I dedicate this book to four good friends who were murdered by terrorists in
Aden in the final months before the British withdrawal in 1967.
Captain Jeff Jefferson
Mr Derek Rose
Mrs Judy Stuart
Mrs Ruth Wilkes
This is the fourth part of my Memoirs and relates to my two years in
Aden between May 1965 and June 1967. This was the time when the
British Government’s efforts to create a peaceful independent democracy in
South Arabia collapsed, and, as Private Secretary to the High Commissioner,
I watched from a seat in the stalls the tragedy as it unfolded. The final act that
occurred soon after my departure was our ignominious evacuation in the midst
of a civil war. The curtain fell on chaos: it was a wretched, unhappy affair when
many British lives were lost, including those of some of my friends.
Having previously worked in East Africa, I spoke no Arabic and knew little
about South Arabia before my arrival, but my job enabled me to hear the views
of many experienced officials working there at that time. So, although my story
must contain many gaps and errors, I hope I understood enough to be able to
offer here a reasonably accurate account of this disaster to British policy.
The first three chapters of this Memoir describe the situation in Aden State
and the surrounding Protectorates when I first went there. The next three
chapters record the political developments of those two years of which I was to
a greater or lesser extent a witness.
These years not only provided me with a fascinating job, but were the period
in which I met and married Joan, and we enjoyed some months of married life
together before we had to come home unexpectedly early. Those happy times,
our leisure and social life in Aden, and holidays in Kenya are reported in the
following two chapters.
In the final chapter I bring the sad story to a close. Only at this stage do I
allow myself to look back with the benefit of hindsight to offer a few comments
about the events of which I had been an observer.
My memory of those days has faded badly, and in writing this account I
have relied almost entirely on diaries, letters and reports written on the spot. I
have been fortunate in being able to check a few key facts by reference to books
already published about this period. Their titles appear in the short bibliography
at the end of this memoir and I gladly acknowledge my debt to their authors
whose works I have much enjoyed reading again.
Aden had its own jargon, and inevitably my writing is peppered with the
abbreviations, acronyms and so on that we used all the time there. The reader is referred to the glossary along the side for their explanation.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the help and encouragement I have
received in writing these Memoirs from my dear Joan who has once more
patiently read every word, from Sue Key who has continued to be a great help in
correcting my grammar and making sense of the writing, and from my godson,
Michael March who has given me much good advice on the presentation. I
am also grateful once again to Ben for the first class artwork and, most of all,
to Matthew for overseeing the whole project with cheerful forbearance and
great efficiency. The errors and solecisms that remain despite all this help are of
course my responsibility.
Tavistock, May 2016
Chapter 1: Steamer Point
‘Cold voices whisper and say
“He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia,
They have stolen his wits away.”’
From the poem, Arabia by Walter de la Mare.
The High Commissioner
Was Sir Richard Turnbull the man to bring Aden and South Arabia to
peaceful independence? Not long after his appointment as High Commissioner
for Aden and South Arabia in January 1965, he wrote to me from his Henley
Thank you for the Aden congratulations. The job does, I confess, look a shade
rough from this end, but things are never quite so daunting when one gets close to
Friends in Dar es Salaam, where I was then working, commented that this
was one of his customary gross understatements. The term ‘poisoned chalice’
was much on their lips, but we all hoped that he would succeed in this fresh
challenge as he had done so successfully in Tanganyika.
I had been his ADC there two years previously, but it was a surprise to be
invited to join him in the new enterprise. He appointed me his Private Secretary,
and on Monday, 10th May, I enjoyed a happy send-off from all the family at
Heathrow and flew out to Aden overnight, nervous about what awaited me on
My plane touched down at six forty-five in the morning at the big air base
at Khormaksar. Even at that early hour, long before the sun had risen, Aden
was very warm. I stumbled on to the tarmac to be met at the foot of the plane’s
steps by a smart young man in his mid-twenties in slacks and shirt-sleeves.
He cheerfully introduced himself as Jeremy Rawlins, the ADC, and after
brief formalities he ushered me into an official car. We sped through lines of
high-rise flats in Ma’alla and on, through rows of shops and offices round the Crescent and down the peninsula of Steamer Point where we climbed the hill
to Government House (GH). I was shown into a large, airy, luxurious bedroom
in the guest wing, given breakfast on my balcony, and left to unpack.
Everything in Aden was new to me and everyone was a new face, save only
Sir Richard and Lady Turnbull. They greeted me kindly that first morning
when I joined them for lunch in a small dining room in their private first-floor
flat in the far corner of GH. Sir Richard (whom we always knew simply as HE)
was as tall, lean and gaunt as I remembered him, and his towering personality
and sharp intelligence were as evident as ever. He still managed to combine a
love of conversation with an innate shyness and an austere, reserved manner.
He remained an entertaining talker, eager to display the breadth and brilliance
of his knowledge, with more than a touch of intellectual arrogance. He had
of course retained his rugged sense of humour and his caustic outlook, still
relishing a few choice swear words and taking pleasure in shocking his audience
with exaggerated language. In Aden he seemed at times to cultivate a veneer
of cynicism which may have given the impression of indifference, but I had
discovered that below the surface he was always intensely interested in his work
and had a deep sense of duty.
Beatrice Turnbull (Lady T), whom I had first met in the Dar es Salaam
hospital, seemed fully recovered from her back troubles. A large lady of generous
proportions, she shared something of Sir Richard’s reserve and dry humour but
always treated us on the GH staff with easy civility and a kindly twinkle in
her eye. She undoubtedly hated the searing Aden heat but was once more to
earn my respect for the manner in which she tactfully eased the burden on her
husband while quietly overseeing the management of GH and at the same time
performing the duties of First Lady in the colony with authority and much
When I was shown round, I was delighted to find HE was fostering his
reputation for eccentricity. The antique horn gramophone that had graced
Dar es Salaam Government House had been left at their Henley home, but
he was still passionate about Scottish dancing despite the stifling hot evenings,
and even more enthusiastic about early morning hill climbing. Better still, the
Turnbulls had brought out from home the fat Bengal Grey parrot called Kisuku
whom I had met when visiting there. It had a huge, wire mesh cage on the
GH balcony overlooking the Purdah Garden, and HE told his guests proudly
that he was teaching the bird the Lord’s Prayer and the General Confession -
Almighty and most merciful Father; we have erred and strayed from thy ways like
lost parrots - as well as a couple of obscenities to frighten the ladies.
I was utterly bewildered on arriving at the Aden GH and went about those
first few days in a complete daze, but HE broke me in slowly, explaining
things patiently, making things easy in the office, introducing me to masses
of people — whose names I promptly forgot — and helping me understand
the papers and files which became my charge as the High Commissioner’s
Before my arrival I had known little about Aden and still less about my
work. I had been ADC in the next-door office to Dick Clifford when he had
done the job in the Dar es Salaam Government House, but he had never shared
his work with me and I had seldom seen what he did. When appointing me, the
Ministry of Overseas Development had sent me eleven pages of Conditions of
Service and several more pages of a contract (basic salary £1,875 per annum),
but told me nothing about the place or the work I was to do. The Colonial
Office had merely advised me to learn Arabic. My only other briefing had been
in HE’s letters. For example, in March on inviting me to serve him as Private
Secretary, he had written:
The staff consists of an ADC (efficient), a personal secretary (good) and a second
ADC (a wee boy straight from school). I have to write every single letter myself, and as most of my time is spent wooing the Ministers of the two thoroughly antagonistic
governments that function in Aden, not much gets done.
The weather here is most agreeable, but there are signs of a change and they say
that by May the heat will be on.
We suffer a couple of grenades a night and once or twice a month a small bazooka
bombardment of one of the offices. Not many people get hurt and the Arabs remain
As for Aden, my 1957 East Africa Guidebook had told me it was an important
trade and bunkering station visited by over 5,000 vessels a year with an annual
turnover of £100 million; BP had a big oil terminal there - the largest oilbunkering
port in the world at that time - and commerce prospered in the
duty-free port. I had visited the place a couple of times when my ship had
anchored in the harbour for a few hours on the way to or from the Far East
or East Africa, but nothing I had seen on those brief calls had attracted me
to the place. As a tourist I had cordially loathed the crowded shops along the
Crescent. I had thought Crater was a dirty, shabby town without attraction of
any sort – such a disappointing contrast to the romantic and exotic Zanzibar.
Indeed I was ready to share the opinion of Vita Sackville West when she wrote
of Aden as an arid salty hell…. precisely the most repulsive corner of the world, and
I readily recognised the view of James Morris that at first sight Aden strikes most
newcomers as unmistakably the most repellent city they have ever set eyes on.
At Cambridge my course on The Expansion of Europe had covered the
nineteenth century history of the place. I had read how, on behalf of the
Bombay Presidency of the East India Company, Commander Stafford Haines
had purchased the little fishing village of Aden from Sultan Marsan of Lahej for
an annual stipend of 8,700 dollars. It had been a matter of mutual convenience:
the Sultan had preferred the British to the Egyptians, and the East India
Company had needed a coaling station on the route from the Cape of Good
Hope. I knew that Haines had then to fight the Sultan’s son for possession of
the peninsula, and had gone on to sign treaties of protection with the tribal
rulers who occupied the untamed interior beyond Lahej. The opening of the
Suez Canal had greatly enhanced Aden’s importance as a coaling station on the
way to the East, but Haines’ successors had always had problems in protecting
the harbour and keeping peace with the tribes.
The only books I had read about the area had been Melchior and The Uneven
Road by Lord Belhaven, a fine writer and a gallant adventurer. Between the wars
he had attempted to bring peace and security to the remote, scattered tribes in
the mountains that had known only tyranny, banditry and blood feuds. He wrote of the wildness of the country, the belligerence of the tribes and the
poverty of the people, but not a great deal about the urbanised inhabitants of
the port itself.
More recently I had read in the papers how our troops had fought the tough
Radfan Campaign against a barbaric enemy in order to keep open the road
to the mountainous hinterland; and I was acutely aware that Sir Kennedy
Trevaskis, the previous High Commissioner, had only just escaped with his
life when a grenade had been thrown at him at the airport in October 1963. A
senior official had been killed in the tragic incident that had marked the start of
a terrorist campaign against troops and civilians alike.
A description of the job of Private Secretary that I found myself doing in
Aden appears in Appendix 1 A brief explanation of
the geography of Government House, as I knew it, appears in the following
paragraph, but may be skipped by readers who find that sort of thing boring.
Built in the early 1950s, GH sat on the hilltop above Steamer Point and
commanded the entrance to the harbour. The imposing, white-painted mansion
had been constructed on the rocky promontory in a shallow V pointing out to
sea. Every window of the two long wings commanded wide views over the
shimmering Indian Ocean and across the bay to the jagged volcanic skyline
of the Little Aden Peninsula. On the landward side, at the point of the V,
tall wrought iron and glass doors led into an impressive, high entrance hall
with a broad winding staircase. From the hall, wide doors opened on the right
into a spacious reception room and beyond into a big dining room designed
for entertainment on a grand scale. Above this wing was a set of luxurious
bedrooms, including the recently-decorated Princess Alexandra Suite, all with
delightful, airy balconies looking over the sea.
Doors on the left of the entrance hall led into a long verandah running
along beside the High Commissioner’s office. This was a big room with a goodsized
desk and a conference table, which could seat twelve or more, while the
secretarial staff worked in adjacent offices behind the hall. Above them was the
High Commissioner’s private flat with the open balcony that housed Kisuku,
a convenient kitchen, and comfortable dining and sitting rooms opening on to
another long balcony overlooking the bay. Outside the offices was the Purdah
Garden, a very private and well-watered garden of shrubbery and fountains. A
couple of decorative peacocks strutted and squawked there, and the Turnbulls
enjoyed it for a stroll from time to time away from the hustle and the heat.
On the seaward side of the house, a long line of French windows opened
on to a broad terrace. Along its length the arches of a pergola were decorated
with scarlet and yellow bougainvillaea and a rambling sky-blue morning
glory. Below them steps led down to massed clumps of white oleander which
fluttered in the sea breezes and hid the bare cliff-tops that faced the sea. The
channel into Aden harbour was only a few hundred yards away, where liners
and freighters sailed serenely past on their way in and out of the anchorage.
On the landward side of GH, opposite the mighty front doors and across
a wide courtyard, lay a line of offices and staff flats. On the extreme left, as
one stood with one’s back to the front door, was the housekeeper’s flat and
office, while the ADC’s quarters were on the right, next to the GH telephone
exchange. Beyond were the office in which excellent staff looked after our
finances and several rooms for our drivers.
To the right of the front doors, past the Purdah Garden, a short drive led
to our main gates. Beside them, within our compound, was a set of temporary
wooden offices occupied by two separate teams. One was the Security
Secretariat, and the other was the slightly mysterious Foreign Office public
The whole garden and grounds were enclosed by a high wire fence topped
with vicious barbed wire, with sentry boxes at the gates and look-out posts at
strategic points, even down on the rocks covering the sea approaches to the
house. For the High Commissioner’s safety, the army provided a platoon of footsoldiers
to man our front gates and look-out posts day and night throughout
the time I was there. The Army looked after the High Commissioner without
complaint and with very few hiccups.
As time went by, however, and as the risk seemed to increase, I took it upon
myself to try and improve the protection of all of us in GH. On my first flight
up-country with HE, the London papers reported that our plane had been
blown up. In fact it was too well guarded by the RAF for anyone to get near it,
but a Dakota which carried mail had been parked unguarded all morning near
by and was damaged by a hand grenade thrown over the barbed wire.
