Fury of Adens forgotten soldiers

oldbaldy

LE
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#1
BRITISH veterans of a vicious colonial war have condemned the Government for ignoring their sacrifice as the 40th anniversary of the end of the conflict approaches.

As many as 200 British troops died in the 'Aden Emergency' but the Government has not organised any official events to mark the withdrawal of UK forces on November 27, 1967.

A group of former servicemen who battled insurgents in the colony - now part of Yemen - have organised their own commemoration on Tuesday and last night described the lack of Government involvement as a "disgrace".

A battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders made national headlines as they battled to restore order in Aden. The unit's gung-ho commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Mitchell - dubbed Mad Mitch by the media - became a national hero.

Many veterans believe they and their late commander have been ignored because of widespread claims - rejected by an army board of inquiry - that British forces committed atrocities, as well as concern in Government circles about the parallels between Aden and recent operations in Iraq.

The row over the Aden anniversary comes at a particularly bad time for relations between ministers and the military.

Last week, five former military chiefs attacked the Government for "neglecting" today's troops.

Britain established a colony in the Arabian Sea port of Aden in 1838. The UK had a long-term plan to pull out in 1968, handing over power to a newly created Federation of South Arabia. But in 1963, Egyptian-backed Marxists began a battle for the territory.

Brian Bryson, the Scottish representative of the Aden Veterans' Association, said: "What we're looking for is recognition; that people should know what we did and the fact that we lost guys there.

"Everyone knows about the Great War and the Second World War, as they should, and the Falklands. But people forget the small wars. Those who fought in Korea, Malaysia, Kenya, they all went through a lot. It's wrong - a disgrace."

Richard Waddell, who was in Aden with 45 Commando, the Royal Marines, said: "You say you were in Aden and people ask you where that is. But at the time it was very important. We were trying to keep the Russians out."

When Mitchell and his battalion returned from the Middle East, he was conspicuously not awarded an OBE or a Distinguished Service Order.

Malcolm McVittie, who was then a second lieutenant, said: "The lack of an award was rather petty. There are many Arab people alive today in Crater who wouldn't have been but for us being tough."

Former MP Tam Dalyell criticised the Aden operation in the Commons at the time. He said last night: "This idea that going in and killing people would be effective, it was just recruiting more for the insurgents. What would we do if our kith and kin were being arrested or killed by a foreign army?"

Khaled Alyemany, the deputy Yemeni ambassador, told Scotland on Sunday: "What happened is a part of our history and we do not forget how people suffered on all sides. But we are now focusing on the future in our relations with the United Kingdom, and we value the relationship very much.

"We should be careful about judging history. The imperial time was a part of our past, but the suffering of the British veterans is also a part of the collateral damage of that time."

A MoD spokeswoman said: "We don't do 40th anniversaries. We do 25th and 50th and 60th, but not the 40th."

In the firing line: the life of maverick 'Mad Mitch'

Colin Campbell Mitchell was born in London to Scottish parents and rose through the ranks to become an officer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1944.

After being wounded at the Battle of Monte Cassino, Mitchell went on to serve in Palestine, Korea, Cyprus and Borneo, and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the run-up to deployment in Aden. It was there he found fame when, in July 1967, he and his men marched into the Crater sector of Aden with pipes playing to occupy a town that had fallen to rebels. He had his unit's Land Rovers' roofs removed and replaced with large machine guns to give the impression that his men were "looking for trouble".

The move worked, the town was taken with one alleged terrorist killed and no British lives lost. But the strong-arm "Argyll Law" tactics caused controversy and led to claims that the soldiers were out of control amid allegations of arbitrary arrest and torture. Questions were asked in the House of Commons. Mitchell, in turn, dubbed the approach of his senior commanders "wet hen tactics".

The near-fluent Arabic-speaker was dubbed "Mad Mitch" for his high-profile actions, but many in the UK regarded him as the "Hero of Aden". After returning, he was conspicuously not given an honour, and left the army to move into politics as a Tory MP.

In 1989, Mitchell helped found the Halo Trust, which still works on mine clearing across the world. He died in 1996.
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1849802007
 
#2
I hear what’s being said, but fair comment ”A MoD spokeswoman said: "We don't do 40th anniversaries. We do 25th and 50th and 60th, but not the 40th." – no?

And, ”former servicemen who battled insurgents in the colony”, there you go, ”colony. So, cue the PC bleeding heart do-gooder brigade to despoil any commemoration. :x

No.9
 

Auld-Yin

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#3
For those of you in Scotland there is a programme on Monday 26 November 2007 on BBC 2 Scotland at 2000 hrs called "Mad Mitch and the last battle of The British Empire"

Should be worth a watch.
 
#4
But Not forgotten on the fringes of the keeni meeni world :wink:
 
#5
An iconic conflict, most of which passed without my being aware of it (due to being a sprog) and very bloody and vicious. Mad Mitch was ahead of his time in many respects, which did not sit well with certain parts of society.

