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leigh kitchen

"As The Sun Goes Down" - Aden, The SAA & Armed Police Mutinies of June 1967 (***RECOMMENDED)

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Of no great interest to the British public at the time & now largely forgotten by all other than a few veterans, the conflict in Aden - for years not even designated "Active Service" - is remembered if at all for the presence of Lt Colonel Colin Mitchell, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

"Mad Mitch" was a charismatic & controversial character who caught the imagination of the public for a while, infuriating officialdom & delighting the public as he led his "Jocks" back into the no-go area of Crater & re-established the authority of the British army under his no-nonsense application of "Argyll Law".

Mitchell's Argylls were in the process of taking over responsibility of the Crater district of Aden from 1st Battalion the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, when both battalions & other units of the British army suffered fatalities at the hands of their allies of the Southa Arabian Army & the Armed Police.

Mitchell, his Argylls & the reoccupation of Crater are a subject in themselves, as are other aspects of the history & politics of Aden.

This thread concentrates on the immediate causes of the mutiny & the events of 20th / 21st June 1967, the subject of varying accounts & some confusion.

The Aden Brigade Insignia

Edited by leigh kitchen

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"The Aden Emergency"

?The Aden Emergency? was an insurgency against the British in what is now the Yemen, & lasted from 10/12/63 when the State of Emergency was declared, until 30/11/67, when the British forces left.

Aden was to the British a strategically important port at the entrance to the Red Sea, & was a British Indian administered Protectorate from 1839 until 1937, a Crown Colony from 1937 until 1967.

Of value to Britain as a link to India, & as a port from which to access oil from the Middle East after the post 1945 loss of colonies & Suez debacle of 1956, Aden was also the base for Middle East Command.

British Aden consisted of 2 parts, the first being ?the Aden Colony?, 70 square miles situated along the coast of the Red Sea & encompassing the port of Aden, the airfield RAF Khormaksar, the BP oil refinery, the town of Little Aden and the Crater district, which was home to 70,000 Arabs.

In the 1950?s the port of Aden was the busiest in the world after New York.

The second part of British Aden was ?the Aden Protectorate?, an area about the size of England, & split into ?the Eastern Protectorate? & ?the Western Protectorate?. The Protectorates were crossed by two major roads, one which ran towards the British base at Dhala on the Yemen border & the other into Yemen.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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"Emergency" Declared

At the root of the insurgency was a wave of Arab nationalism arising largely from the pan-Arabist & socialist doctrines of Gamel Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader, & which spread into the Arabian peninsula. The British, French & Israelis had been forced to withdraw from their invasion of Egypt which followed Egypt?s nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956, & Nasser enjoyed limited success in spreading his doctrines, the 1958 attempt to unify Egypt & Syria as the United Arab Republic failing after 3 years.

Although it isn?t clear to what extent Nasser had any direct influence in anti-colonial revolt in Aden in 1963, rather than merely providing inspiration for the independent action of Yemeni guerrilla groups, another opportunity was provided for his pan-Arabist activities.

By 1963 anti-British guerrilla groups had merged into two large rival organizations: the National Liberation Front (NLF) backed by Egypt, & the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY), who fought each other as well as the British.

On 10/12/63 a hand grenade was thrown at the British High Commissioner as he boarded an aircraft at Khormakser Airport, killing 1 woman & wounding 50 other people - the "Emergency" was declared following this.

In January 1964, the British moved into the Radfan hills in the border region during ?Operation Nutcracker?, to quell Egyptian backed guerrillas who were later reinforced by the NLF, & in April ?Operation Cap Badge" had the objective of reasserting Federal Authority and making the Dhala Road safe for traffic ? the British & various Arab factions vied for control of this road, a major route for illicit weaponry into Aden.

In 1964 the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan declared that Aden would be granted self government in 1968, with a British military presence being retained, & thereby unwittingly encouraged the rebel groups & Egyptians in their efforts to rid Aden of the British occupier by use of force. Some saw the British as being on the run now, others simply thought that MacMillan was lying.