It was then I made up my mind to make a fuss. I spoke in turn to the Police
Commissioner, senior army men and contacts in Whitehall and got them all to
think more practically about the High Commissioner’s personal safety. With
much help from my colleagues, the number of guards at Steamer Point was
increased, security lights were checked, barbed wire round our compound improved, and precautions were reviewed and redoubled for HE’s trips outside
the wire. Still not satisfied, I asked London to provide a personal bodyguard,
and agitated for an armour-plated car because of the terrorists’ habit of mining
the roads and shooting at passing traffic. Happily everyone at home agreed the
need for a bodyguard and Scotland Yard was duly approached, while a Colonial
Office official scoured England for a suitable bulletproof vehicle for us. None
could be found at that time, but fortunately the search became redundant when
the RAF agreed to make a helicopter available for HE’s use for local journeys,
which was both a quicker and safer mode of travel.
The Aide de Camp
Let me here introduce the men and women working at GH on my arrival,
my colleagues who soon became my friends.
A few years out of Sandhurst, commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment,
Captain Jeremy Rawlins was the ADC. He was slim with an athlete’s build,
always pleasant and cheerful, willing to try his hand at anything, and efficient
in a military way. A handsome saluki dog shared his office, and seemed happy
enough even though it had lost a leg in some accident. Jeremy was seldom there,
however. If not accompanying HE on an outside trip, he was out and about the
house, grounds and garages; and he enjoyed a hectic social life although I have
no idea how he fitted it in with his GH duties. His office was a mess, as mine
had been in Dar es Salaam, full of lists, scribbled phone numbers, diaries, dates
and memos, with drivers and other staff constantly in and out.
At first I relied heavily on Jeremy for help with everything I did, and
he looked after me in my early days while also looking after HE. He never
grumbled that I took some of the more interesting parts of the job away from
him, or that I became his boss for certain purposes. Perhaps our relations were
occasionally a little tense, but for the most part we got on very well together and
formed a strong team in support of the Turnbulls.
One reason for Jeremy’s pleasure at my coming was of course that it enabled
him to take a break and some leave in the UK. That June, he flew back in an
RAF plane for two weeks’ leave and to collect the Turnbull’s heavy baggage. I
found myself working closely with HE then, doing the ADC’s work as well as
my own at a time when there was still much to learn.
Eliane Stefanides was a Greek lady of middle age and much charm with a
sweet and gentle nature. She had been born and brought up in the cosmopolitan
community of Alexandria, and married Takis, a ginning engineer of the Abyan
Cotton Scheme - a big development project some way up the coast eastwards
from Aden. When he had died suddenly and sadly and left her at a loose end,
Lady Trevaskis, wife of the previous High Commissioner, had engaged Eliane
to run GH. Her fluent Arabic enabled her to organise the house and kitchens
with ability and much practical sense. She was expert with the needle, and
the sitting room upstairs above her office was a pretty and peaceful haven. I
used to seek refuge there from the bustle of my office for a few minutes’ quiet
conversation or a cool refreshing drink, and I like to think we became good
Despite all the efforts of Eliane and Lady Turnbull, however, the local
staff of the Aden GH were never as good as those whom I had known in Dar
es Salaam. The standard of their service in Aden was lower, and we were all
obliged to watch their work carefully and constantly check their performance.
The Personal Secretaries
In the early days I was given a desk in the same office as HE’s two first-class
secretaries and the filing clerk – a key role when HE frequently and urgently
wanted last week’s telegrams or last month’s reports. I benefited hugely from the
opportunity to see and learn the way in which this experienced team worked,
how letters and papers were prepared from HE’s drafts, how the mail came in
and went out, and how the records were kept.
Kathleen Poole was the elder of the PAs and a neat, put-together person of
some seniority in her profession. She had a formidable reputation for efficiency
- her previous service in 10 Downing Street during the war was whispered with
awe – she knew it all, but, though quiet and reserved by nature, she was always
friendly and easy with me, even when we were under extreme pressure.
Soon after I arrived, Kathleen disappeared for a few weeks on home leave,
and I found myself working with Barbara Garrett who was a different sort of
person, but just as helpful and good to me. Barbara was almost as experienced
as Kathleen, and quite as competent and effective in her secretarial duties, but
a little younger, friendlier and warmer, and a great talker when time allowed.
The Switchboard Operators
Another important team at GH comprised the ladies in our telephone
exchange that was situated next door to the ADC’s office, across the courtyard.
Half a dozen married women took it in turns to run the switchboard on which
we relied for all our contacts with the rest of Aden and beyond. The team was
often obliged to work hard and for long hours when other folk were enjoying
the beach or an evening meal. Ruth Wilkes, Judy Stuart and Betty Ellis were
the three ladies I knew best, but they were all invariably cheerful and game for
a friendly cup of tea and a chat when they had a spare moment.
Chapter 2: The Crown Colony
‘Be’old a cloud upon the beam,
An’ umped above the sea appears
Old Aden, like a barrick-stove
That no one’s lit for years an’ years.’
From For to Admire: by Rudyard Kipling.
Aden State comprised the peninsula towns of Aden and Crater, the
suburban district to the north called Sheikh Othman, and Little Aden
across the bay where the BP Oil Refinery lay. This area was a Crown Colony
but had achieved self-determination in earlier years and had its own elected
government with full powers to regulate its internal affairs. It could therefore
claim to be a ‘State’ in it’s own right, although the High Commissioner was the
Queen’s representative and had the last word on matters of security and external
Here, on the side of the angels, as it were, working under and in support
of HE to bring peaceful independence to the little colony were five elements:
the High Commission, the Foreign Office, the Police, the armed services, and
business. On the other side, creating the problems that required resolution
were the people of Aden and their leaders, the indigenous authorities in Aden
State, the Aden Trade Union Congress (ATUC), the political parties, and the
terrorists, notably the National Liberation Front (NLF). Let me look at each in
The High Commission
In Aden, GH’s most important links were with the High Commission. During
my first week in the office, I went down to their offices on a day when HE happened
to be away, and spent the morning meeting his closest advisers and staff there. They
worked in the old Secretariat buildings that had been built many years earlier in the
colonial style, with deep verandahs and cool internal courtyards, situated on the sea
front in Tawahi between Steamer Point and the shopping district.
I paid my respects to Tom Oates, the Deputy High Commissioner - a huge,
shy man with a face like an owl, often to be found poring over papers at his desk.
Everybody liked Tom and he was held to be an excellent, totally dependable
deputy who ensured things ran smoothly and the necessary paperwork was
dealt with expeditiously and correctly. He was, however, by nature a quiet man
who preferred an evening at home with his opera records to a GH dinner party
- and who’s to blame him?
At Tom’s request, I agreed to take my turn among High Commission
members as the ‘Duty Officer’. This meant being on the end of the phone for
one twenty-four hour period every fortnight or so, to relay urgent messages and
reports from the police or military to officials concerned, including HE and
Next door to Tom’s office, I was delighted to find a face I recognised from
Tanganyika. Tony Lee had been DC, Morogoro only a couple of years earlier
where I had also been stationed for a while. He was a giant of a man, with a
cheerful, laid-back outlook and a wry grin. I had always admired his lovely
wife, Thelma, always laughing, and a generous and cheery hostess, and was
delighted to be invited meet her again a few days later at their big, comfortable
flat in Ma’alla, sometimes laughingly called the ‘Garden City’, where they lived
with their grown-up daughter, Jane, who was going out with a police inspector.
Tony was responsible at the High Commission for security matters among
other things, and I was to see a great deal of him later in his official capacity as
well as socially. Meanwhile he showed me round the High Commission’s half
dozen offices and introduced me to his immediate colleagues. Hugh Hickling
was their erudite and affable Legal Adviser. Austen Jackson did their finances,
married to Cecilia living in a big flat opposite mine with two grown-up children
who came out to stay during the university vacations. Leslie Wink was another
member of the High Commission senior team who was a warm-hearted and
affable fellow to whom I took immediately. He enjoyed masses of outside
interests, and was married to the equally warm and capable Pam.
After much friendly chat, I was passed on to a man called Sandy Stuart,
styled the Security Liaison Officer (SLO), in a suite of offices tucked away
behind locked doors with files and safes full of secrets. Sandy was another easy,
friendly fellow, married to Judy whom I already knew at the GH telephone
exchange. I decided it would be easy to get on with the High Commission
officers who were all likeable and competent operators.
I was later to meet three other senior men with their own areas of
responsibility, whose views and advice HE had always to take into account in his calculations. Most significant in his independent role was the Chief Justice,
Sir Richard Le Gallais. He lived in style on the Tarshyne hill next to Tom Oates,
and fought strenuously to keep the Judiciary independent of the Executive and
the courts free of political interference. Another key man was Alan Macdonald,
the Head of the Public Services Commission, and the third was Nigel Pusinelli,
the Director of Establishments, responsible for European staff matters. Nigel
and his deputy dealt with all the personal problems of the High Commission
staff, handled negotiations with the Aden Civil Servants Trade Association, and
played a major role in preserving staff morale despite the often depressing and
dangerous life led by many of my colleagues.
The Foreign Office
I rapidly discovered that although the High Commissioner reported to the
Colonial Secretary in London, the Foreign Office was strongly represented in
Aden. Their key man was Donal Macarthy, to whom I had been commended
by Robert Fowler his opposite number in Dar es Salaam. Don was sometimes
simply described as ‘Political Adviser to the C-in-C’, and, at other times,
shown as a member of the High Commission staff, and throughout wielded
considerable authority as the Foreign Secretary’s man in South Arabia with a
network of diplomatic links across the Arab-speaking world. Don’s delightful
wife, Rosanna, entertained frequently; and they made a friendly and hospitable
Later on, another senior diplomat, John Wilton, joined the team. He was
of ambassador status, was made a Deputy High Commissioner and became
a valued adviser of HE. John had been Director of the influential Arabiclanguage
school in Beirut known as MECAS, and had even wider experience
of the Middle East, with contacts far beyond our frontiers.
John Da Silva was another old hand and highly experienced diplomat who
seemed to know everyone and operated at the heart of a spider’s web that
reached into every nook and cranny of South Arabia - and indeed of the Yemen,
on which he was particularly knowledgeable. He spent a great deal of time
briefing HE and the military chiefs together, and often slipped in to our offices
quietly in the evenings. A member of his office whom I got to know well was
Tony Ingledow, who was a tall nervy chap with great guts living a dangerous
life in the shadows.
Another FO operation was run from one of the wooden huts within our
compound. In charge was Tony Ashworth who, with masses of varied experience,
headed their Research Centre in an ill-defined role for under-cover contacts and public relations; he, too, spent a good deal of time with HE. We saw a lot of
Tony and his wife, Margaret who were another delightful and hospitable pair.
Tony was supported by two young men of my age: David Ledger was easygoing,
out-going and very perceptive, and Derek Rose was tall, slim, mildly
ascetic and scholarly. Both were thoroughly nice men who worked hard,
beavered away in their huts, liaised closely with the broadcasting service and
Arabic press, and knew a great deal about the place and the local people among
whom they had many contacts. Though I never fully understood what they
were doing with their time, I always enjoyed a social chat and a drink with
them after hours.
The Aden Police Force
At much the same time as I came on the scene, an experienced colonial
policeman named Peter Owen arrived to take up the post of Commissioner of
Police. The Deputy Commissioner was Hamid Khan, and together they led a
small team of well-trained Colonial Police, with barracks, police stations and
posts in the populated areas of Crater and Aden town itself. An excellent man
named Hilary Colville-Stewart had charge of the police force in the town, and
his men on the beat seemed to do their job of traffic control and the like with
reasonable efficiency. The Special Branch was run by a man called Bob Waggitt,
with Harry Barrie as his Deputy, who had together created a good but highly
vulnerable intelligence network. With strong leadership the police seemed to do
their normal job well, but they were all targets for the terrorists to intimidate,
threaten and cow, and the police force was becoming by the time of my arrival
increasingly unreliable in controlling violence on the streets.
At times, every other person I met seemed to be ‘in intelligence’, and to have
their own ‘source’ of information about the ‘opposition’. Yet, sadly, all too often
these sources dried up, and nothing that the numerous intelligence agencies
could do seemed able to prevent the steady escalation of violence, terrorism and
murder on the streets of Aden.
The Armed Services
Aden was the home of Middle East Command (MEC), and the CinC at
HQMEC with oversight of the three arms was Lieutenant General Sir Charles
Harington. His key man, the Chief of Staff, was a tall gangling Brigadier
named ‘Roly’ Gibbs who had won both an MC and a DSO.
The army was in the charge of the GOC, Major General John Willoughby.
He too had much experience of fighting, and was much decorated. He had fought in the retreat to Dunkirk, had served with the Middlesex Regiment
in the some of the toughest battles in Korea, and was widely respected for his
leadership in the difficult counter-insurgency fighting in Aden. He was well
supported by Brigadier Charles Dunbar as his Chief of Staff.
The RAF was led by the AOC, Air Vice Marshal ‘Johnny’ Johnson, a wellknown
Battle of Britain ace, who was succeeded not longer after my arrival by
Air Vice Marshal Humphreys, with Air Commodore Sowrey as the Senior Air
Staff Officer. The Royal Navy in Aden was headed by an Admiral known as
Flag Officer Middle East (FOME). All these gentlemen and their immediate
supporters and advisors were constantly in and out of HE’s office, and I was
privileged to get to know them well as the months passed.
