in fact I could not find anybody in the Mountains that night who had seen it. Maybe the Dizzi’s saw it? That sort of thing would mean more to an Arab.
A few days later our 5 Platoon got machine gunned and rocketed on Cap Badge; the whisper was almost right. Sgt Mixer showed great courage and leadership that night.
I went on to serve 26 years in the Regiment and never again did the black dread come back, I suspect that this is a thing that happens to soldiers, but like me they don’t talk about it, for forty or fifty years anyway.
Dick (Tim) Davies
Editors note: Sixth sense, The Devil looking after his own or too much Tiger!
Regardless, a lovely story and I agree that there are probably many more, that everyone is too embarrassed to speak about it until they reach that stage of maturity when you realise that it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
BFPO 69: In those wonderful days of old, before emails and mobile phones, the main system of communication was by mail. Not quite sure who selects the numerals for BFPO No’s but far removed from reality in Aden for the average soldier!
The heat, the smell, the char wallah, Tiger beer, what a wonderful start to an army career. Probably the last touch of the British Empire, covering both good and bad aspects of that era. The wearing of a KF shirt in that temperature is definitely not recommended.