The authorities of the Federation of South Arabia were thus undermined, as was the counterinsurgency effort, federal officials & local governments of the emirates, sultanates, and sheikhdomsleft the country or sided with the insurgents. Intelligence, never freely available, dwindled further as there was now very little incentive to cooperate with the British. Arab members of the Special Branch already were already nsurgent targets & the local police & military forces were thoroughly infiltrated.

Aden was a failure for the British but largely as a result of the premature announcement by the Labour government in 1966 of its intention to leave South Arabia, undermining at a stroke the authorities of the Federation of South Arabia and the whole counterinsurgency effort. Increasingly, indeed, federal officials and even local governments in the emirates, sultanates, and sheikhdoms either left the country altogether or threw in their lot with the insurgent movements. In any case, intelligence had never been forthcoming freely from the population, and there was now little incentive to cooperate. Arab members of the Special Branch already had been targeted by the insurgents, and the local police forces were thoroughly infiltrated, both the South Arabian Police and Aden Armed Police

("Insurgency in Iraq: an Historical Assessment", Ian F. W. Beckett).

Yemeni, Egyptians, Adenis & paid mercenaries continued to smuggle weaponry into Aden, the British equipment & munitions which had been left when they evacuated the Egyptian Canal Zone giving way to modern Russian & Chinese versions, Marxist groups also receiving training from the Soviets & Chinese.

By October 1964, the insurgents had largely been suppressed, & the NLF switched to urban attacks, often by grenade against off-duty military personnel and police officers. Early incidents included the throwing of a grenade at a children?s party, killing 1 child & injuring 4.

In 1965, 9 squadrons were operating from RAF Kormasker, including transport units with helicopters and Hawker Hunter ground attack aircraft.

Between 1965 - 67 insurgent attacks became more professional, (t's reported that in one early grenade throwing incident the bomber threw the pin rather than the grenade at his intended target), effective & numerous. The mortar began to replace the rocket launcher as a favorite terrorist weapon.

From 286 incidents in 1965 & 540 in 1966, incidents rose in 1967 to 2,900, most Brtish lives being lost to grenade, landmine & sniper.

In June 1966, the NLF made part of Crater a ?no-go area? but this was rectified within a day when the Parachute Regiment were sent in, killing 6 members of the NLF & capturing 5.

Arms cache find

The main method of curbing terrorism was to search for suspected terrorists and for weapons. Rewards were given for weapons & munitions handed in - a dinar was roughly equivalent to a pound sterling.

Machine gun 400 dinars

Pistol/rifle 50 dinars

Hand grenade 25 dinars

Bazooka 600 dinars

Mortar 600 dinars

Mine 120 dinars

Mortar shell 60 dinars

Bazooka Shell 60 dinars

Cases of Explosives 120 dinars

Time bomb 10 dinars

Although criticised by Aden Radio on the basis of cost productiveness - a grenade which originally cost the army 12/6d (62 1/2 new pence) cost ?25 to buy back - the object was to prevent the weaponry being used against Briton & Adeni.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Excerpt from "Hansard" in which reference is made to an increase in violence against the British in Aden since a date for withdrawal had been announced, and another that the British should simply "get out".

Aden (Bomb Incident)

HC Deb 27 April 1966 vol 727 cc684-5 684
§ 21. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement concerning the recent bomb incident in a cinema at Aden and the extent of British casualties incurred.

§ Mr. Ennals

On 17th April a hand grenade was thrown into an open air film show at the camp at Beihan, near the Yemen border. British and Arabian Federation troops, as well as local employees, were watching the show, which was within the protected perimeter of the camp. The hand grenade exploded in front of the British troops. Thirty-three were injured; eight of them are still in hospital.

§ Sir G. Nabarro

Does this incident mean that the Minister will be increasing the advance measures in Aden, particularly in places of troop recreation where the terrorists seem to concentrate their attacks?

§ Mr. Ennals

There are already very adequate protective means. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We must, of course, recognise that the situation creates dangers. We also recognise that the grenade which caused the damage was thrown from within the camp, presumably by someone already there. A thorough investigation is being conducted to find who was responsible.

§ Mr. Biggs-Davison

Has there not been an increase in bloodshed, terrorism and danger for British subjects and their 685 families since the announcement that Her Majesty's Government are going to dishonour their obligations and run out of Aden in 1968?