The RAF was responsible for the administration of all the armed services’
facilities throughout Aden. They ran the big military and civilian airport at
Khormaksar in the neck of our peninsula, with its Hawker Hunters and Wessex
helicopters, and the adjacent base, which included a medical centre, cinema,
NAAFI, offices and shops as well as single and married service quarters.
The RAF also ran the whole MEC headquarters that lay in the foothills of
Jebel Shamsan, lying across the valley from us in GH and sprawling over the
lower slopes of the mountain. The most prominent building there was the
Queen Elizabeth Hospital which lay at the heart of a complex of offices and
other amenities. Behind and above them on a high spur known as Flagstaff Hill
lived the CinC and his family in a comfortable, old-fashioned, colonial bungalow.
Higher up still were the homes of the GOC and the AOC in similar style, and
below near the beach was a rather odd circular house occupied by the FOME. I
rather think the Navy had built it for him out of an old gun emplacement.
Another of the RAF’s charges was the big compound we called Steamer
Point. It embraced a collection of military offices and quarters running from
the main road along the valley up the hill to Government House. Steamer Point
had its own parade ground on the level (known as the Maidan) and enclosed
the Officers’ Club down by the beach. The Club provided not only a pleasant
bar and refreshments for those swimming off their sands, but also showed
new films in the open air after dark - an escape that the Turnbulls frequently
enjoyed. The whole area was surrounded by barbed wire, and army sentinels
stood at the bottom gates. Group Captain Ness was in charge of the base and
I had a certain amount to do with him as his men effectively controlled access
to Government House.
Many of HE’s contacts with the military were channelled through the
Security Secretariat that was housed in a wooden shack within the GH gates. While its official function was to administer the top-level Security Policy
Committee chaired by HE, the Secretariat had an important broader purpose.
This was to bring together all the scattered departments and senior people in
the armed services in Aden and provide them with a direct link to the High
Commissioner. Thus my job brought me into frequent contact with the army
officer who ran this little Secretariat. On my arrival he was Julian Paget, a
colonel in the Coldstream Guards, succeeded later in the year by Jim Trousdell
from an Irish regiment. Both men were immensely competent and good
company who made our contacts a pleasure, and we became good friends as
we worked together to provide effective communication between our masters.
The two biggest employers in Aden were BP and the Port Authority. BP
ran the oil refinery and terminal at Little Aden across the bay and the Aden
Port Authority managed the port and employed the strongly unionised dock
labour force. In addition to these giant operators, British banks and trading
companies were strongly represented in this important tax-free entrepot; and
Aden Airways, a subsidiary of BOAC, was influential because it ran the sole
local airline upon which commercial contact with the up-country and eastern
Indian and European merchants and traders were well established in Aden,
having accumulated wealth over generations. One of the most respected was
Besse and Co directed by Tony Besse, son of Sir Anton Besse, founder of an
Oxford College, and pre-war friend of the great explorer, Freya Stark. Of him
she wrote in the early 1930s; He is a Merchant in the style of the Arabian Nights
or the Renaissance; all day long telegrams come to him from India, America, China,
Yemen, Africa, Europe. His own ships go steaming about these coasts and his agents
are everywhere… At the crossroads of East and West, North and South, Aden
in its heyday must have been a flourishing and prosperous port and centre of
In the 1960s, all Aden’s commercial and business concerns were represented
by the Confederation of Aden Employers, which vainly sought economic
stability and peaceful relations with their labour force. The High Commission
had an effective Labour Department under Max Sutton to support commerce
and industry in the town and provide a link between HE and the Confederation’s
members. Business leaders, notably from the Port and BP, were frequently in
touch, seeking reassurance that the High Commission was doing all it could to
provide a friendly business environment.
Aden was a cosmopolitan and urban society with an educated elite and politically
alert middle class. Below them was a large, restless impoverished population.
The oldest inhabitants were fishermen and small-time traders, and many newer
residents were immigrants from the Yemen working at the docks and the refinery.
Although still a Crown Colony for which HE was ultimately responsible, his
predecessors had given Aden self-government and a great deal of autonomy. Six
thousand of the better-off permanent residents elected members of a Legislative
Assembly that chose its own Council of Ministers with powers to regulate all
internal affairs. Sir Arthur Charles was the eminent Speaker of this Assembly,
and the key figure was its Chief Minister selected from within the Assembly
membership. The highly-respected Hassan Bayoomi had held the position for
some time and died a couple of years before my arrival. His successor had been
another moderate and constructive Adeni politician named Zein Baharoon, but
he had resigned in a tiff three months before my arrival.
HE had accepted his resignation and in accordance with the constitution
had appointed in his place as Chief Minister the person having the most support
among the Council. One possibility had been Hussein Ali Bayoomi, brother of
the former Chief Minister, but apparently the Council’s preference had been
for Abdul Qawi Mackawee. He was frequently at GH in my early days, and I
found him to be an affable and courteous man with a quiet manner when I used
to welcome him to our offices. He was, however, totally, rigidly and fiercely
opposed to the continuance of British rule. He would not condemn terrorism,
and saw no purpose in any link between his urban electorate and the inland
tribal peoples. He was thus permanently at loggerheads with HE and must have
hated his frequent summons to GH as he dodged and evaded all HE’s vain
efforts to find common ground and agree a way forward.
Mackawee behaved perfectly correctly with me, but he did not get on with
the sentries at the gates to Steamer Point. I regret I heard that on one occasion he
had been required at gun point by the Geordie soldiers guarding the compound
to leave his official car in the road and have his brief-case checked with the
admonition, Coom oop! Ali Baba!
The Aden Council of Ministers was fortunate to have a small, well-run and
effective Secretariat. The Chief Secretary was a former Tanganyika District
Commissioner named Robin Thorne, a modest and gentle man who had served
in Masailand for some years before transferring to Aden. Robin handled the
little state’s affairs with cool efficiency. I had never met him in East Africa, but
grew to admire him immensely in Aden. He worked with a good finance team, was supported by a well-qualified legal adviser in Michael Maloney, and had
competent Deputies in Jock Snell and Mr Luqman.
The Aden Trades Union Congress (ATUC)
Aden had an active and strong trade union movement, which organised the
workers at the oil refinery, in the docks and among the public services of the town.
Its leader was Al Asnag who had spent some time in England, and was believed by
members of the Labour Government to be a conciliatory and moderate politician.
He was thus seen by the Cabinet at home as an essential element in the future
constitutional settlement, capable of mobilising the town’s workforce in favour
of a democratic settlement. The High Commission was obliged to keep in touch
with him and bring him into constitutional discussions, therefore, even though
his Union was an unrepresentative and undemocratic organisation, and he showed
in Aden his true colours as an old-style revolutionary firebrand.
In the 1950s the South Arabian League (SAL) had been active as a nationalist
political party with the support of some of the Sultans and the Saudi Arabians.
It faded in the mid 1960s and presented no problems to the High Commission.
With Al Asnag, however, it spawned a body called the Organisation for the
Liberation of the Occupied South (OLOS) for a few further years.
Al Asnag and his union movement were also understood to be behind the
foundation of the People’s Socialist Party (PSP) that was publicly committed to
achieve the unity of all parts of the Yemen, the early expulsion of the British from
South Arabia and self-determination on socialist lines. PSP candidates had fought
the elections to the Aden National Assembly on a platform of confrontation
with the colonial power, and party members seemed to have formed most of the
Council of Ministers, including the Chief Minister.
It had been the PSP that had lobbied the UN Committee on Decolonisation
and had secured a General Assembly Resolution in 1963 reflecting the party’s
objectives of immediate independence for ‘South Yemen’. Among other things,
the UN Committee had declared the Federal Government to be unrepresentative
and said that the UK’s responsibilities as administering power could not be shifted
or circumvented through action by an ‘unrepresentative regime’.
To HE’s irritation, Al Asnag and Mackawee constantly quoted this Resolution
to him, publically as well as privately, in order to reinforce their demands for
immediate independence and their refusal to negotiate with HMG or deal with
During my time in Aden, while the propaganda of the parties undoubtedly
fired the mob, as a political force they were out-manoeuvred and overshadowed
by the more radical and belligerent NLF.
The National Liberation Front (NLF)
Formed as just one more nationalist political party only a year or two before
my arrival, the NLF shared the same policy objectives as the PSP, but swiftly
discarded any pretence of peaceful lobbying and turned itself into a military
organisation. It operated secretly, was very difficult to penetrate, and kept its
leadership hidden. Qahtan Al Shaabi was reported to lead it for a time but he
disappeared and later ended up in Cairo.
The NLF was in fact believed to have closer links with the Yemen than Egypt,
although the leaders of both countries did all they could to hasten the British
departure from the Middle East. Nasser had played an evil and dangerous game
in the Yemen through three years of civil war in order to replace the Imam
Yahya with an unstable regime under President Sallal. Nasser had then stationed
his troops on Yemen’s border with South Arabia, with the express purpose of
financing and training Yemeni guerrilla fighters to stir up trouble in Aden.
Thus the NLF became committed to unremitting violence against the colonial
power. Under its banner, terrorists planned and ran a campaign of violence,
intimidation, mayhem and murder of their Arab political opponents, the white
population of the city, its police and our soldiers seeking to keep the peace. The
terrorists used increasingly sophisticated weapons including bazookas, anti-tank
guns, mines, drain-pipe mortars and modern rifles, though mostly they preferred
the hand grenade to scatter death in crowded places and the pistol for their
Despite the assurances HE had given me in his letters, grenade attacks and
shooting in the streets were commonplace by the time of my arrival. Murders
were occurring with increasing frequency in the town. The schoolgirl daughter of
a senior RAF officer had been killed by a hand-grenade thrown into the midst of a
children’s party in Khormaksar. Not long afterwards, a senior policeman had been
machine-gunned in the street. More significantly, the NLF had begun a deliberate
policy of murdering members of the Special Branch and police informants in order
to cut off the supply of information to the police about their doings. Then, around
the time of my arrival they started to instigate wild-cat strikes and localised riots
to disrupt normal life and business in the town. They were a dangerous menace
that steadily expanded its evil influence and came to dominate – and distract - all
the Government’s thinking and planning for the handover of power.
Chapter 3: The Protectorates
‘Until the day breathes
And the shadows flee,
I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
And the hill of frankincense.’
From The Song of Solomon.
I grew to know and admire the Political Officers who worked up country
often in difficult and dangerous circumstances and I became friends with
many of those who served at their headquarters at Al Ittihad just outside Aden.
The senior men were frequently called to GH for discussions and we often met
socially among mutual friends in Aden.
To my great regret, however, I had little opportunity to travel outside Aden.
A few short safaris were possible in my first months; thereafter, as problems
compounded and work grew increasingly hectic, I was tied to my desk. On some
of those early trips my grasp of what was going on must have been superficial.
Generally, however, I think I saw and learned enough about the country to be
able to understand the way of life and the people’s outlook on the world in the
wild and rugged environment in which they lived.
The Western Aden Protectorate (WAP)
Twenty small states, ruled by sultans, emirs, sheikhs and sharifs,
comprised the inland and mostly mountainous western half of South
Arabia and the hinterland behind and beyond Aden port. I was never clear
of the pecking order among these rulers, although the Sultans generally
purported to be richer in land and people than the others self-styled rulers.
Over the years they had all signed solemn treaties with Queen Victoria’s
representatives. The British Government had renewed its undertakings in
1959, and reaffirmed its commitments to the South Arabian rulers in a 1964
White Paper. By these treaties, the rulers retained autonomy as regards the
internal affairs of their small realms, while HMG undertook to provide friendship and protection from outside incursion and rewards for their
Only in Lahej, on the plain close to Aden, was there any sort of administration
through an advisory council, state secretariat and law courts. Elsewhere the
tribal rulers did much as they liked, governing through extended family ties
and widespread clans. They reigned as feudal autocrats enforcing a rough justice
and measure of discipline with their private armies. They ruled tribes where
every able-bodied man shouldered a gun of some sort, slung a cartridge belt
across his chest and displayed a flashing, silver jambiya on his belt. My own
experience of the peoples of the interior was slight but I had the impression little
had changed since Harold Ingrams, the great pre-war administrator in South
Arabia wrote in Arabia and the Isles that, Among these Arabs human life is cheap; the people have not yet
developed the consciousness of being shocked by murder… Many of the tribes live in
a state of savagery. …The surprise comes that in the twentieth century there remains
a place where man in his code has progressed so little and is at least a thousand years
in time behind ourselves.
Another writer with wide experience of the inland tribes (Ralph Hamilton in The Kingdom of Melchior) reported, The bearing
of arms is essential to the traveller in Arabia. They give him status as a fighting man.
They have ceremonial uses which further the contact of the stranger with the people
of the country. The Arab is a land or flock owner. Those who in Arabia own neither
land nor flocks are of low estate and serve those who do. The land or flock owner is
an armed man who takes pride in his ownership and his use of arms. His oath by
his dagger is as binding – and often more binding – than his oath by God. Only the
Jews, the very poor and the very holy walk unarmed in uncivilized Arabia.
Under the agreements made in the nineteenth century, every ruler paid an
annual official visit to the Queen’s representative in Aden to express appreciation of
her protection and to receive gifts of money and rifles - and perhaps more powerful
armaments. One by one they trooped up to GH once a year to be greeted by
me and ushered formally before HE. For his part he thought the whole process
anachronistic, and made no secret of his dislike of such blatant bribery encouraging
venality among the tribal leaders, and he thought it foolish to make frequent gifts
of arms, for they often made their way into Yemeni and terrorist hands. He found
it, nevertheless, useful to have a personal contact with all the rulers, and be able to
measure the extent of their grasp of the problems of the future.
