Anniversary of The Battle of Mirbat, 1972

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#1
Battle of Mirbat


The Battle of Mirbat took place on 19 July 1972 during the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman, which was supported by Communist guerrillas from South Yemen. Britain assisted the Omani government by sending elements of its Special Air Service both to train soldiers and compete against the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG) guerrillas for the "hearts and minds" of the Omani people.

The Battle saw 9 SAS soldiers led by Captain Mike Kealy fight off over 300 insurgents with the loss of two of those men and one seriously wounded. Although Kealy was awarded a DSO, the real hero of Mir at, SSgt Labalaba was only awarded a mention in despatches!

Labalaba, aged 30, was shot dead whilst firing a 25-pounder gun at the attacking guerrilla forces. He displayed notable bravery by continuing to fire the 25 pounder single handed in spite of being seriously wounded when a bullet hit him on the jaw, after his Omani loader was seriously wounded early in the battle. Captain Mike Kealy and fellow troopers Tommy Tobin and Sekonaia Takavesi ran a gauntlet of enemy fire but arrived too late to save Labalaba. Both the troopers were also hit, Takavesi was wounded in the back and Tobin was killed when a round crept through the sand-bagged walls and hit him in the face. Labalaba's actions helped to keep the insurgents pinned down until Strikemaster jets of the SOAF arrived to drive back the attackers while reinforcements from Salalah could be organised.

Fellow SAS trooper Roger Cole in his book of the battle, SAS: Operation Storm, paid tribute to Labalaba saying if the guerrilla force had taken the 25-pounder then the SAS would have surely lost the battle.

Labalaba was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches for his actions in the Battle of Mirbat, although some of his former comrades have campaigned for him to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. His body was returned to England and buried in the cemetery at St Martin's Church, Hereford.
 
#2
As an aside, and I can't remember where I read this, but Labalaba supposedly foretold of his death at Mirbat. When flying over the town he allegedly told another that that was where he would be killed. Whatever the truth of that there was no denying he was one heroic figure with his handling of the 25 pounder single-handedly while badly injured. I think he deserved more than an MID.
 
#3
As an aside, and I can't remember where I read this, but Labalaba supposedly foretold of his death at Mirbat. When flying over the town he allegedly told another that that was where he would be killed. Whatever the truth of that there was no denying he was one heroic figure with his handling of the 25 pounder single-handedly while badly injured. I think he deserved more than an MID.
He was originally posted somewhere else, and he was told his prediction was wrong. Then things got shuffled and he was sent to Mirbat. Apparently, he went without a grumble.

Legend.
 

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