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
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 .