The British presence
The WAP Office brought together a team of fluent Arabic-speakers recruited
by the Crown Agents and employed by the Colonial Service to advise and
support the rulers within the limits prescribed by the old treaties. Several had
transferred from the elite political service of the Sudan after its independence
soon after the war. To a man they were energetic and enthusiastic in their job,
and fully committed to South Arabia. At the top of the tree was Ian Baillie, a
quiet and reserved fellow with a wise judgement. He was called the ‘Agent’, and
had the status of Deputy High Commissioner. Robin Young, next in line, was
the Senior Adviser; a pipe-smoking and personable bachelor, and another big
man with a cheerful, bluff manner and strong opinions. He had charge of the
fifteen or so Political Officers, known as ‘Assistant Advisers’ (AA) several of my
age, who were scattered in the mountains and valleys in close contact with the
rulers. The AAs often had a tough job, but displayed flair, skill and courage in
their efforts to keep the peace and improve the lives of the men and women of
The political staff were ably served both by a good secretarial team headed by
the tall and cheerful Jean Randall, and by an Intelligence Department run by
two fluent Arabic–speakers seconded from the British army. Major Desmond
Cosgrove, a cheerful, lean-faced fellow of wide experience was in charge of this
small office while Captain Jeff Jefferson had been lent by the Royal Artillery to
do the administration of the office, an easy-going, well-organised, tubby young
Robin Young and his team of AAs had no executive authority of the kind
exercised by District Commissioners in East Africa. Their role was confined to
providing advice, support and funds to the rulers. Their principal objective was
to preserve law and order, both in keeping the tribesmen happy and peaceful
and in countering Yemeni incursions in what was sometimes a military role,
working with local troops as well as the British army and air force where
The second function of the WAP Office was to persuade the rulers to accept
development funds to encourage improvements in roads, schools, hospitals,
farming, and fishing on the coast; and this was a constructive and positive task
which most of the AAs pursued with energy and commitment although with
little government money. They were eager, too, in promoting the rulers’ interests;
they saw their leadership as the only hope of progress in their wild and unstable
world, and they argued fiercely against any policy of forcing democracy on them
or tying them to the urban rabble in Aden. They had their own network and contacts at home, often through the previous High Commissioner and with the
Conservative Opposition in London that had been far more understanding of
the rulers’ demands than was the Labour government.
The Federation of South Arabia
In the earlier 1960s, the rulers had, one by one, been persuaded and seduced
into working together in a loose structure called the Federation of South
Arabia - we called them the ‘Federalis’ - and during the year before my arrival
a secretariat with modern offices, meeting rooms and facilities had been built
for them at Al Ittihad (which means ‘Unity’), a few miles outside Aden just off
the road to Little Aden. The WAP Office under Ian Baillie and Robin Young
had been located next door, and the planners seemed to envisage this as the
beginning of a capital city for the Federation.
It had been given all the trappings of a modern autonomous state in embryo.
Every ruler of any significance was made a member of the Federation’s Supreme
Council and given a Ministry to run; and, because they had no trust in each
other, they took it in turns to be Chairman of the Council. Three among these
Federalis were the most effective and influential within the Federation and
spent a good deal of time at GH in discussion with HE on behalf of all their
colleagues. The Minister of Defence was His Highness, the wealthy Sultan
Fadhl bin Ali of Lahej, the premier state in the WAP. The key Ministry of
Internal Security was then in the hands of Sultan Saleh bin Husein, the Audhali
ruler; and Minister for External Affairs was Sultan Mohammed Farid, a senior
member of the Aulaqi clan, the youngest of the three, with the widest education
and best command of English.
One of the other influential Ministries was that of National Guidance and
Information, which controlled the South Arabian Broadcasting Service, and
other publicity organs. Tony Ashworth and his team sought keep in touch with
the senior figures there, notably when Abdul Rahman Girgirah became the
The Ministers were supported by Permanent Secretaries who formed a cadre
of experienced Arabic-speaking colonial officers that enabled the Federation
to give at least the appearance of managing its own affairs. The Supreme
Council was served by ‘Bill’ Gunn who with his wife Peggy were one of the
most hospitable couples in Aden until they left on retirement. The Finance
Ministry was in the charge of David Treffry; and the important Defence
Ministry was managed by seconded British army officers, Colonel Chaplin and
later Major Peter Boileau. The Federation’s highly-qualified Legal Adviser was Dick Holmes, a QC and a Muslim; while the key Ministry of Internal Security
was in the charge of Ralph Daly, another experienced ex-Sudan hand, a lean
and immensely knowledgeable man with all the threads and paperwork at his
Additionally, the Federation was equipped with all the usual development
ministries with keen officers at their heads making bricks with very little straw.
I was told of a handful of big agricultural projects that had made progress,
notably in Lahej and at the Abyan Cotton Scheme, and every AA had his
own pet scheme slowly moving forward – a school here, a clinic there, a new
road somewhere else - but money was tight and the local people often seemed
indifferent to new ideas.
The Federation had its own army under the guidance of its Defence Ministry
in the Federal Regular Army (FRA) under Brigadier Viner. There was also a
mobile police force, the Federal Guard (FG); and every ruler seemed to have his
own well-armed private army as well.
Two years before my arrival, Aden State, under the leadership of Hassan
Bayoomi, had been induced to join the Federation and nominate members to
its Supreme Council alongside the rulers of the WAP states. For the democratic
representatives of Aden State to sit round a table with the sultans, emirs and
sheikhs had always been an uneasy arrangement. I believe it never worked
properly despite the best efforts of officials at every level.
One hot and dusty morning in May, an RAF helicopter carried HE and
me north from Aden over the sands. We flew low over Lahej, the capital of
the pocket state which looked like a busy town surrounded by cultivation that
showed up as a grey-green smear in the midst of the vast yellow desert. Soon
afterwards, our helicopter landed near the northern limits of the state on a
plain where the mountains rose from the desert and where the Royal Engineers
were building a road and laying down tarmac for a route through a long wadi
into the jebel on the way to Dhala. We were on the edge of the area where the
Radfan Campaign had been fought the previous year, and the British army was
commendably trying to open up the country and improve communications for
the benefit of the inhabitants.
The heat was over-powering when we were put down in a region of rock, shale
and shingle, with a few little scrubby bushes struggling to survive in the dry
earth, and an endless expanse of sand. The Sapper Commander (Commander
Royal Engineers, CRE) was an enthusiastic fellow and showed us with pride his detailed plans, his heavy earth-moving bulldozers, tarmac-laying machinery,
and his soldiers who were labouring to lay the new track. Their efforts were
impressive and the plan was admirable, but I did not envy the tough young
sappers who were working in full sun manipulating the big machines to take
the road into the hills. There was neither shade nor breeze; the men wore boots,
shorts and floppy hats, and their bare backs were brick-red as they struggled
to do their job. The glare was debilitating and stifling. It must have been like
working in a steamship’s boiler room.
For myself, after a very few minutes I was only too pleased to be taken into
a tent for army rations and refreshments – a good long cool beer straight from
their portable fridge. That first trip was an eye-opener both of the roughness of
the terrain and of the commendable efforts of the British army to master it for
the use of the local people.
A typical small emirate
A week later, over my birthday, I accompanied HE up country on a two-day
state visit to an emir and his tribe on the frontier with the Yemen – regrettably I
have no record which state it was; and the reason for the visit entirely escapes me.
We set off early one morning in a Twin Pioneer, flew low over a jumble of
mountain ranges, and landed in rugged desert country. Greeted formally by
the emir’s officials, we were bundled into the back of an ancient open Land-
Rover and driven five hundred yards from the air-strip into the entrance of a
long dried up wadi bed between high hills. Two lines of tribesmen astride their
camels and in colourful costume waited for us there. They wore flat turbans on
their heads, brightly coloured cloths on their backs, and kilts wrapped around
their waist and hanging below their knees. Many were painted and striped in
a deep blue paste of the local indigo that we called ‘woad’, and all had rifles of
various sorts in their hands, bandoliers over their shoulders and curved jambiya
in their belts.
The High Commissioner stood up precariously in the back of the Land
Rover, hanging on to the rail over the driver’s head for dear life while I sat
beside the driver, and we were driven slowly over the bumpy rock-strewn road
between the two long lines of men on camel-back and on rocks beside the path.
They shouted their heads off, cheered wildly, and fired their guns. The noise
was tremendous; one could only hope all the rifles were pointed up in the air
and not at our heads. It was an exhilarating, if slightly nerve-wracking, journey.
At the end of the line deafened but relieved, we were received by the emir
in front of an old fort with much ceremony. We then set off with him at a fast pace on a short tour in a convoy of Land Rovers - no other vehicle would cope
with their rough tracks – bouncing about up and over high mounds and down
deep hillsides with steep cliffs and rocky crags on either side, careering around
boulders as big as houses and hurtling across wastes of dry sand. The emir took
us to greet the elders and people of two Arab villages of tall mud-walled houses
with narrow windows. We got out, exchanged greetings and stretched our
legs at each place. We saw the miserable conditions in which the women and
children lived, we admired the toughness and agility of the simple tribesmen,
and we were shown something of their subsistence farming methods. Despite
their poverty and the poor quality of the land, the people were immensely
hospitable and friendly and made us welcome wherever we went.
That evening, we were entertained to a feast by the emir with his elders and
advisers and a motley escort. As the sun went down we found ourselves squatting
cross-legged on the floor of a big, bare room on colourful well-worn woven
carpets. A mighty spread of flavoured rice, mutton, vegetables and sugared
cakes was laid before us. We plunged our right hands into the swimming fat and
meat in the steaming bowls and helped ourselves until we could eat no more.
Conversation through interpreters was stilted, and everybody was too busy
eating for small talk. When the meal came to an end, a few effusive speeches
followed in English and Arabic, and we were shown to simple accommodation
in another battered, old fort to pass the night as guests of the local army.
This was my introduction to the interior, and later I was given to understand
it was one of the poorest and least developed areas in the inland mountains. I
longed to stay and see much much more, but it was not to be.
An unexpected visit to Aden by Duncan Sandys and Lady Diana Sandys
enabled me to see something of the little border state of Beihan. While Jeremy
Rawlins was on leave in June that first year I was doing his job as well as my
own, and it fell to me to welcome the Sandys off the London plane very early on
the morning of The Queen’s Official Birthday. I brought them back from the
airport to GH in style, and was much impressed with them. Duncan Sandys
struck me as a fine man, with strength of character combined with all the usual
Old Etonian smoothness and self-assurance, making nothing of his heavy limp.
He was effortlessly patrician, and can only be described as a typical Tory grandee
of the old school. I was swept off my feet too by his wife, Winston Churchill’s
daughter, who was charming to us all as well as being strikingly beautiful. As
Colonial Secretary in the Conservative Government that had recently lost power, Sandys had directed the party’s policy in developing the Federation of South
Arabia, and came to visit us, we suspected, to stir up trouble for his successors in
office. He could readily do so by reaffirming his party’s support for the Federalis.
The Sandys were special guests at HE’s reception to celebrate The Queen’s
Birthday on the morning of their arrival, and at a big dinner party that evening
to which everyone who was anyone in Aden was invited.
The following morning the GOC provided the visitors with a plane to fly with
the Turnbulls and a large party, to meet Duncan’s ‘old friend’, Sharif Husain of
Beihan. One of the most notorious of the rulers, the Sharif was an elderly and
dignified man, with a long, grey beard and the reputation of an untrustworthy
but a generous and likeable old rogue. The Beihan emirate marched along the
frontier with the Yemen, and the Sharif held the paths along which supplies
and arms were smuggled to the struggling anti-Sallal and royalist forces there.
It was amusing to watch the Sharif and Duncan Sandys together. In many
ways they were as conservative and feudal in their outlook as each other, but
otherwise they were a strange contrast. The former Minister was dapper and
smooth, volatile, quick thinking and diplomatic in his smart Burberry jerkin.
The elderly Arab was totally inscrutable behind his heavy beard, and somewhat
pedantic and slow moving, in brown and grey robes and glittering jewels.
From the airstrip we were driven in Land Rovers over the usual bumpy tracks
with an armed escort of fierce local warriors, to the Sharif’s ‘palace’ where we
were offered a feast. The Sharif was unrivalled in his hospitality, and seated us
among his many retainers in long lines around richly-coloured finely-woven,
old Afghan rugs. Dishes piled high with cuts of oily mutton (and probably
goat) were placed in front of us, and we ate with our fingers while exchanging
pleasantries with our Beihani neighbours. The Sharif squatted between HE
and Duncan Sandys who, in animated conversation, gave every appearance of
enjoying himself hugely.
Lady T, on her first escape from Aden since arriving to join her husband,
accompanied Diana Sandys on the flight with us. The two of them were whisked
away at the airstrip for a private tour to visit the ladies in the Sharif’s harem. I
think they enjoyed themselves too, but we all had a heavy meal and were hot,
dusty and tired on our return.
On a fourth trip in early July I accompanied HE on an exciting and
refreshing ride along the shore of the Indian Ocean sixty miles to the east of
Aden. This was in total contrast to the trips up to mountainous states bordering the Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In a convoy of GH open-topped Land Rovers,
with the Indian Ocean lapping the wheels of our vehicles on our right hand,
and the sea breezes blowing through our hair, we drove at speed over the firm
sands mile after mile after mile.
