SAS Secret War

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  • Author:
    Major General Tony Jeapes
    SAS SECRET WAR, Operation Storm in the Middle East. In 1970 the SAS were called in to support the Sultan of Oman’s armed forces in their bitter struggle against a communist backed insurrection. This is the gripping story of the men and squadrons of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, the first full SAS squadron in the region. Written by the man who commanded that unit and who successfully raised the first bands of Dohfari irregulars to fight for the Sultan, this revelatory account provides a unique and personal insight in to what was to become one of the most sucsseful counter insurgency campaigns of the twentieth century.

    Major General Tony Jeapes first wrote this book in 1980 whilst he was a colonel and since then it has had at least four re incarnations this one being in 2016. I only mention this because this secret war is no longer a secret in the military world, the battle of Mirbat in particular entering Army legend and folk lore. In brief the British government supported and assisted a coup in Oman as the then Sultan was unable to grasp the situation of a Yemeni conspired communist incursion into his county the British thought that if Oman fell they would lose a vital port in the area and other states might fall in a domino effect, Harold Wilson in particular was keen to keep the action secret so that the Americans could not use it as a lever to coerce great Britain to enter the Vietnam war. Consequently much of the British populace are still unaware of the campaign unless they watch you tube and buy military books.

    I have personally recently seen a front page article from a newspaper from 1970 stating in general that the SAS were basically taking a holiday at the tax payer’s expense and were just cutting about in their distinctive land rovers when not sunbathing . I Para phrase but the intent of the piece was to create a smokescreen on the SAS activities. The irregulars trained by and fighting with the SAS were called Firqats the enemy the Adoo. Alongside the SAS were the SAF, Sultans Auxiliary Forces trained and commanded by British officers who ‘retired ‘ from the army but were paid by the British government and went back to their units after the four year war. After many skirmishes and battles the war was finally won and the only outstanding business even now some 40 years later is the need to recognise the bravery of the SAS by awarding the Victoria Cross posthumously to one of the regiment.

    It’s not my role here to take you through the war but rather to critique the book. It is of course an outstanding commentary of the conflict and is probably the finest written about the SAS in this campaign and a definite recollection of the battle of Mirbat. That said it is a lazy book, it’s been published many times now overtaken by you tube, filmed documentaries and many many books on this war. After all this time I am sure that Tony with all of his contacts and connections could update it with released government documents, personal interviews and anecdotes. Here are two for example, a supply officer saw that the Firqat were milling around in bare feet (as they had done so for thousands of years) he told the English troops that as a gesture of good will from HMG he would sort something out and asked for a list of all shoe sizes to be given to him. Once this was duly done of he went to source a consignment of footwear for the Firqat, returning a couple of week later with a truck full of boxes . The Firqat were very pleased to have this modern gift bestowed upon them but they had no idea what a BATA guttie was . Off on patrol they went wearing their brand new daps pride of the British gym only to return at the end of the week carring the shredded remains of this Indian made footwear.

    The SAF needed a replen of six inch mortar bombs which they indented for. At the appointed time they arrived and were quickly packed for an operation , the SAF were under fire and deployed their mortars ranged on pre recorded coordinates and the rounds were going everywhere but on the Adoo, luckily a couple of Jimpeys resolved the situation but the perplexing issue remained . Once back at base camp the mortars and round were taken to the ranges there all sorts of thing like removing propellant, adding propellant lowering the tubes, putting rocks under the tubes . One chap after a few days of this noting that the rounds were from India ( possibly the same bazaar from whence the BATA plimsolls came) called the supplies purchasing team to confirm that they were in fact for a six inch mortar and yes six rings of propellant was correct . Still the mortar team couldn’t hit a barn door with these rounds and one bright spark, for there is all ways one , called purchasing again to see if they could obtain the spec of an Indian six inch mortar. It was duly reported back that they were five inches longer than a British one ! Thus all the rounds were collected together in one big bang.

    A great book recommended if you have not read about this secret war before,but 3.5 mushrooms for being lazy desperately needs updating .
archer and Ancient_Hush_Puppy like this.

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  1. gam47
    I would doubt whether Gen Jeapes would be able to write a new version of the book, as he is 81 years old.

    It is not tired nor a lazy book, it is history recorded of events covered at that time by the Official Secrets Act by a CO. To revise it would see a totally new book written.

    Since by the time the BA became fully involved in 1972, the US war in SVN was virtually over, that the war was secret is incorrect. The meaning, the involvement of 22 SAS and SB Sections RM involved in the actual fighting was secret.

    UK serving officers (and SNCO's) were not "retired" and then reinstated, but, where in fact on normal Loan Service agreements. SOAF Contract Officers were a different story. A brother served 1 tour as the QM of the Northern Frontier Regt, and a 2nd as the Force Provost Marshal, both as a Loan Service Officer.

    The story of the BA in Oman during the Dhofar War years needs to be written, it not just loan service or TTs, but REs, RA, RAMC surgical units, RAF Regt, plus AAC with RAF loan service personnel (& ground crew).

    The story about Gym Shoes is utter C.R.A.P., the locals did not wander around in bare feet, the rock structure would soon tear feet apart. As with many in ME countries wore leather sandals (I currently wear the last of 3 pairs of such acquired in 1975). If you read Peter Twaites excellent book Muscat Command tells the story of footwear.

    The comment about Iranian SFs is obviously written without any knowledge of them, as with their Brigade in Dhofar totally useless"All the Shahs Men: The Imperial Iranian Brigade Group in the Dhofar War | Defence-In-Depth https://defenceindepth.co/2016/06/06/all-the-shahs-men-the-imperial-iranian-brigade-group-...
    Mackinlay
  2. Petardier
    Interestingly, most people seem to have forgotten or not known that the SAS were not the only SF there. The Iranian SF were also participating.
  3. sirbhp
    Looked at the photos but can't tell if it's six or eight rings of propellant. I have seen the mortar tables but to be honest I don't understand them at all. The Indian bombs were all blown up and haveI seen photos of that. In fact saw a whole album of it all from the small scale maps to the better New lager ones later. All heard that sas squirted petrol or lighter fluid down the tube to gain extra range. Can't say if it's true though.
  4. Jaeger
    Yes, do have a look at your notes please, because an 8 inch mortar would probably need a crane to load it! ;)
    Try 3 inch and you'll be in the ball-park at least, or 4.2in at most. And you wouldn't be putting rocks under the base-plate either by the way, or simply missing the target would be the least of your worries.
    Seriously, it's clear that the guys using the Mortar didn't have the correct ammunition tables for the ammunition they'd been given. It may well be that they were using an old British 3in mortar with Indian 3in ammo designed for a different barrel. Or possibly a Brit 81mm but using 3in. ammo, something that was quite common in the UK for training purposes right up until the 70's when they finally got rid of all the old 3in ammo from the early 60's. The different barrel lengthsis not implausible either.
  5. Jaeger
    "6 inch mortar" ? I think not, and the story around it is equally uninformed and implausible. The story about the BATA footwear seems totally pointless, and it is.

    Frankly, I don't know what to make of this nonsensical review.
    1. sirbhp
      sorry jaeger ,first hand gen , any errors are mine, might have been the 8 inch mortar need to check my notes . . the idea behind the story's was just to show some of the off beat incidents during the campaign together with the perennial supplies problems. there are available many more personal story to enliven the . After 30 odd years how about interviewing some Adoo and SAF as well as Retired Regiment chaps . it's the definitive book , just a bit tired . Thanks for your response .
      sirbhp, Jul 1, 2016