Despite that it is abhorrent that any conflict should be forgotten, and the argument for not holding a 40th anniversay is weak. Anno Domini persists, and many will not see the 50th, ergo, have a 40th and damn the lot of them.

As has been noted, Aden was the birthplace of keenie meenie tactics that have served 'them' well ever since, and aside from the A&SH, I know that 1 Para also served there, as of course did all the usual suspects, the support arms, RAF and a host of others.
 
#6
No.9 said:
I hear what’s being said, but fair comment ”A MoD spokeswoman said: "We don't do 40th anniversaries. We do 25th and 50th and 60th, but not the 40th." – no?

And, ”former servicemen who battled insurgents in the colony”, there you go, ”colony. So, cue the PC bleeding heart do-gooder brigade to despoil any commemoration. :x

No.9
Never knew it was a colony,was always refered to as the Aden Protectorate,or Protectorate of Aden when I was going in and out of there,initially a Coaling station for ships,going to and from India,and naval vessels lurking in the area. :wink:
 
#7
The Aden Vets asso had a get together last September up at the Norbreck Castle hotel Blackpool.

On the Sunday there was a service at the town's war memorial supported by a contingent from the RLC Port Regiment. Not a big contingent but there was about 12 of them.

I am not a member and only know cos a mucker of mine serves with the Port Regt and was in the guard. A band was also in attendance but didn't take much notice so cannot remember which one it was.

Not sure if they went through official MOD channels for this support or if it was done on the old boys network.
 
#8
And what official commemoration was there at the 25th anniversary?

A lot of units served in Aden, remember the Nothumberland Fus lost 18 men (IIRC) in a morning when the police mutinied.

There were really two campaigns, Aden itself and the Radfan. In the latter you know it gets serious when a gunner offr is awarded a MC for defence of his battery gun position. Then there were the sapper regts under continuous fire for months on end while they built the road up the escarpment.
 
#9
I was looking at the the Casualties on the Cyprus Emergency, and some 300 men were killed in 1956 alone, yet this never gets a mention.
 
#10
KOSB Aden and Radfan veterans plan on holding a reunion in the near future. Anyone interested call HHQ KOSB at Berwick.
 
#11
whenever I have mentioned Aden at work I get blank stares and the comment "where's that then?" Still fond memories of the Argyles in Plymouth and the NAAFI club (now offices)
 
#12
”Never knew it was a colony, was always refered to as the Aden Protectorate”

There was Colonial territory and Protectorate territory. The smaller area of Aden port was the colony and the much larger surrounding ‘buffer zone’ was, by treaty, ruled by native warlords under British protection.

There’s a straight forward summary at Britain’s Small Wars. Often a useful resource.


”The Aden Vets asso had a get together last September up at the Norbreck Castle hotel Blackpool.”

Yeah, ‘ard b’stards in that Assoc. :wink: :lol:

No.9
 
#13
dartmoor said:
whenever I have mentioned Aden at work I get blank stares and the comment "where's that then?" Still fond memories of the Argyles in Plymouth and the NAAFI club (now offices)
I know how you feel, mate. I live in Oz these days, and the geographical explanation gets a bit tortuous at times. But I never shrink from it - I owe it to my four 1 PWO mates who didn't come back home with us. We did a full tour Sep 65 - Sep 66, then went back as Spearhead battalion in Jun 67 to support the Argylls (good bunch of lads, and hard as nails.) The treatment of Mad Mitch by the Establishment was shabby. The guy made the mistake of thinking & acting like a soldier instead of like an arrse-covering civil servant.

Cheers,
Cliff.
 

cpunk

LE
Moderator
#14
CliSwe said:
dartmoor said:
whenever I have mentioned Aden at work I get blank stares and the comment "where's that then?" Still fond memories of the Argyles in Plymouth and the NAAFI club (now offices)
I know how you feel, mate. I live in Oz these days, and the geographical explanation gets a bit tortuous at times. But I never shrink from it - I owe it to my four 1 PWO mates who didn't come back home with us. We did a full tour Sep 65 - Sep 66, then went back as Spearhead battalion in Jun 67 to support the Argylls (good bunch of lads, and hard as nails.) The treatment of Mad Mitch by the Establishment was shabby. The guy made the mistake of thinking & acting like a soldier instead of like an arrse-covering civil servant.

Cheers,
Cliff.
I served with 1 PWO in the mid-80's and there were still a few old and bold in the battalion who'd been on those tours: good guys and good soldiers.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#15
I served there for 18 months, until the very end. I did stints with a 'Training Team' at a place called Al Anad, the most god-forsaken piece of dung anywhere, and also did stints at 'Cap Badge' and 'Rice Bowl'. I worked out of 24 Bde in Littel Aden.
The great majority of people I have come across have never heard of the damned place. At the time we used to say that if God was to give the world an enema, Aden is where he would stick the tube!
Two clasps for GSM. And a bloody horrible day in Silent Valley!
 
