1st Battalion

The Argyll and Sutherland

Highlanders

 

 

Aden 1967

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Training for Aden

The battalion began Internal Security training in Plymouth after return from Easter leave on 29th March 1967. The earlier training before Easter had been designed to bring the Battalion up to a high level of conventional military professionalism. After Easter, the training was slanted directly at Aden. Major Compton-Bishop, who had been the MIO in Aden, gave the Battalion a general briefing. Five officers attended courses at No. 1 MTU at Gosport. The experience of officers and NCO's who had served in Aden was utilised to the full.  Seaton Barracks was turned into a miniature Crater to get the location of buildings into perspective. Exercises nicknamed "Crater Crisis" were the climax of the IS framing, and took place in May. Every possible incident and combination of incidents that could be thought of occurred. There were road blocks, cordons, rooftop piquets and snap searches. There were Armed Police, Sultans with bodyguards and local Arabs, both male and female. The Plymouth Fire Brigade was called in to deal with a burning car on "Holkat Bay Road" (The Battalion square).   There was a United Nations Observer, complaining of alleged brutality (!), and there were journalists.  Unfortunately, on Exercise Crater Crisis I, there was also a gale and driving rain. But. it was difficult, even allowing for the weather, to realise one was in Plymouth. The B.B.C. and National Press gave wide publicity to this unique training and the enthusiasm of the Battalion. Acclimatisation threatened to be a more difficult problem.  We were due to arrive in Aden at the hottest and most humid time of the year. Fortunately, the bulk of the Battalion had recently returned from the Far East. Most important, we had an excellent and very experienced PT Staff, who managed to get the Battalion standard of physical fitness to a very high level. We were undoubtedly helped by knowing the extent of our general task in Aden. But no-one could foresee The Mutiny of the 20th of June, or the subsequent necessity of re-occupying Crater. This was where the battalion’s training really demonstrated its value. The re-occupation of Crater began only four days after the last plane of the Main Body touched down at RAF Khormaksar.

 

 The Advance Party Move

After several attempts, largely due to uncertainty over the Arab/Israel war, the Advance Party left Gatwick in a VC10 on the 7th June. It consisted of 127 all ranks, led by the Commanding Officer, and contained all the Company Commanders and a large proportion of the Platoon Commanders. It was very much a "First Eleven" Advance Party. On arrival in Aden, the Advance Party paired off with their opposite numbers in the 5th Fusiliers. The Commanding Officer insisted on a reasonable amount, of swimming and relaxation, as the important thing was to have a fresh and acclimatised body of leaders ready for the arrival of the Main Body. By the 20th of June, the Advance Party was well briefed and ready to go. As the first plane-load of the Main Body was in the process of emplaning at Gatwick, we learnt that something tragic had happened in Aden..

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Background to 20th June

On 1st June, 1967, the Federal Regular Army (Five Battalions) and the Federal National Guard (Four Battalions) were amalgamated to form the new South Arabian Army. Their Headquarters were in Seederseer Lines and their Training Depot at Lake Lines. The other two para-military forces in Aden were the Federal. National Guard 2 (a loosely knit force of tribal police based in Champion Lines) and the Armed Police (based on the Armed Police Barracks in Crater). Both these forces were recruited from up-country tribesmen. The civil police remained unchanged during the military reorganisation. The Senior Arab Officer of the new South Arabian Army was not acceptable to the other Senior Officers of the Force. In addition the influx of the FNG 1 into the Armv produced a tribal imbalance in the ranks of the Senior Officers, a balance which had been carefully maintained before amalgamation. This caused eleven Senior Officers to present a petition to the British Commander of the Army and the Federal Supreme Council. As a result of the petition four Senior Colonels were suspended pending an investigation. This caused grave dissatisfaction throughout the Army and in the early morning of the 20th of June 1967, the Apprentice School at, Lake Lines mutinied and burnt down some buildings. This mutiny reverberated throughout the Army, but was put down without loss of life by the Army authorities themselves. The suspended Colonels were immediately reinstated by the Supreme Council. Meanwhile in Champion Lines, the Training Depot and HQ of FNG 2, interfactional fighting had broken out and the Armoury was broken open. Thus armed, the FNG went berserk, shooting at each other and firing out of the camp over Khormaksar Airfield and over the main road into Radfan Camp which contained elements of three British Battalions. At the height of the trouble the FNG cruelly ambushed a British Royal Corps of Transport truck returning from the rifle range, killing all eight occupants. As the situation was out of control the Supreme Council requested British Army assistance and a Company of the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment moved in to subdue the mutineers.