We turned a few miles inland only once in order to call at the little town of
Zingibar. This was the capital of the Fadhli State where we paid our respects to
the Sultan and the Assistant Adviser in residence there.
Back on the sea-shore, we sped on to Abyan to call at the offices of the
Abyan Irrigation Scheme, and learn a little about the Cotton Development
Project and the cotton flourishing in the valley. The Project’s offices had been
built on the top of a broad rock above the little town of Ja’ar, and there we
received refreshment and a briefing from the Manager and AA about plans
for improving and expanding the cotton-growing. This was viewed as one
of the most important developments in the South Arabia. Much money had
been poured into it and much effort had been made by a number of dedicated
Europeans to give the farmers a cash crop – with the chance of transforming
the lives of those working the valleys where the cotton could grow if carefully
irrigated and tended.
The final leg of our journey along the beach was to the fishing village of
Shuqra. Known as ‘the Gateway to old Arabia’, it was the starting point of one
of the few good routes north up a long wadi and into the hills of the interior.
Sadly we did not take the road inland. It was time to go home; and a helicopter
was waiting for HE for the return journey.
When HE had to go to London that first winter, Tom Oates was acting
High Commissioner but not a demanding master. So I was able to accept an
invitation to spend a weekend in the interior with Bryan Somerfield and his
family. Bryan was then the Political Officer in the state of Dhala, which was
about a hundred miles due north of Aden and, like Beihan, on the borders with
the Yemen. His two children had stayed with my sister two or three years earlier
as members of her children’s Christmas house-party and enjoyed themselves
immensely. I had bumped into Bryan when he had happened to be down at
Al Ittihad for a briefing; he had generously invited me to stay with the family
up-country, and I seized the chance while HE was away.
I took an Aden Airways plane for the forty-minute flight across two ranges
of high, barren mountains before we touched down on a gravel airstrip in the
midst of mountainous country that extended far into the Yemen. I was collected by my charming host in an old Land Rover, and taken to meet Mrs Somerfield
and their son and daughter. Robin Somerfield was fourteen years old, with dark
hair over his forehead, long, dark eyelashes and big eyes. He had just started at
Blundells School; and his sister, Isobel, was short, pudgy and happy and went
to a boarding school at Paddock Wood in Kent.
The pocket state of Dhala extended across a beautiful plateau at about 5,000 feet
and was overshadowed by a massif known as the Jebel Jehaf. The town was spread
over a long, low hill dominated by the Amir’s tall, white ‘palace’, with military
camps close by. Although a bit dusty, everything was remarkably green and fresh
during my visit - not in the least like the desert. The district was much cooler than
Aden, and I gathered that rain fell for six months in the mountains each year. While
the midday sun was hot, a fresh wind cooled the air at night and we wore pullovers
in the early mornings and evenings, and put two or three blankets on our beds.
Although it was the last week of the school holidays before Robin and Isobel
had to fly back to England, the family made me very welcome. They lived in a
huge, old, square blockhouse with thick stone walls, pitted with bullet holes, and
surrounded by a defensive sangar of sandbags. On the ground floor of the fort
was a large, empty room in which lounged a couple of toughs who were Bryan’s
bodyguard. From this bare hallway, stairs wound up to their living quarters amid
lots of dark rooms with narrow windows, all of which were pretty uncomfortable
with very few mod cons. The family tended to eat and live on the roof where one
could sit in the open air protected by a high parapet, reinforced by more sandbags.
Robin must have been one of very few English boys who went to bed on many
evenings on his holidays to the sound of gun fire, and could expect to be shot at
from time to time by dissidents armed with rifles, Bren guns and even bazookas.
The rebels were apparently gathered just across the border in a big camp for
training as terrorists by Egyptian military personnel and Yemeni republicans.
From this base, well-armed men infiltrated South Arabian territory through
the hills around Dhala, and on their way frequently took a few pot shots at the
Amir’s well-defended residence and the political officer’s fortress house. The
local people were an unstable lot with a bad reputation, having murdered at
least one of Bryan’s predecessors. So Dhala was an army camp where a company
of the ubiquitous 45 Royal Marine Commandos (known simply as ‘45’) and
an FRA battalion were stationed with all their equipment and amenities. I was
told to carry my revolver all the time and not to go out without an armed
escort. Nevertheless a very pleasant social life existed and I enjoyed meeting the
cheerful 45 officers at a big lunch party they gave us on the Friday. They lived
in big tents and the officers’ mess was a sturdy brown marquee well protected behind barbed wire and sandbags; and I met many of them a second time when
they invited us down next day for drinks in the cool of the evening.
Like Beihan and the other upland territories, Dhala was a tiny independent
state bound by an ancient treaty to accept British protection and advice, which
my friend Bryan was there to offer. The ruler was Amir Sha’fal, very proud of
his independent status, though not as wealthy as some of the sultans, and I
guessed with a correspondingly weaker hold over his people. He lived in his
six-storey, stone-built skyscraper on its hill, defended with guns and guards and
battlements like a mediaeval castle. He was a young man, a complete autocrat,
with masses of family retainers and hangers-on descended from slaves. Most of
his country was mountainous, but farmers grew vegetables and cereals in the
fertile plateau, on terraces on the lower slopes of the surrounding mountains,
and in the shadow of the Jebel Jihaf that towered over the valley. Their biggest
crop was, I believe, the qat weed – a soporific chewed by almost every adult
male in Aden and the hills.
The Amir received me together with Bryan on the first afternoon of
my visit, and we had a long chat in his fortress. He appeared to be a quiet, dignified and studious man. His talk was easy and sensible: we discussed
constructively local politics and a recent local murder, and touched on two
major building projects in the state, a small hospital and a secondary school,
both to be funded by HMG. At the end of the session the Amir gave me a
most welcome present, a can that had once contained oil but was filled with
rich red local honey.
On my second morning as Bryan’s guest I set out with my bodyguard into
the well-ploughed, terraced fields with oil paints and easel. The bodyguard
snoozed in the shade of an old tree while under another near by I started
to paint. I tried to portray the local landscape and the nearest village of
tall houses painted a rich yellow stone with slit windows. Beyond them a
collection of white tombs marked a graveyard, and in the background were
the pink and mauve hills of the Yemen. There was nobody about except a few
farmers in the distance working their fields. I was fascinated by the way in
which the local people stored kindling and twigs high off the ground in the
forks of the occasional trees that lined their fields – we called them ‘camel’s
nests’. It was quiet and peaceful and it was difficult to believe this was such
a violent and lawless country. I passed a pleasant morning very much on
my own, relishing the cool but sunny weather. To my great annoyance, my
picture fell in the dust just as I had completed it and was ruined, but the
morning had been great fun.
Even in the dust and for all its notoriety as a dangerous place, Dhala seemed
to me to be a beautiful spot, and I was sad to have to leave my kind hosts, the
green valley and the blue mountainous horizons. I came away reluctantly, but
was fortunate to hitch a lift with some of the 45 men, part of the way in a
helicopter, and then in a little RAF aircraft.
The Eastern Aden Protectorate
The vast eastern part of South Arabia comprised a group of autonomous
states ruled by their Sultans - Qu’aiti, Kathiri, Mahra, and Wahidi. The scattered
peoples of the EAP had apparently suffered severely during the war from famine,
but had subsequently benefitted from relative peace and prosperity and paternal
government. In contrast to the WAP, the work of the British staff in Qu’aiti and
Kathiri was far more about development than about law and order.
The British Presence
The British Government was represented in the Protectorate by the
Resident who, at the time of my arrival in Aden, was Ted Eyre. He worked with an experienced deputy, Jim Ellis, and a small, tough and dedicated team
of Assistant Advisers and Departmental officers to advise the EAP Sultans
on good government and improving the lot of their subjects. Ted lacked the
glamour of some of his predecessors, and was a fairly conventional bachelor,
but his experience was wide, having started in the Sudan and at one time run
the Abyan Cotton Board. He had succeeded a huge, enthusiastic chap named
Arthur Watts, who always sported a bow tie and was a great Arabist. Arthur had
the title of Protectorate Secretary, was a sort of roving ambassador for the EAP
based in the High Commission offices, and was able to give HE the benefit of
his wide experience in the early days.
To guard the borders with the Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the Hadhrami
Bedouin Legion (HBL) had been created. It was commanded by the Qaid or
Colonel, an experienced officer named Pat Gray formerly of the Arab legion.
Soon after my arrival, his popular Second in Command, Major David Eales,
was murdered in the desert, but such tragedies seemed to be rare occurrences
in the EAP at that time. Security was reputed to be good – for example, I was
told British personnel saw no need to carry arms in the towns - and the political
officers’ relations with the Sultans appeared to be generally relaxed and easy.
Mahra and Socotra
With only vaguely defined boundaries, the Sultanate of Mahra covered a vast
desert area which stretched from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the mountains
of Oman and Dhofar in the east, and ran up to the Empty Quarter in the north.
Mahra’s nomad tribes came under the rule of Sultan Isa, but he seemed to have
little interest in them and preferred to live on the island of Socotra.
HE needed to meet the Sultan so we never went into Mahra itself, but had to go
to Socotra to see him. It was decided we should make the journey during a general
strike in October 1965. Following meetings of the Security Policy Committee,
HE felt he could do no more in Aden and concluded he would be better out of
it. So he took me with him on a couple of days off from local problems, and flew
by Dakota along the coast to Mukalla, and thence, courtesy of the RAF, in a
two and a half hours’ flight to Socotra, far out in the Indian Ocean, nearer Cape
Guardafui than South Arabia.
We landed on a bare level strip on the island’s foreshore. The climate was not
oppressive, and as we stepped out of the plane in the cool air, the Sultan came to
greet us. He was shy and wizened and made it clear he was not particularly keen
to see us, but after quiet greetings he led us three miles on foot across the plain to
his ‘palace’ in the village of Hadibu. We were told he owned the island and most things on it, including the villages and all the goats, camels and date palms. He
ruled over nine thousand islanders, including many Swahili slaves, who wore few
clothes and had one tiny village school, doubtless a madrasa, to teach the Koran
to the very young. I was told by our interpreter that a primitive tribe of black
folk lived in caves in the wooded hilly interior and spoke their own tongue called
Soqotriya. On the coast, the villagers lived off dates and fish, herded the camels
and goats, and traded in exotic things like mother of pearl and frankincense.
Their most profitable product was apparently the fine hair of their goats, which
was taken to the mainland by dhow and woven into mats.
Sir Richard spent the day in the Sultan’s council chamber amid some
incongruously heavy Victorian furniture that had, we understood, been
salvaged from a long ago shipwreck. HE’s purpose was to persuade the Sultan
to work with his mainland neighbours, be a bit less autocratic and accept the
loss of British protection with the coming of independence to South Arabia.
The Sultan was not interested. He made it clear that as soon as British control
was withdrawn, he expected his mainland possessions to be seized by more
powerful neighbouring states, and the tribes that presently acknowledged his
suzerainty to throw off their subjection to him.
Our journey to Socotra thus achieved little other than to warn the Sultan of his
impending problems. It was, however, an intensely interesting journey in giving
me a glimpse of one of the most primitive and remote parts of the British Empire.
On the nights before and after the Socotra flight, HE and I stayed at Riyan,
the small RAF base run by their RAF personnel in a stretch of barren desert
some twenty miles inland from Mukalla. We were told the townspeople in the
port were rioting ‘in sympathy’ with those in Aden, and we were advised not to
attempt to make our way to the Residency. So we had two delightful evenings
messing with our pilot and aircrew as guests of the pleasant RAF officer who ran
the base. When Mukalla was calm in the evening, Ted Eyre, the Resident, drove
out to see us with some of his colleagues and their wives, and we all sat round the
bar, drinking and talking a lot of pretty good nonsense, and enjoying ourselves, a
long way away from the troubled coastal towns.
On our return to Aden, HE and I were presented with ties on which a phoenix
was picked out in gold thread on a green background. We were told this tie was
worn only by those who had visited Socotra. I knew the phoenix was reputed to
come from Arabia, but never discovered Socotra’s connection with the mythical
bird. Was it, perhaps, believed to roost among the branches of the extraordinary
Dragon Blood Tree that grew there? This was all a part of the mystery of that
The territory of Qu’aiti covered a stretch of the coast of the Indian Ocean and
extended far inland. Its beautiful capital was Mukalla, which was a busy port
where the elderly Sultan Awadh lived and ruled, advised by his Council and his
Minister named Al Attas.
In the first half of 1966, HE found it necessary to talk to the EAP Sultans
about HMG’s plans for withdrawal and independence and arranged to fly out
for a series of meetings. With plenty of room in the RAF Dakota, he, Lady T,
the bodyguard, the ADC, and I left Aden by air one morning and touched down
early in the afternoon at the Riyan airstrip. Ted Eyre met us in a convoy of Land
Rovers and took us straight to the Residency where we were to be his guests. On
our arrival, tall HBL sentries with red cummerbunds stood smartly to attention
in the grand white portico beside fine antique cannons. Flying the Union flag,
the old building gleamed a shining white in the brilliant sunlight, with big black
shutters to the windows. Ted showed us round and was a genial host as he took us
through the handsome rambling mansion.
