27th January 1964


Book Reviewer
Mods please move this if you think it's in the wrong place.

On the above date an RAF pilot from 78 Squadron flying a Twin Pioneer in the Oman war medevac'd four badly wounded soldiers to be eventually delivered to the RAF Hospital at Steamer Point in Aden. I ask if anybody knows if they survived their injuries as the pilot is terminally ill and has not long to live. He is anxious to know and can't rest until he can find out.

It was one of those missions where the rule book was ripped up and thrown out of the window, in fact, from what is written he expected to be court martialed and all the rest of it. If anybody knows anything, Agatha (screen name) on pprune.org posted in the military aviation section would like to hear from you. She is a RAFA caseworker and will be visiting him on the 25th so time is very short.
Copy and paste of something I've just put over on Pprune following a spot of googli, etc:

I've gone through the National Roll of Honour, plus the Aden Veterans' site roll of honour and one published in a 50th anniversary magazine for the same organisation; the Radfan campaign, is, of course, covered under their auspices. There are slight differences - I've taken the National one as definitive, using the others for service numbers which can be searched.

The following emerges:

1. No soldiers died at the end of Jan 64.
2. There are no deaths in February or March which might be men dying of their wounds
3. There is one death in April (Cpl Malcolm Davies, R Signals), where the circumstances of the death aren't easy to find online (not least as some sources put his death as May rather than the official record of 3 April) but the casualty is buried in what's now Yemen. Evidence from a death in October 64 suggests that repatriation to the UK of serious casualties took place, which makes me think that a two month gap between this death and the evacuation makes it less likely that this was one of the soldiers evacuated, although not impossible.
4. Only one death in May 64, Lance Corporal Wakefield of the RAOC, cannot be immediately attributed to an incident on the day of his death.
5. In June, Lt Handfield-Jones, RE was killed amd laid to rest in the Silent Valley cemetery. Again, one suspects that this is not related to the January incident.
6. Sapper David Asquith died in July, and again, the circumstances of his death have so far eluded an online search.
7. There are no deaths in August or September which could relate to the January evacuation.
8. There is one death in October, Bombardier Chapman, where the circumstances surrounding his death - like Lt Handfield -Jones and Spr Asquith - cannot easily be located searching online. S/Sgt Bourne died in the UK of wounds sustained earlier in the year.
9. From November & December, only Driver Smith (RASC) and Cpl Slater (R Sigs) could possibly fit (I've not had the chance to search for more detail yet, and shan't until tomorrow, I fear).

This is an imperfect piece of research. But it's a start. I would suggest that the evidence so far means that there is an high probability that if the four soliders were British (rather than Aden Protectorate Levies/ the FRA), the rescue effort saw them survive 1964 at the very least. Further research (the old fashioned way, using books) may allow the removal of some or all of the above names who might have died later as a result of injuries, and if anyone gets to Kew (which doesn't open until Tuesday), then the records from the hospital are likely to give the answer in due course. But for Tuesday, I'd say that the chances are that the evacuation did save those recovered, and certainly ensured that they lived for some time afterwards.​

Obviously, nowhere near as good as finding the names of those evacuated and/or records of their time in hospital at Steamer Point, but hopefully starts narrowing things down. If anyone can find out if the currently unknown (to me) causes of death for the ones who might have died of wounds some time after the incidents in which they were injured, this would increase the chances of the pilot being able to go knowing that the men he rescued lived for at leadt another year. That all becomes moot if they were FRA, of course.
This is really for info for Achemedes, just to help out a bit with your missing info
Cpl Slater died in a grenade incident in Maala
There was a second fatality but cannot recall if ithe name was Dvr Smith (edit; no, dates don't match and I'm not 100% certain now about the 2nd Cas although I've always thought there was, poss RAF.*
S/Sgt Bourne died of wounds ( unsurvivable burns) as you say, after his Ferret scout car was blown up by a mine. Spr Asquith may have died in the same incident.
Bdr Chapman died from accidental discharge from a LMG
Cpl Davies was in a vehicle blown up by a mine while serving with the Federal Regular Army.

Edit: Yes there was, SAC Hugh Murdoch.
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Operations in January 1964 (Operation Nutcracker) would have been carried out by Federal Regular Army troops with support from British elements (Gunners, RE and so forth) so it's likely any battle casualties would have been FRA. As such, the casualties may well have been taken to Khormaksar Beach Hospital instead of Steamer Point (both hospitals were RAF)
It was not a large operation, though not un-typical of frontier type policing from the days of the Raj. It was a few months before the Radfan Campaign started.

Looking up Nutcracker, I chanced upon this film - I don't recall it being on ARRSE before but it does give a good background to the operation and the accompanying notes are pretty detailed on the background to the situation that prevailed up country.
I would however raise an eyebrow of the footage purporting to show the RAF Regiment fending off an attack by dissident tribesmen !
Operation Nutcraker
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This is my concern - unless the chap is clear that the casualties were British, it seems likely that the story could go cold without more time for research, which it sounds as though the poor chap doesn't have.

Which is still no reason for not trying to find out.
Perhaps it's best just to say something like 'all British servicemen survived' and leave the old boy happy
More digging - looks like (and someone on Pprune has used the same source) the soliders were FRA, rather than British.

However, it looks as though the figures for FRA fatalities would be higher than stated in the sources I've looked at if all of them died of their wounds. I'm reasonably confident that at least one of them lived, and quite possibly more.
Further digging suggests to me that the answer to the question is that one of the evacuated men definitely survived; that it's overwhelmingly likely (from the given cas figures for the period in question) that two of them did and highly likely that all four of them did. Without access to the records, we can't be sure, but if the above suppositions are incorrect, several authors will need to revise their work on the Radfan operations to get the casualty figures correct...
I wonder if there are any copies of the magazine of the FRA, 'The Gambia' still surviving in UK archives?
Mmmm. Good question.

An update from the caseworker [whom, it turns out, I actually know reasonably well] has appeared on Pprune, and it appears that the work so far to find the answer, while it's far from definitive, has brought the pilot a bit of comfort.


Book Reviewer
Agatha the case worker who posted on pprune has reported that Mr Buick has today passed away at peace, she sends her thanks for everything, everybody has done.

RiP Sir.

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