#17
I lived in Aden as a pad brat. First night in Khormaksa (sp) the married pads were mortared.
The locally recruited sentry was pretty good. Except when he was praying which was frequently. We were there when the Argylls did the business in Crater. Kid brother was in a car with family coming back from beach when got hit by grenade thrown by wog. No one seriously injured fortunately. Happy times. If the family was in funds then the fixed price buffet in the Rock Hotel (on the twentieth floor) was great. I remember 1 PARA, and the Fusilers. Also KOSB - up country I think. Plus assorted commandos and SF. The recce was 13th / 18th. The guys deserve something. It was a very seedy empire episode.
 

oldbaldy

LE
Moderator
#18
Now a Beeb prgramme on it, BBC 2 Scotland 2000hrs tonight:
A new BBC documentary has re-examined the legacy of a controversial Scottish soldier who was dubbed "Mad Mitch" for his tough methods.

Lt Col Colin Mitchell became a national hero when he led his Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders back into the Crater area of Aden in July 1967.

The British army had earlier pulled out of the district after 24 soldiers were killed by insurgents.

But Mitchell's reputation has been tarnished by allegations of brutality.

Aden, in what is now Yemen, had for more than 100 years been Britain's only Arab colony - but its rule was coming to an end amid an armed uprising by nationalists.

Scottish regiments were sent to keep the peace in what became known as the Aden Emergency.

In the summer of 1967 the local police mutinied and killed 24 British troops, including three Argylls. The bodies of the dead soldiers were dragged through the streets and mutilated.

Mitchell was horrified by the decision to withdraw British forces from Crater as a result of the killings, and by the failure of the army to recover the bodies of the dead soldiers ,which he viewed as a betrayal of those who had died.

On the night of 3 July 1967, while senior officers wanted to negotiate a peaceful return to Crater, Mitchell and his men, accompanied by 15 regimental pipers blaring out Scotland the Brave, reoccupied the Crater.

The district of about 80,000 people was retaken with hardly a shot fired.

Mitchell, who always considered himself Scottish despite being born and raised in London, later used his controversial concept of Argyll Law to maintain order.

The strong arm tactics endeared the brusque Mitchell to the British media and public and was credited with helping to avoid the security breakdown that was happening elsewhere in Aden.

Allegations of abuse

But it did little to endear him to the local population in Crater - or to his superiors in the army and High Commission, with one official describing the Argylls as a "bunch of Glasgow thugs."

Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked in parliament whether Mitchell had disobeyed orders by re-entering Crater.

Allegations of abuse and mistreatment soon followed.

Leading Yemeni lawyer Sheik Tariq Abdullah recalled: "They [The Argylls] were very rough. They tried to show as much restraint as possible but in general during that period you would find most of the people complaining."

But Mitchell firmly believed Argyll Law was the only way of tackling the insurgents, who left 200 British soldiers dead across Aden.

He said at the time: "I have no compunction in saying that if some chap starts throwing grenades or starts using pistols, we shall kill him."

Speaking few years before his death in 1996, Mitchell remained unapologetic.

"A great many Arabs are alive today because we used these methods and a great many Argylls are alive today because we used them," he said.

"This to me is the complete exoneration of anything, if we needed exonerating, which we don't and never have done."

By the time the British withdrew completely from Aden in November 1967, Mitchell had clashed with the army high command once too often.

On his return home to Britain, it was made clear there was no room in the army for Mad Mitch.

He resigned from the military in 1968, before taking up a prominent role in the Save the Argylls campaign and eventually winning the Aberdeenshire West seat in parliament for the Conservatives in the 1970 General Election.

But his brief career as a politician last only four years, and was dogged by his frequent criticism of the army top brass.

He became involved in a failed business venture before the next 10 years were spent in unsuccessful attempts to get back into Parliament, with the one-time darling of the British public finding himself an increasingly marginalised figure.

His final years saw him take on a leading role with the Halo Trust, a non-profit organisation which removed mines from former war zones.

Maj Alastair Howman, who served alongside Mitchell in Aden, said the Argylls had nothing to apologise for on the 40th anniversary of the withdrawal from Aden.

The end of British rule left a power vacuum which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in the decades of civil war that resulted.

But Maj Howman accused today's politicians of failing to learn the lessons of the Aden Emergency.

He said: "Crater was run on Argyll Law and that is perfectly sensible because there wasn't any other law.

"Once somebody declares what date they are going leave a situation it is fraught with danger for the people who are there.

"That happened in Aden and it seems to certainly be happening in Iraq. I don't think politicians ever really learn this lesson. I don't think they read their history books."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7111303.stm
 
#20
The BBC did a news report marking the 30th anniversary in 1997, with archive footage.

However if they mark it this year, they will undoubtably make conparisions with Iraq (It has sand too).


Edited to add, when I joined in the early Nineties, my dear old Nan, asked me worriedly, if I would be going to Aden. (Not realising no-one was stationed there.)
 

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