Across the road, overlooking the harbour, lived the Qu’aiti Sultan with his
family, his retainers, and a collection of tame rabbits, in a vast ramshackle jumble
of old buildings that was known as his palace. It was a massive wedding cake
of a place, very brightly coloured with hundreds of latticed windows, balconies,
turrets and minarets. The Sultan was elderly and in very poor health; and his
ministers were said to be waiting for him to abdicate so that his son, Ghalib, could
return from school in England to pull together the affairs of the state. In company
with Ted, HE called on the old man, his younger son and senior advisers, to tell
them about the British Government’s future intentions. In the course of long
discussions with the ministers, HE found them a reasonable and responsible
group though emphatic that they would never join the rulers of the WAP in
the Federation which they were confident would not survive independence. The
Sultan seemed convinced that oil would be found in his lands before long, and
the Sultanate would have no difficulty in surviving on its own, even when cast
adrift by HMG. This was not the message HE wanted to hear, but he could not
shift the old man.
While the conference went on, Lady T set up her easel and took out her paints,
and I too made a couple of sketches of the old town. The bodyguard and I then
wandered down to the waterfront. We walked through narrow, twisty, muddy
streets, lined with dark, pokey shops and tall, white-washed houses with narrow
little windows. We found ourselves struggling through a confused mass of camels,
donkeys, and men and barefoot runny-nosed children. Most shop-keepers looked well-to-do, but many of those in the streets were half-naked Bedouin from the
desert selling their paltry wares. Others who must have been the descendants of
black slaves, wearing only a grubby futa round their waists, thrust through the
crowds carrying bulging sacks on their shoulders full of grain and other produce.
The plumbing was primitive – mostly they used the streets. The harbour was full
of creaky sambuqs, and sea-going dhows loaded with more sacks tossing in the
tide, and rusty old freighters waiting to unload their cargoes.
Across the bay was a wide sandy beach in the shelter of distant hills. We saw
wild-haired, ragged, dark-skinned men sitting patiently, probably masticating
qat, beside their camels. The couched beasts were tethered to long ropes and
contentedly chewed away at the cud, laden with bundles of firewood and bulky
sacks, doubtless parked there while their up-country owners did their business in
the port. The animals and their escorts had probably come down in long caravans
from the hinterland with their goods for sale to the townspeople and traders on
the cargo vessels. Mukalla gave every appearance of being a busy and successful
trading port with a long history behind it and a profitable future before it – if all
Inland was Kathiri in the charge of the eminent Sultan Hussein bin Ali. He
ruled the long, green wadi in the deep rift in the sands known as the Hadhramaut,
famed once for its incense and its scholarship, and still flourishing. A remarkable
geographical feature, the valley bisects the desert for 350 miles. The land on top,
known as the jol, is dry and barren, and its desert sands roll for endless miles to
the north into Saudi Arabia. On the valley floor, three old towns, Shibam, Seiyun
and Tarim, had prospered for many years, indeed for centuries, in an equable
climate, where all was green and luscious with streams running through fertile
fields under fruitful palms.
After lunch at the Mukalla Residency on the day following HE’s consultations
with the Qu’aiti Sultan, the High Commissioner’s party was driven back to Riyan
and boarded the RAF plane to fly inland over the southern jol. Our destination
was Seiyun, the town that was the home of the Kathiri Sultan in the depths
of the Hadhramaut, where the valley is about five miles wide, with steep sides,
1,500 feet below the desert plateau. After landing in the valley bottom, we were
driven through irrigated fields of barley and wheat into the town of high mud
skyscrapers, many of six storeys. Some of these tall buildings were of great beauty
and magnificence, belonging to wealthy merchants who had made their money
trading in Bombay, Java, Singapore and elsewhere in the East and retired to this remote land. Around them were gardens of date palms, oleander and tall grasses
that I had seen nowhere else in South Arabia. The Kathiri Sultan’s palace in their
midst was a massive, white-washed and crenellated affair some seven or eight
HE’s meeting with the Sultan was undoubtedly valuable, but it was no surprise
that he and the Qua’iti Sultan and were consistent in their refusal to have anything
to do with Aden and the Federation. Apart from the Sultan of Wahidi who ruled
a small state adjacent to the WAP, the EAP rulers stubbornly refused to join the
Federation, and were determined to continue their old ways without interference
from the British Government, the Federalis or the Aden townspeople.
We were put up at the Residency Guest House and, while HE called on the
Sultan, and Lady T went off to meet his wives, the bodyguard and I relaxed and
enjoyed the cool air and the citrus trees and date palms in the flourishing Guest
House garden. The dark flour ground from corn growing in the fields around the
city produced a delicious sort of wholemeal bread, and we fed very well there that
evening before a stroll in the town. Their plumbing was basic, but many of their
houses, including our rest house, had deliciously cool indoor swimming pools
dug out of the sand of the ground floor.
Early the next morning, HE led a party of us on a climb from the bottom to
the top of the steep side of the valley. He set a cracking pace up and up, clambering
and scrambling on the rocky scree and among the boulders until we emerged on
the bare plateau of the jol, high above the awakening town. It was warm on top
in the bright sunlight, and, as usual, HE set a fast pace as we strode along the cliff
edge looking down on the townspeople scuttling about like ants far below us. It
was a fascinating experience as we marvelled at the depth of the canyon sliced
through the desert that must be one of the wonders of the world.
I could have done with a swim after we descended from the plateau at eight
that morning, but unfortunately we had to hurry through breakfast and jump
into Land Rovers for the drive out to our waiting plane to return to Aden.
It was a delightful trip, but we paid the penalty. HE, the bodyguard and I had
a sleepless night and struggled into the office the next morning, groaning with
what was locally known as ‘Mukalla Tummy’. Government House was miserable
all day with the three of us doubled up in agony and grumbling about our insides,
and I took to my bed in the afternoon. Happily we were all better next morning,
and celebrated by going on board one of the BI ships in the harbour for a cool,
quiet drink at the bar. Lady T was not troubled, for she claimed to have eaten
nothing while in Mukalla: she had been very wise.
Chapter 4: Casual Slaughters
‘So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgements, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and force cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook,
Fallen on the inventors’ heads.’
From Hamlet: Act V, scene ii.
The Labour Government
Harold Wilson had won the general election in October 1964. Anthony
Greenwood had been appointed Colonial and Commonwealth Secretary,
Michael Stewart was made Foreign Secretary, and Denis Healey was at the
Ministry of Defence.
I arrived in Aden eight months after the new Government had taken office,
and the first thing I learned was that appearances were deceptive. The High
Commissioner’s role was not to make policy: he was closely and strictly controlled
by the Cabinet with the Colonial Secretary in the lead. One of Greenwood’s
first actions had been to sack the previous High Commissioner, Sir Kennedy
Trevaskis, and thus bring Sir Richard into play while demonstrating the firm
authority of the Cabinet over policy in South Arabia. They had made it clear
they meant to govern from Whitehall rather than leave the management of
affairs to the man on the spot. In sharp contrast to Sir Richard’s position when
Governor in Dar es Salaam, he had little discretion in Aden, and his job was to
do precisely what he was told by the London Government.
The professed aims of this Government on taking office were these: to
maintain the military base; to achieve a rapprochement with Nasser, and,
in particular, to dissuade him from trying to eject us from the Middle East,
including Aden; and to turn South Arabia into a viable ‘unitary state’ to
which the British could grant independence. Where the previous Conservative Government had financed and backed the rulers of the petty states in both the
Western and Eastern Protectorates, Greenwood disliked and distrusted them.
He intended to create one democratic structure embracing all the peoples of the
WAP, the EAP and Aden town. He wanted the rulers to work within the system
or leave the scene, and he expressed himself indifferent to their fate.
His first attempt to achieve his objectives had been to propose a Constitutional
Conference bringing all the parties round the table to hammer out an agreed
scheme for South Arabia as a whole. The Federalis saw this proposal as a threat
to their positions, and refused to co-operate in it. They had no interest in
democracy for they knew it would destroy their authority, and they had even
less interest in co-operation with the nationalist politicians in Aden State who
would sweep them aside if given half a chance. During the month before I
arrived, every other party had also pulled out, seeing the status quo as preferable
to any surrender of local autonomy.
With Greenwood’s consent, HE then put forward the idea of a Constitutional
Commission, a group of expert outsiders to come in without preconditions and
provide formal advice on the best way forward. Despite careful preparation by
HE, this scheme, too, met with a sticky reception. The EAP sultans refused to
consider it. Not only did the Federalis distrust it for the same reasons as before,
Mackawee, the Aden Chief Minister, also disliked it because he feared Aden
might be overwhelmed by the rulers. As a protest at the very idea, he arranged
for the Adeni members of the Supreme Council of the Federation to resign en
masse - thus effectively taking Aden out of the Federation.
The Adeni resignations reached Government House on the day I started
work there and caused consternation when reported to the Colonial Office.
I wrote home that telegrams were flying to and fro all day while both the
Federalis and the Adeni politicians were publicly castigating the whole concept
of a Commission, with, as I put it, every sign of a complete blow-up in public.
It did not take me long to discover that this was a fairly normal situation –
HE and the High Commission were living on the edge of a rumbling volcano
likely to erupt at any moment.Despite this fierce local opposition, two eminent
constitutional experts, Sir Evelyn Hone and Sir Gawain Bell, were engaged
in London to recommend a suitable constitution for South Arabia. They were
promptly banned from Aden by Mackawee as illegal immigrants, but put a
great deal of effort into their work at home with Colonial and Foreign Office
support; and HE kept them in play for many months until they were able to
make a set of positive recommendations.
May 1965 - VIP visitors
A good deal of my work as Private Secretary was welcoming HE’s visitors
and fitting interviews with them in between his frequent meetings with the
Federal rulers and Adeni Ministers. The first who came when I was in post was
General Sir Richard Hull, Chief of the General Staff (CIGS). Sir Richard knew
HE from contacts in London and came, I am sure, to express concern for his
very exposed soldiers on the ground, and to agree to reinforce pressure on the
Cabinet at home to provide the armed services in Aden with adequate resources
to control the growing terrorism. The CIGS was shown round Aden by the
CinC and HE, and was taken to discuss the situation with the Federalis at Al
Ittihad who doubtless echoed his worries about violence in the town.
Immediately after the CIGS’s departure, Air Marshal Sir John Grandy, the
CinC of the Far East Command came from Singapore for a three-day visit as a
guest at GH. He was another war hero of the RAF and former close colleague
of our AOC, Johnnie Johnson. While Sir John could offer us little help from
his Singapore headquarters, it was doubtless useful for our CinC and HE to be
able to compare note with him.
Next, Ted Eyre, EAP Resident, came up from Mukalla to stay at GH for two
days to update HE on the conditions in Qu’aiti and Kathiri. Ted was followed
by one of his predecessors as Resident Adviser at Mukalla in the 1950s. Colonel
Sir Hugh Boustead was one the great personalities of South Arabia, a cheerful
eccentric who had successfully kept the peace in the Eastern Protectorate for
a decade, having previously been an Olympic athlete and great mountaineer.
Over retirement age, he was looking for a last job with us. We picked his brains,
and HE gave him a big dinner party among his former colleagues, but between
them I think they concluded he would have found working for the Labour
Government even more difficult than did HE.
Our next guests at GH were Duncan Sandys and his wife - a breath of
wonderfully fresh air. We all enjoyed their visit and the trip arranged for them
and their party to Beihan described in an earlier chapter.
Soon after the departure of the Sandys, Denis Healey arrived. We understood
his Ministry was conducting a major Defence Review and drafting a Defence
White Paper, which would cover the future of the Aden base; so the CinC and
HE were anxious to ensure he had a thorough briefing. The Secretary of State
stayed with us while touring South Arabia for the best part of a week as the
CinC’s guest. In addition Healey had a full day with HE at Al Ittihad to meet
all the rulers at the Supreme Council of the Federation, and a couple of days in
the EAP to talk to the Sultans at Mukalla and Seiyun. The Defence Secretary concluded his tour with another day with Adeni politicians and ATUC leaders.
In between, the Turnbulls gave Mr Healey another of our big dinner parties to
which all our VIPs were invited.
Relations between the HE and his visitor seemed easy and relaxed, for
they had got to know each other when guests together during the Uganda
Independence Celebrations, and on other occasions when HE was being briefed
for his Aden job. Denis was cheerful and outgoing, and made a pleasant guest.
With his left-wing upbringing and background, he had little time for the feudal
sheikhs. He had even less time for Mackawee, the other Adeni politicians and
the union leaders who were openly critical of our troops and encouraging the
NLF to attack them.
It was from Healey that I first heard the story of the frog and the scorpion,
which resonated with us in the High Commission at that time.
"On the banks of the river Nile a scorpion approached a frog and said, ‘I need to
cross the river. Will you please let me climb on your back and carry me over to the
‘No, I won’t take you across,’ replied the frog. ‘If I carry you on my back I know
you will sting me in midstream, you will paralyse me and I will drown.’
‘Don’t be stupid!’ said the scorpion. ‘If I did that, I should drown too.’
‘Alright,’ said the frog, after much further persuasion. ‘Get on my back and I’ ll
carry you across.’
So they set off together. The frog swam strongly towards the opposite side of the
river with the scorpion on his back. Half way across, he felt the scorpion sting him;
his limbs seized up, he felt acute pain and knew he was going to drown.
‘But why have you stung me like this?’ cried the frog. ‘Now I shall surely drown
and you will drown with me.’
‘I couldn’t help myself,’ the other replied. ‘You see I’m an Arab scorpion.’