§ Mr. Ennals

This has been a problem, as the hon. Gentleman will know, for a considerable time and my right hon. Friend is very much aware of the gravity of the situation and is taking steps.

§ Mr. Shinwell

Have we not suffered far too many casualities in the past few years in Aden, and would not the best security be for us to get out of Aden?

§ Mr. Ennals

My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the decision taken to bring this about.

 

On 22nd December 1966 an Aden Airlines DC3 aircraft was destroyed by a bomb planted on board, there were no survivors from its total of 30 crew & passengers.

 

 

Edited by leigh kitchen

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In January 1967 NLF inspired mass rioting occurred in the streets of Crater, a warren of small streets with only 2 main routes leading in & out, & which was by now the centre of violence in Aden. This resulted in the police losing control of the area & caused the British High Commissioner to order the deployment of British troops.

The NLF withdrew but then FLOSY rioters took their place, rioting continuing until mid February, by which time British troops had been subjected to over 60 attacks with grenade & bullet & had themselves opened fire over 40 times.

Aerial photo of Crater

Edited by leigh kitchen

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<b>The 5th Fusiliers</b>

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (1 RNF) arrived in Aden at the beginning of a 9 month tour during September 1966, to take over responsibility of the Crater district from the 1st Bn Prince of Walse's Own Regiment of Yorkshire.

Landing at Khormaksar airfield at 03.00 hrs, 10/9/66, "X" Company were in Crater & operational by 06.00 hrs.

Rather than the more usual "A, B, C & D" , 1 RNF designated it'?s Rifle Companies "W,X,Y & Z", and the Battalion itself as well as other regiments and corps knew it as "The 5th Fusilers", a hark back to it's place in the Infantry of The Line order of precedence as "The Fighting Fifth".

In action from the day of its arrival, the Battalion suffered its first casualty on 11/11/66, when a grenade was thrown at "X" Company Commander's Land Rover, tipping it over & wounding the Company Sergeant Major, WO II Pringle, killing one local woman & injuring others.

The bomber was pursued by Fusilier Regan, battalion cross country runner, on foot towards the Bazaar & captured.

The first foot Patrol conducted in Crater was by 6 Platoon, "X" Company, between 0600 hrs & 1200 hrs & comprised the commander Cpl Alan "Jonty" Batey, the 2/ic Lance Corporal Colin Jacques, Fus Yatley, Fus Green, Cpl Dasher Jackson, Fus Dave Davidge, Fus Bob Huntley & Fus Collinson.

The majority of attacks on the British army were carried out by lone grenade throwers, "bombers" (or "Cairo Grenadiers" due to the incitement & backing provided by Egypt), or by assailants armed with an assortment of weaponry including AKs & RPGs.

Such attacks continued, causing death & injury throughout the rest of the Battalion's 9 months tour of Aden.

The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers had been highly successful in putting down civil disturbances during their tour in Crater, but in June 1967, shortly before the Battalion was to hand over responsibility to the 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (1 A & SH), they & other units lost men at the hands of "allies".

Crater again became a "no-go" area, as the Battalion was denied permission to re-enter & take it by force.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Unrest in the South Arabian Army

Aden had become self-governing in 1962, & joined the Federation of South Arabia in 1963.

Behind the Armed Police mutiny was an increasing politcal pressure to which local military and police forces were being subjected.

On 1/6/67, the 5 battalions of the Federal Regular Army & the 4 battalions of the Federal National Guard ?1? were amalgamated to form the new 15,000 strong South Arabian Army (SAA), with Headquarters in Seederseer Lines and Training Depot at Lake Lines. The other two para-military forces in Aden were the Federal National Guard ?2?, which was a loose knit force of tribal police based in Champion Lines, & the Armed Police, who were based at the Armed Police Barracks in Crater.

Both the FNG 2 & Armed Police were recruited from up-country tribesmen.

The Senior Arab Officer of the South Arabian Army was deemed unacceptable by other senior officers of the new force, & the sudden influx of the FNG ?1? into the SAA resulted in personality clashes & disrupted the tribal balance amongst the senior officers, a balance which prior to amalgamation had been carefully preserved.

Initially commanded by British officers, Arab officers had replaced them in the run up to the British withdrawal scheduled for 1967.