            The Armed Police in Crater, whose morale had been low for some time and who were known to have been infiltrated by terrorist organisations, hearing

that British troops were attacking Champion Lines, got out of control. It is not certain whether they thought that the 5th Fusilier Company Recce Party of which (Major Malcolm, Private Hunter and Private Moores were part) were coming to attack them, or they were reacting to the bad news of the Arab/Israeli war and the subsequent anti-British feeling prevailing at the time. The point remains that they fired on the two open Land Rovers and massacred the occupants.

 

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The Events

At 1200 hrs on the 20th of June, the whole of Aden went on to the emergency State Red. The 5th Fusiliers were ordered to hold itself in readiness at Marine Drive, one of the two routes into Crater. Y Company were in position by 1210 hrs. Shortly afterwards, OC Y Company, Major J. Moncur, ordered a platoon to carry out a mobile reconnaissance of the main routes into Crater. This was done, but wireless contact was lost and Major Moncur went to investigate, and try to re-establish communications.  Behind his vehicle was the Land-rover with Major Malcolm, Private Hunter and Private Moores. The two vehicles were ambushed at the junction of Armed Police Road, and Queen Arwa Road. All the occupants were killed, with the exception of Fusilier Storey, and both vehicles set on fire.

Three attempts were made by Armoured Cars of the Queens Dragoon Guards and platoons of the 5th Fusiliers to retrieve the bodies, but all were beaten back by extremely heavy and accurate fire from both rifles and automatic weapons. At 1600 hrs, an amnesty was arranged, and an ambulance went in to collect the bodies.  It came under fire from the Barracks, and withdrew having only collected Fusilier Storey. The 5th Fusiliers were ordered not to re-enter Crater again, as it was considered that a full scale attack, supported by armour would now be necessary. This would inevitably cause heavy casualties, and the Federal Government might well have collapsed completely. At 2200 hrs on 21st June, the Armed Police arranged the evacuation of the bodies of nine British soldiers, and, at 0700 hrs the following morning of a further three from the Roman Catholic School in Crater.

      

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An Intolerable Situation

The Armed Police Mutiny could not have happened at a worse time. The changeover of Battalions, affecting a ten day period, thwarted any positive action until early July.  FLOSY and NLF flags flew over Crater, and arms were being openly distributed. The roadblocks, at the Marine Drive and Main Pass routes into Crater, were being sniped at with monotonous regularity, particularly in the period just before last light. The observation posts on the high volcanic rim surrounding three sides of Crater were being fired on by snipers with rifles, automatics, and rockets. The Commanding Officer assumed responsibility for Crater on 25th June. At that time, the 5th Fusiliers were holding a company position at the Marine Drive entrance, and 45 Commando Royal Marines a similar position on the Main Pass. B Company, the first company to become operational, were ordered to extend the OP line along the High Mansouri ridge, and at the same time permission was sought to patrol in depth into Crater. The Commander Aden Brigade, was about to go on leave, but first approved a plan, with minor modifications, which the Commanding Officer had drawn up for the re-occupation of Crater. This plan was subsequently amended at a conference with the GOC, but in essence remained a. plan to enter by Marine Drive and establish the battalion by phases in the Business and Banking Sector, then exploit to the Crater Police Station and form up in the Central and Southern parts of the town with a view to a move northwards towards the Armed Police Barracks. At this point it should be remembered that informed official opinion was of the view that a re-occupation of Crater would probably result in a bloodbath, will the Armed Police openly joining the terrorist organisations against the Security Forces.

            Over the course of the week from 25th June to 2nd July, the Battalion retained the Marine Drive position and at night carried out reconnaissance patrolling.

Lieutenants Grahams, Neilson, Clark, and Watson commanded these on various occasions, and Lieutenant Baty took the Reconnaissance Platoon into the formal edge in strength. These patrols convinced the Commanding Officer that the opposition was not organised in any proper military fashion on the periphery of the town.

 

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If anyone can put names to faces with companies, dates and locations. Please e-mail with page name, row number and picture letter to

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Source -  RHQ Argylls and Thin Red Line Magazines

 

Aden Pictures

 

More Aden Pictures

 

Even More Aden Pictures

 

 Re-entry into Crater 

 

Aden Reunion Parade 1997

 

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Updated: 21 June 2013