They drowned together and the great river Nile swept them both away."
Late one evening HE and Healey were exchanging fairly coarse comments
about the legacy of British colonial policy, and HE remarked in an off-hand
manner that the British Empire would leave only two monuments behind:
"football and the expression ’F** off!" I was interested that neither man believed
we would pass on the concept of constitutional democracy, and still less the
Westminster Model that we had been taught at university had been our greatest
gift to the Dominions and former colonies.
One Monday morning shortly after the Defence Secretary’s departure, the
retiring Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Earl Mountbatten paid us a farewell
call. He was on a whistle-stop tour of military bases worldwide with a large staff around him, on his way back from the Far East and on to Nairobi the same
The military did him proud. The CinC welcomed him at the airport with
a nineteen-gun salute, a large guard of honour and a fly-past by the RAF. The
retiring CDS was then brought up to GH in a noisy convoy of cars with motorcycle
escort where HE arranged a grand formal lunch for him to meet all Aden’s
senior military men. Mountbatten wasted no time in greetings or small talk,
but strode through our halls and reception rooms, looking neither to right nor
left, and shouting instructions to his staff scurrying along beside him. He spent
little time talking to HE and the CinC and ignored most of us during his six
hours in Aden, seeming in a great hurry to be elsewhere and press on to Kenya
the same day. The visit was a waste of his and our time. He lowered rather than
raised our morale.
His Press Secretary was however, a friendly Vice Admiral who came to stay
in Aden a little later on. He seemed much more amenable and interesting when
he paid a courtesy call on HE.
June – July 1965: Confronting terrorism
GH hospitality and HE’s political activity took place against a background
of unremitting and deadly terrorism. The NLF pursued its campaign to
assassinate police informants and members of the Special Branch, and violence
was increasing all the time on the streets of Aden and Crater and in the villages
around. By the time of my arrival, HE had appointing the GOC as the Security
Commander, reporting directly to him, and felt obliged to introduce and invoke
special Emergency Powers. He proscribed the NLF, imposed curfews at night,
and gave the police and army the power to arrest and detain on suspicion. The
police called in the army, and troops began foot-patrols and roadblocks on the
busy street corners.
A carefully planned policy of the terrorists was to intimidate the populace
with threats of death for those who aided the colonial power or cooperated
with the police. It became impossible to put on trial miscreants who were
arrested and charged with offences under the Emergency Regulations. No one
dared to be seen to support the authorities or give evidence against a wrongdoer;
and no jury dared to convict. The law courts were useless. The High
Commissioner sought powers to suspend trial by jury, but the Chief Justice,
supported by the Colonial Office, argued strongly against the idea. While this
was understandable, it complicated HE’s strenuous efforts to control terrorism.
He was obliged to use his emergency powers to permit detention without trial. All that could be done with suspected rabble-rousers and murderers was to
keep them off the streets. A big Detention Centre was created at Al Mansoura,
out beyond Sheikh Othman, to house those who were arrested and suspected
of violent criminal activity, and it inevitably became the focus for protests and
riots as the months passed.
At much the same time, as the supply of intelligence dried up when
informants were killed or cowed into silence, an Interrogation Centre was
created. It was located at Fort Morbut within the Steamer Point complex
on the cliffs overlooking the entrance to the harbour. Tony Lee took charge
and recruited some experienced policemen from home to man the centre and
conduct interrogations among the detainees. The intensive questioning of
suspects held there under the Emergency Powers soon became a key element in
the efforts of the police and army to control the terrorism.
As soon as Fort Morbut opened its doors, however, the High Commission
was plagued with allegations of torture from the radio stations under Egyptian
and Yemeni control in Cairo, Sana’a and Taiz. Ministers at home became
nervous, the UN exerted pressure on the British Government, and HE spent a
great deal of his time in defending the use of interrogation as the only means
of learning the terrorists’ plans. Simultaneously he was pressing London for
permission and funds to strengthen the police force. To counter the accusations
of torture, HE took legal advice and arranged for a senior police officer to
receive and check all allegations made by detainees, and report his views to the
Attorney General. It was soon clear, however, this measure was not enough for
the Government at home, still less for Cairo and the UN.
In early July our troops faced infiltration across the Yemeni border, and were
heavily occupied in ‘bandit country’ in the mountains of the WAP. At much
the same time, the oil-workers at the BP depot at Little Aden went on strike,
the town quickly ran out of petrol, and a general strike was threatened. The
flap over the strike lasted all weekend, with meetings morning and evening and
daily sessions of the Crisis Committee at GH. This small group of the top men
received reports of the day’s violence and casualties, arranged the maintenance
of essential services, and planned the following day’s efforts to control the
situation. The long meetings at GH on ‘crisis nights’ would continue until
around 9 p.m. when the Police Commissioner and senior military men would
dash away to issue their orders for the following day, and I would struggle home
That July the weather grew hotter still while HE resumed attempts to
persuade the Federalis on the one hand, and Mackawee and his Ministers on of the month, however, all parties had rejected the scheme. The Adeni Ministers
came out in open opposition to the Labour Government’s policies. All was set
for a head-on collision, and HE told Greenwood it was no longer possible to
work with Mackawee.
Throughout this period, HE remained determined to entertain in the
evenings whenever the political situation allowed, and he kept us at it with a
series of dinners for senior officials and the military commanders. One evening,
for example, HE entertained one hundred and fifty army officers and their
wives at a mammoth cocktail party on the terrace. On the following night he
threw a big dinner party for their most senior officers.
The Proposed Constitutional Conference
On 23rd July, with deadlock in Aden, Mr Greenwood decided to come out
to see for himself with two senior officials, Messrs Galworthy and Rushford.
The Colonial Secretary made it clear he wanted to find out if he could make
progress and rescue the dialogue with the Adenis where HE had failed. He was
convinced the future lay in working closely with the nationalist parties and the
trade union movement in Aden.
Out of the blue the Colonial Secretary and his team arrived secretly early
one morning without bothering to tell us their time of arrival, and immediately
demanded our services. We gave them the Princess Alexandra suite and a set of
offices. Greenwood plunged into talks from the moment of his arrival, and was
at it solidly for the two and a half days, working until after midnight each night.
He used me to summon the politicians and arrange his meetings in addition to
my normal work, and I sat outside the conference room at the end of the phone,
ushering people in and out, arranging the next meeting and sorting out the papers.
I did not like the man. He was cold, negative and lacking in the most
elementary courtesy to his subordinates. He made no secret of his distrust of
the High Commission, which he decided had made a mess of the negotiations
by being too friendly with the Federalis. He complained periodically that HE
spent too much time talking to the Federalis and too little with the Adeni
politicians. He went to sleep in the middle of a drinks party in his honour his
first evening with us.
I had to admire him, nevertheless, for his negotiating skill in persuading the
Adenis to come to the table and make a fresh start. He rapidly put aside HE’s
idea of a Constitutional Commission. He was bound to accept that it was a
non-starter with Mackawee, so long as he was totally opposed and refused even to allow the Commissioners to land in Aden State. Greenwood quickly changed
tack and went back to his original plan for a Constitutional Conference. He
did an admirable job in a very brisk round of weekend meetings. At their end
he thought he had secured agreement from nearly all the players, not only to
attend a round-table conference in London in December but also to travel to
London the next week to join a working party to agree its agenda.
With reluctance HE followed him back to London to attend the working
party meetings along with delegates from the various interest groups, including
officials from the Eastern states and representatives of the Aden political parties.
The working party lasted only three days, however. The Adenis pulled out,
following the line urged on them by Nasser in Egypt and the NLF in Aden,
expressing total opposition to all talks held at the initiative of the colonial power.
Over the following two weeks the talks were suspended but HE stayed on with
Greenwood in London in order to try and persuade the parties to return to the
negotiating table. Their efforts were in vain, and this initiative foundered just as
the others had done in the preceding months.
With HE detained in London in his futile efforts to bring the Adenis to the
conference table, Tom Oates came up to GH as Acting High Commissioner.
I worked as his Private Secretary and was busy in the office again because the
Adeni trade unions started ‘go-slows’ at the airport and the docks. The workers
took half an hour to wheel the steps up to a plane, and two hours for a tug to
chug across the harbour. The docks were in chaos and the harbour was a mass
of ships waiting to unload or load their passengers and cargo. They looked very
beautiful, especially at night when they were all lit up, but the situation became
serious for the shipping lines and tourist trade, and desperate for the airlines
that could no longer function. The employers were in continual negotiations to
persuade the labour to see sense, and the Deputy High Commissioner held long
discussions with the army and police to keep the essential services going and
restrain the rioting which generally followed a strike.
As soon as HE was back from London, he wanted to resume efforts to persuade
the parties to the negotiation table, and planned another round of meetings
with the rulers and Adeni politicians. His efforts were partly frustrated however
because the Federalis lingered in Riyadh with their Saudi friends, while the
Adenis went to Cairo to report to Nasser’s henchmen. Political pressures eased
temporarily while I had the opportunity to sort out the paperwork and put in
order the results of the London meetings.
We then received visits from a succession of Members of Parliament on ‘fact-finding
missions’ during their summer recess. One delegation blundered on to the scene in the middle of the go-slows and strikes, which was a major distraction
from the work in hand. Hard on their heels came a group of American Senators
who included Aden in their Middle East itinerary. All of these visitors required
detailed briefing and escorts about the town and up-country on their ‘swans’,
taking up a great deal of everyone’s time for little purpose, and they all needed
entertainment at cocktail and dinner parties at GH – which was hard work
during the continued absence of Lady Turnbull who was wrestling with lawyers
over the Henley house.
August – September 1965: A State of Siege
The number of terrorist attacks on our troops and civilians rose again
in August, and three senior men were assassinated in one week. Sir Arthur
Charles, the Speaker of the Aden Legislative Assembly, was shot dead as he
finished a game of tennis in Crater one afternoon. He was a tall, soft-spoken
man of total integrity; he was widely respected and a fine character: and his
assassination both saddened and angered the European community. A day
or two later Superintendent Harry Barrie of the Police was murdered in the
streets, and then a senior Arab Police Inspector was killed. Dreadful things
were constantly happening. Not long afterwards, schoolchildren were the target
again. A grenade was thrown over the perimeter wire into a party of children
boarding their plane at Khormaksar Airport as they were returning to school
in the UK at the end of their summer holidays; and several youngsters were
The High Commissioner using his Emergency Powers imposed a dusk-todawn
curfew to help the police in their search for the culprits, and thus brought
most commercial and social life to a halt. The docks were still paralysed by the
go-slow, and the banking trade union imposed its own go slow. The curfews
were unpleasant. Every night I drove home through empty streets, where
nothing stirred except for heavily armed troops at street corners, at roadblocks
and in Land Rovers cruising up and down the main roads. I carried several
identity cards and passes to go to GH in the evenings, but it was depressing
to pass through the ghost town after dark. Aden was on a war footing, and we
lived almost in a state of siege that was most unpleasant.
The police made numerous arrests connected with the killings, and discovered
several caches of weapons, seditious literature and terrorist equipment, but the
strikers were destroying the economy of the port. The civil service began a
process of disintegration and the business community were making plans to
escape from the strike-ridden and chaotic trading situation. The morale of expatriates was low; and in Government House we were thoroughly depressed
by the situation. There was no conversation other than stories of bombs and
curfews. We were all complaining, either because there was too much security
and movement at night was forbidden, or because there was too little security
and the terrorists threw grenades despite every effort to stop them. Those of us
working in GH were well guarded, but we were fearful for the families living in
flats in Crater and Ma’alla who had the most worrying time.
While I organised the memorial service for poor Arthur Charles, HE held
fresh meetings with the Adenis and Federalis, still looking for some agreement
on a way forward. Mackawee refused to condemn the terrorists or to cooperate
with the Federalis, insisted on the UN Resolution on de-colonialisation, and
demanded that the NLF should be recognised as a political party. The Federalis
pressed that he be sacked; HE had certainly had enough of him and renewed
pleas to London for agreement to dismiss him. Greenwood consulted Michael
Stewart, Foreign Secretary, and they had two good arguments to preserve the
status quo. The legal argument was that the Chief Minister could be discharged
under Aden’s constitution only if he lost the support of the majority of members
of the Legislative Council; there was no question but Mackawee still retained
their confidence. Even more important, perhaps, was the Foreign Secretary’s
case that Aden events should not jeopardise the long-planned visit by Lord
Thomson, a Foreign Office Minister, to Cairo for talks with Nasser to try and
settle our numerous differences with Egypt’s leader.
Suspending the Aden Constitution
After another bad week of terrorist attacks, HE lost his last shred of patience
with Mackawee, and renewed his call to Greenwood to be allowed to remove
the whole Aden Council of Ministers by scrapping the Aden Constitution.
Greenwood responded by sending out two top Colonial Office officials to go
through all our problems and report back to London quickly. We met them
at the airport at 7 a.m. one Saturday morning, and HE and his senior staff
spent the weekend rehearsing all the issues. The officials flew back home on
the Monday and, in concert with Ministry of Defence people, put a paper of
options to the Overseas Defence Committee of the Cabinet the same week.
