Infantry Assistance From Outside Aden
BY MAJOR D. STOPFORD, KING'S OWN ROYAL BORDER REGIMENT
Printed in The Infantryman No 84 November 1968
feature of the
The first company detached from the King's Own Border Regiment was under command of 3 R Anglian, who were in the main dealing with a traditional pattern of urban terrorism. Incidents were simple, with isolated acts of violence such as mining, blindicide rocket attack or the omnipresent grenade throwing at ten shillings a time for the Arab grenadier. Counter-measures were equally traditional involving crowd dispersal, presence patrols, cordon and search operations, manning static check points, providing route protection and setting up ambushes.
But this pattern
changed dramatically with the visit to
However, the lull in terrorist activity was only temporary and a new series of attacks broke out during the period of handover between 3 R Anglian and 1 Para. In one grenade attack six members of a King's Own Border platoon were wounded, one, unfortunately, losing his leg as a result. The platoon sergeant, although himself wounded in more than 50 places, was awarded the Military Medal for his handling of this incident. This new phase of activity reached a climax on the lst June when the companies operating in Sheikh Othman were attacked some 34 times, mainly by automatic and rifle fire.
The police mutiny of the 20th June has been described elsewhere so that all that need be said here is that the company played its full part in the episode. One soldier was killed and 11 wounded, and the company commander subsequently received the Military Cross.
After this, our
main role was concerned with covering the withdrawal of the garrison, during which time
the terrorists continued their progressive course of trying to break up British rule, law
and order. That they were determined to drive us from Sheikh Othman was illustrated
clearly during the three days from l0th to l2th August when the King's Own Border Company
By this stage the terrorists were becoming markedly more professional, which is borne out by one particular incident during this weekend. A mobile patrol was lured by a suspect civilian vehicle into the centre of Sheikh Othman. The vehicle was then rapidly abandoned leaving the investigating patrol in a narrow street exposed to cross fire from six automatic weapons, two of which were in the back of a civilian truck. This truck moved into several firing positions before being destroyed by a half troop of armoured cars of the Queen's Own Hussars. The ambush resulted in the death and two of the woundings mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
On the withdrawal
of our forces from Sheikh Othman on 24th September, when the South Arabian Army assumed
operational responsibility, 1 Para occupied the Pennine Chain defensive line, covering
Khormaksar Airfield from the North. Thus began a defensive phase of operations lasting, so
far as the attached company was concerned, until early October when it left 1 Para and
came under command of 42 Commando for operations in the Tawahi and Steamer Point areas.
Throughout this period the NLF and FLOSY were fighting each other to gain overall power in
final operations the company assumed operational responsibility for the Steamer Point
area, including the British Diplomatic Mission, from 42 Commando until the South Arabian
Army took over in its turn shortly before the moment of final withdrawal. The company then
moved by Wessex Helicopters of 848 Squadron RN to rejoin 42 Commando as reserve on the
Pennine Chain. Whilst there, it had the privilege of providing the Army element of the
Tri-Service Guard of Honour for the departure of the High Commissioner, Sir Humphrey
Trevelyan, from Aden. Fortunately the final withdrawal was peaceful and the company, as
part of 42 Commando, was the last British Army unit to withdraw from
retrospect, it can never be easy for a unit to absorb an unknown company from another area
during a period of operations. That this was possible without breaking the tight cycle of
operational duties is ample testimony to the infantry brick system of reinforcements and
the flexibility of the British Infantry and the Royal Marine Commandos. Each company was
made to feel both at home and part of the parent unit very rapidly. This welcoming
attitude was much appreciated by the officers and men concerned. That such a blending was
possible over the whole range of six attachments with units of such differing backgrounds
speaks well for the British Military system. All infantry units in