The 2nd In Command of the SAA attempted to ?pack? the new force with members of his own tribe, 11 Senior Officers presented a petition to the British Commander of the Army and the Federal Supreme Council, & as a result 4 colonels, notables of their tribes were suspended pending investigation for having committed "an act of gross indiscipline".

Containing large elements of both FLOSY and NLF supporters, the SAA?s loyalties were suspect.

Relations between the Arabs & British in Aden were further strained following the Israeli victory over Egypt during the Six Day War in June 1967, Britain being thought to have aided Israel to the extent of providing air support. This misconception was much promoted by Cairo's "Voice of the Arabs" radio urging its listeners throughout the Arab world to "Kill the pirates & the bloodsuckers".

Edited by leigh kitchen

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The Turbulence Before The Storm

Monday 19th June 1967:

The rate & type of incidents continued ?normally? at first??

At 09:40 hrs automatic fire was directed at troops at the Supreme Court in Crater, fire was returned with no casualties.

10:10 hrs a search party in Salahaddin Rd came under automatic fire, again with no casualties being inflicted.

11:05 hrs a "Local National" (LN) bystander was wounded by small arms fire at the Supreme Court, the attackers escaping in a small blue vehicle.

Also at 11:05 hrs, 4 x mortar bombs were aimed at Checkpoint Bravo, Sheik Othman, no casualties, firing point not established.

11:10 hrs small arms fire at an Observation Post (OP) on Sheik Othman Police Station, no casualties.

11:20 hrs the same OP came under small arms fire from a mosque, no casualties.

11:24 hrs further small arms fire was directed at the OP, firing point unknown, no casualties.

11:35 the OP again came under small arms fire, from a school. Fire was returned, no casualties.

11:40 hrs automatic fire was directed at Mansoura Piquet, Sheik Othman district, no casualties.

12:20 hrs 5 x pistol shots were fired at the OP, no casualties.

12:50 hrs 6 x mortar bombs were fired at Mission Hospital, Sheik Othman, with no casualties inflicted.

12:54 hrs small arms fire from 2 different directions was aimed at the OP, no casualties.

17:30 hrs pistol fire was directed at an OP in Crater, fire was returned, there were no casualties

19:58 hrs pistol fire was aimed at Post 6 of the Mansoura Detention Centre from Al Mansoura, no casualties.

22:10 hrs a grenade was thrown at an unknown target at Gunners Corner, no known casualties.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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The SAA Mutiny

?The Aden Mutiny? began on the night of Monday 19th June, following the suspension of the 4 Arab colonels & fuelled by tribal rivalries within the SAA.

Upon hearing shooting the Fusiliers deployed to guard service families in their married quarters (the Fusiliers themselves were serving an ?unaccompanied? tour without their families).

Some troops, watching a showing of ?The Battle of the Bulge? heard real gunfire over the recorded version, & quickly made their way back to Waterloo Lines.

The following morning Tuesday 20th June, Arab soldiers at the Apprentice School at Lake Lines mutinied and burned down their barracks. The fire was swiftly put out.

Although the 4 colonels were reinstated by the Federal Supreme Council & the fact broadcast through loud speakers to the troops of the SAA, the unrest quickly spread to Champion Lines & the Training Depot and HQ of FNG ?2?, where interfactional fighting broke out. The armoury was raided & Arab & British officers of the SAA locked themselves in the camp guardroom.

The FNG ?2? shot at each other and also directed fire out of the camp over Khormaksar Airfield and the main road into Radfan Camp & into the British Waterloo Lines. Radfan Camp contained elements of 3 British infantry battalions.

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The First British Soldiers Die By The Hand of The Mutineer

At 10:00 hrs, 20th June, a British army three-ton truck containing men of 60 Squadron, Royal Corps of Transport (RCT) was returning to Normandy Lines from weapons training on ranges.

As they drove past the SAA camp they were subjected to heavy machine gun fire from the Arab troops, 8 men of the RCT being killed.

