'Mad Mitch' was hard man who took some uncomfortable decisions in Aden based on an accurate reading of the situation. He paid for being right in his eventual disappearance from the Army , politics and general public knowledge.
He saved the lives of British soldier and Aden residents by his actions ... and was castigated for it. Now where has that happened before ......... and since?!!!
Only controversial if you write for the Grauniad or BBC. He and his battalion were creditably health-and-safety conscious and mindful of the full range of environmental, diversity and equality issues which were their first priority on operations in Crater. It would be scandalous of the BBC to claim otherwise.
When you send an army in to control an area, don't expect them to be hugging hoodies. 200 serving soldiers where murdered across Aden, some of whom where killed in Crater, dragged around the streets and then mutilated - what was the response of the brass? To pull out and start NEGOTIATING with the murderers to come back in quietly.
'Mad Mitch' did the right thing. As anyone will be able to find out - the only thing that gains the respect of most arabs is a strong man/leader who doesn't fcuk around. Mad Mitch and his men showed them how it should have been done, and he succeeded to sort out a situation where the enemy where attempting to show the weakness of British forces, and by pulling out, the brass had further proved it.
The same thing is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan - where we show weakness they walk all over us, but where we show courage, daring and fighting ability; they back off a bit. The local populations will side with the winner, NOT the ones that show meekness and walk away.
I was up in Bahrain at the time but was called down to Aden when it got hot. Mitch did what was necessary at the time and place. The police revolt led to deaths of, I now think, some 18 soldiers in one incident when they were ambushed. Credability had to be restored to Crater. Accoridng to his radio man, Mitch pulled the leads off the Command radio when they queried his turning a fly the flag patrol into a fire power demo with live targets. I only spoke to him casually one time. He struck me as a man who knew full well what his actions would lead to on a personal level but he saw duty as superior.
Sadly my only memory of Mad Mitch, the Argylls and Aden is that (IIRC: I was very young) the Argylls were scheduled to be disbanded and on the back of his successes in Aden, he fought a bitter campaign to Save The Argylls, which led, as I was told, to the disbandment of the Durhams in their place.
Every time I drink from my DLI glass, I think of Mad Mitch.
Read his book 'Having Been a Soldier'. I read it about 6 months ago and the comparisons with the likes of Bob Stewart and Tim Collins are quite eerie - a Battalion Co gaining a reputation on Ops, getting a press following, being successful on Ops and then being briefed against, stabbed in the back and retiring early.
Here's a link which explains the Argyll's time in Aden for those that are interested:
He's just plain anti and was honing this skill while young Blair was in short trousers. He was critical of the Argyll's in the 60's and then in the 80's he created a sh@t storm following HMS Conqueror sinking the Belgrano and countless other incidents in between and up to the present.
Edited to add:
He completed his National Service with the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1952 - as an ordinary trooper, after failing his officer training.
There was an excellent series by the BBC called Empire Warriors which had an episode on this called "Aden - Mad Mitch and his Tribal Law". Superb, footage, reconstruction as well as commentary and interviews with veterans.