(A discrepancy with my information here, I have a Dvr R A. Morley listed as well as 8 other men:

S/Sgt Edward Butler, Sgt Roland Garth, Dvr Michael Geall, Dvr Neil Fraser, Dvr Richard Goldsworthy, Dvr Fred Pouton, Dvr John Tevendale & Dvr Marcus West)

The chaplain of the 1st Battalion The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers) left Radfan Camp to investigate the gunfire & found the RCT truck on fire outside the SAA camp, bodies scattered around it.

Between 10:00 - 15:00 hrs heavy fire was directed from Champion Lines at British troops in Radfan Camp & at Public Works Department (PWD) civilians, killing a 2/Lt Robert Young,of 1st Bn The Lancashre Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Volunteers), 2 policemen & a Public Works Department (PWD) employee, Hugh Alexander. Another PWD employee was wounded.

Photo: Driver Fred Poulton

Edited by leigh kitchen

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The Lancashire Regiment

The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers) was formed on 1/7/1958 by amalgamation of The East Lancashire Regiment and The South Lancashire Regiment.

1st Battalion Lancashire Regiment shared Radfan Camp with the 3rd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment.. They were awarded more operational awards than any other unit in Aden (1 DSO, 2 MCs, 3 MMs, 1 MBE, 6 Mentions in Despatches and 3 Commander in Chief’s certificates of commendations

They suffered the loss of 2/Lt Young & 3 other men killed

As part of the administrative “Lancastrian Brigade”, the regiment wore that formation’s cap badge.

On 25/3/1970, The Lancashire Regiment amalgamated with The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) to form The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, which in turn became 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (King's Lancashire and Border)upon further amalgamation on 1/7/2006 with The King's Regiment and the King's Own Royal Border Regiment.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Under British pressure (not the least of the British worries being for the safety of women & children in Married Quarters), the Supreme Council requested assistance from the British army & a strike force consisting of ?C? Company 1st Battalion King's Own Royal Border Regiment (1 KOB)under the command of Major David Miller, with a troop of the Queens Dragoon Guards (QDG) set off for Champion Lines to employ minimum force to put down the mutiny.

As they entered Champion Lines the SAA directed machine gun fire at the first truck, killing 1 soldier, Pte Anthony Ferguson of 1 KOB, & wounding 8.

10 Platoon of 1 KOB rescued the officers locked in the guardroom, & as the SAA continued to shoot at the British who were evacuating wounded to Radfan Lines, moved through Champion Lines, disarming the SAA whilst inflicting & sustaining no further casualties.

Some SAA personnel, however, moved into Crater.

British military casualties at this point were 10 killed, 15 wounded, European civilian casualties 1 killed, 1 wounded, ?Local National? (LN) casualties were 3 killed & 1 wounded.

The ensuing events in Crater occurred at a particularly bad time for the British, coinciding with the handover of responsibility for Crater from the Fusiliers to the Argylls, a process that would take 10 days to complete & which precluded a suitable response until early in July.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

A young regiment in British infantry terms,having been formed by amalgamation of the 91st (Princess Louise's Argyllshire) Regiment and the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiments of Foot in 1881. The 91st had been raised in 1794, the 93rd in 1799.

Due to be disbanded, the regiment's service in Aden under its controversial Commanding Officer Colin Mitchell, & an accompanying "Save The Argylls" publicity campaign in the British media did indeed save it, until amalgamation nearly 40 years later.

A member of 1st Bn A & SH.

The "tribal" headgear of the glengary was worn.

The unit was officially wearing the badge of the the Highland Brigade, an administrative formation, at this time, but Lt Col Mitchell discarded the unpopular & uninspired "Crucified Moose" badge of the Brigade in favour of the Argyll's own regimental badge as displayed here - because of its large size known to the rest of the army as "the mess tin".

Lt Col Mitchell, driving a Land Rover with 2 of his men - he & the man on the right as viewed are wearing the Argyll's badge, the man on the left is wearing the badge of the Highland Brigade & so presumably has lost his regimental badge.

A young regiment in British infantry terms, it was due shortly to be disbanded, but with the public interest in the 1st Bn Argyll's exploits in Aden & it's charismatic Commanding Officer Lt Colonel Colin Mitchell, a "Save The Argylls" campaign featuring heavily in the media.

The regiment survived unamalgamated for over 3 more decades, until merged into the new Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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