Shortly after that meeting I received - from whom I forget - a fairly detailed
report of the discussion. Greenwood pleaded for more time to enable him to
soften the Adenis’ attitude. Healey reflected HE’s advice by demanding the
suspension of the Aden Constitution, arguing that the expense of countering
the terrorist campaign in blood and gold was intolerable, and the terrorists could never be defeated so long as they were supported by the local government. He
suggested that Mackawee’s fierce criticisms of the Federation and the Federal
forces might lead to their collapse, and this disastrous situation would expose
British troops to the full brunt of the frontier war with the Yemen. Healey
clinched his case by pointing to the effects of the mounting terrorism on the
morale of British troops, their families and, through the press, on the public
at home. This argument brought Brown and Wilson on Healey’s side. They all
agreed that they could not afford a serious incident in Aden during the period
of the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. Greenwood was overruled; it
was decided to suspend the constitution and to give HE the extra staff and
additional powers he had requested to cope with the situation.
After the morning Cabinet meeting, we in Aden received news of the
Government’s decisions by telegram in the early evening. Delay was caused
by the fact that the Order at Council suspending the Aden constitution and
restoring Direct Rule had to be approved by the Queen with the Privy Council,
and she was in Balmoral.
We were then given thirty-six hours to make all arrangements and complete
the sacking of the Aden Government before Lord Thomson’s scheduled meeting
with Nasser in Cairo. After a rushed evening meal, HE summoned his advisers
and sorted out the technical niceties while the long-suffering ladies typed out
the legal papers and I tied up a detailed programme for action that Saturday.
Then we had to prepare press releases and the like, and we were working
with High Commission officials and legal advisers until after 1 o’clock in the
morning. GH throbbed with life through the hours of darkness, secretaries
scurried to and fro, meetings took place in every corner and at every hour, a
mass of papers went through my hands, and all of us were exhausted by the
time the plans were complete.
Thus Aden State in 1965 took a special place in the history of post-war
decolonisation as the only British colony which, in the movement towards
independence, had achieved self-government and then lost it.
On the Saturday HE summoned Mackawee and told him he and his fellow
councillors were dismissed; the publicity went out, and a new curfew was
imposed. In Cairo, Nasser, unsurprisingly, refused to see Lord Thomson, but in
Aden the imposition of direct rule improved expatriate morale enormously, and
was warmly welcomed by both the Federalis and the armed services. The Police
made a number of arrests and were happy to know they were to be reinforced
with twelve superintendents sent out from home, and the army were cheered
to feel they were getting more support from the Government. Better still, HE was able to govern by decree, and promptly banned two inflammatory local
newspapers, had some rabble-rousing ATUC leaders arrested, and sent the FRA
and FG to deal with disturbances that were taking place in Crater in defiance
of the curfew. The Federal forces had not been employed in this way before in
Aden State, and on this occasion they dealt firmly with the rioters, making
several hundred arrests. Acting on new information, twenty-five members of
the NLF were caught and a month later several more were rounded up and put
away in the Mansoura Detention Centre.
October – November 1965: Tightening Security
The lack of coordination of the police, army, security and intelligence staff
in Aden and across South Arabia was one of HE’s biggest concerns. Brigadier
Tony Cowper had the key post of Chief of Intelligence and did his best to
persuade all the different offices to unite their efforts - but there were so many
fingers in the pie and he was continually struggling to control operations and
hold everyone together.
Some useful steps were being taken at this time. Another senior army man
was added to the MEC strength to improve liaison with us - a big, bluff fellow
named Brigadier Paul Crook with whom I was soon to work closely, and whose
wife, Betty became a great asset in our small community.
Then Harry Nicholls arrived to become HE’s bodyguard. Harry was a
Deputy Superintendent from Scotland Yard. I had been pressing for a trained
and competent bodyguard ever since my arrival and met numerous senior people
to make the case. I had reiterated the point that, while the ADC and I carried
revolvers when out with HE and knew how to use them, we badly needed
someone who could bring professional police knowledge to GH security. So
I was delighted when Harry joined us. He was one of those heavy men who
enjoyed his beer but could move fast when required, and had lots of common
sense, bags of relevant experience and, above all, good humour. He was a huge
asset to our small GH team, took a load off my shoulders and became a very
The first thing Harry did was to equip HE, me and the ADC with up-todate
and effective revolvers and arrange for us to go on a small arms range on
several evenings that October to practise with the hand-guns. I was content to
find I had a steady wrist and could use my little Webley to good effect, if need
Harry also arranged for HE to use the GH cars less and less for outside
trips and to rely on the RAF’s Wessex and Sioux helicopters. In early October HE and I made our first flight across the bay to the Federal State Capital at
Al Ittihad by courtesy of the RAF. Not only was it safer, it was much quicker,
being only a five-minute trip across the bay rather than a dusty half hour by car
round the edge of the water, along the causeway and out into the desert.
That November, Sir Richard planned two weeks’ leave in Kenya, but had to
abandon the idea when the Prime Minister decided to send out Lord Beswick
and a team of advisers for a three-week tour of South Arabia. Frank Beswick
was a Labour Life Peer, a prominent trade union leader, newly appointed as
Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Commonwealth and Colonies, and the
House of Lords spokesman on these matters. He was directed by the Prime
Minister to look for ways of pushing forward the Government’s policy in South
Arabia and of bridging the chasm between the Federalis and the Adenis.
I joined a High Commission team over several afternoons to work out a full
programme for the visit in fulfilment of the Colonial Office’s directions. We
arranged for our visitor to stay at GH for four or five days to get to know the
Adeni politicians and leaders, fly with HE to Mukalla to meet the rulers of the
EAP, have another week in Aden in a solid round of formal and social meetings,
and conclude with a series of up-country trips to meet the Sultans and other key
figures on their home ground in the mountains of the WAP.
When Lord Beswick arrived, however, he did not impress us. He behaved
rather like an inspector on behalf of his master, sniffing and snooping around
and asking questions he thought would embarrass us. He kept me running
about, summoning people to meet him at GH and fixing his outside visits. I got
home each evening after a twelve-hour day, and returned to GH in a black tie
to help out at dinner parties to enable our visitor to meet informally yet more
people. Doubtless briefed by Greenwood, Beswick never seemed to trust the
High Commission and made it clear he did not like the programme we had
arranged. He complained he had insufficient time in which to talk to the Adenis
- even though we made every effort to ensure he had met everyone of interest
and learned all the different angles on his tour. He flew home grumbling after
exhausting us all at GH. We said goodbye to him with some relief that at last
we were free of the constant nagging of a difficult Minister.
The new CinC
Lady Turnbull returned as winter approached and the temperature cooled
in Aden, and took her place as hostess at GH, notably for a superb dinner party the Turnbulls gave for the departing CinC, Sir Richard Harington, perhaps the
smartest occasion of the many I attended at the Aden GH.
The Turnbulls then celebrated Lord Beswick’s departure with a night of
Scottish dancing before we were plunged into a round of receptions and dinners
to welcome the new CinC. He was Admiral Sir Michael Le Fanu, and was
accompanied by his two teenage children and his wife, Lady Prue, sadly tied
to a wheel chair. Le Fanu had a massive personality, a powerful intelligence,
bags of drive, a broad grin and a sense of humour to match. He was going bald
with sparse ginger hair and freckles, and as CinC always wore tropical khaki
in preference to naval uniform. He was given to practical jokes, but was one of
those men who exerted total command over others quite effortlessly and with
great charm. Very soon after his arrival he became a constant visitor to GH
where he seemed to get on well with HE, and, in many respects, these two men
together directed all our efforts to control the civil strife and violence in the
For the Turnbulls, Christmas was ruined by a reshuffle of the Cabinet at
home. Greenwood disappeared and was replaced as Colonial Secretary by Lord
Longford; and HE was immediately called home for consultations with the
new Minister. Pleased to see the back of Greenwood, and exhausted by a big
GH cocktail party on 23rd December, we were bored to have to spend the
holiday preparing papers for these London meetings. We went straight from
the office to the midnight service on Christmas Eve and held briefing meetings
for HE until Christmas Day lunchtime. That evening we were all finally able
to relax at a happy ‘family’ GH dinner party for the Turnbulls and their staff.
We got to bed at 2.30 a.m. on Boxing Day, only to rise two hours later to
see HE off to London. We understood he took with him fresh constitutional
proposals to try out on the new Secretary of State, shifting the emphasis away
from Greenwood’s concept of a ‘unitary state’, which was dead in the water, to
a development of the existing federal structure.
Chapter 5: Rollercoaster To Disaster
‘May you live in interesting times’
Reputed to be an ancient Chinese curse.
January - February 1966: The Defence Review
For much of January HE was stuck in London. Sir Evelyn Hone and Sir
Gawain Bell published their proposals for a constitution for South Arabia and
HE attended talks between the new Secretary of State and the Federalis, who
had also been summoned to the Colonial Office to begin discussions on the
possible implementation of these recommendations.
One of the nastiest terrorist attacks among the many of those days then
occurred. The victim was Robin Thorne, who lived with his wife Joan in a flat
opposite mine and was Chief Secretary of the Aden State administration. He
was in his office one January morning opening his mail when a parcel bomb
exploded in his hands. He was rushed to hospital and suffered serious injuries
to both hands as well as bad shock and damage to his chest, arms and hearing.
After a short while, he was sent home for treatment and his deputies looked
after Aden affairs in his absence. Three other parcels with booby traps were
subsequently discovered in the post before being opened. Jeremy scurried round
to make sure that all GH mail was properly checked before reaching the High
Commissioner; and the RAF set up special screening arrangements thereafter,
but of course the damage had been done.
While in London in talks with the Federalis, HE learned privately of the
likely outcome of the Defence Review which included HMG’s plan for a
total withdrawal from the Aden base. Under massive financial pressure, the
Government had reached the conclusion the country could no longer afford
HQMEC, but should fold it up, withdraw British troops from South Arabia,
and terminate HMG’s treaties of protection with the rulers without offering
financial support after independence. These decisions created a whole new raft
of problems, and HE was obliged to spend a great deal of time with officials of the Colonial and Foreign Offices and Ministry of Defence considering ways of
presenting them and making the best of them in Aden and South Arabia.
In London, as in telegrams from GH after his return to Aden, I am sure
HE argued against the Government decision to refuse funds for the rulers
after independence. He made no secret of his distaste for the venal, selfish and
ineffective Sultans and sheikhs but felt strongly nothing should be done to
undermine the legitimacy of the Federation or jeopardise its position. He saw
the Government plan to be not only a dishonourable breach of our treaties
of protection but also a serious political mistake in weakening the Federation
shortly before giving it independence, and in encouraging Aden State to ignore
the doomed rulers and turn to Cairo for their future security.
As a result HE came back from the January talks much later than expected,
frustrated at the way things were going, but sworn to secrecy about the Defence
Review while Ministers tied up the details at home. It was a busy ten days in
GH after his return, full of meetings and long telephone calls. He attended
the Supreme Council at Al Ittihad and formally presented the Hone/Bell
recommendations for constitutional reform. He called in the leaders of the
Adeni Arab business community and moderate figures to invite them to join
an Advisory Council, which he could consult when acting in his capacity of
Governor of the Colony following the suspension of its constitution. He chaired
the Security Policy Committee to review the situation in the face of continued
shooting and violence in the street, and he fitted in a visit to Kamaran Island,
which, like Socotra, was one of his more remote responsibilities.
On 15th February Lord Beswick came back with Messrs. Marnham and
Butler, on his second visit to Aden. Before his arrival, I had been given to
understand he came to commend the Hone-Bell Report - the authors had
arranged to fly out to Aden three days after Beswick to promote their proposals
- but their work was totally overshadowed by the real reason for Beswick’s visit
which was to report the outcome of the Defence Review to the Federalis and
He was just as disagreeable and unexciting a fellow as he had been on his
first visit, but we did our best to make his stay comfortable and useful. My role
was simply to arrange the meetings, call the right people up for conferences in
HE’s office, and ensure transport and timings were right for outside visits, but I
lived, ate and slept politics during the duration of the Minister’s visit.
Beswick’s announcement of the British withdrawal was greeted with
delight by the Adeni politicians, with indifference by the EAP sultans, with
consternation among the Federali rulers, and with hostility on the part of their Political Officers. It was a time of tension and strong feelings, and a major
political row developed. Happily there was a brief cessation of terrorism because
of confusion and inefficiency in the Yemen, but the Federalis were bitterly
resentful and their advisers were simmering with fury. The rulers claimed they
had agreed to form the Federation on the understanding that HMG would
maintain its protective shield; its removal would leave them vulnerable to
military attacks from the Yemen while making them a laughing stock in Cairo.
The Aden police and the armed services were almost equally concerned that
the announcement of the British intention to withdraw deprived them of any
last chance of local support. The Labour Government was accused not only of
breaking the promises made many years earlier and recently renewed, but also
of handing South Arabia over to the Egyptians - and, as if to prove the point,
we heard with concern that Nasser cancelled his plans to withdraw Egyptian
troops from the Yemen.
All of us in the High Commission recognised HMG’s desperate financial
straits but nevertheless believed their timing was wrong and the decision not
to offer the Federalis support after the troops’ withdrawal was a fatal mistake.
Despite his personal view of the Government’s decisions, HE was tarred with
the same brush as Beswick, and required to reflect the Labour Government’s
policies in public pronouncements and promote them in his discussions with
the Federalis - he was bound to attract odium locally and life cannot have
been easy for him. Meanwhile Beswick nipped back to London for further
consultations, came back again ten days later, and stubbornly pursued the
official line. He persuaded nobody in the Federation of the virtue or value of
his Government’s policies.
March – April 1966 - FLOSY
Emboldened by the Defence Review and urged on by the vociferous
anti-British radio stations of Cairo, Sanaa and Taiz, the terrorists redoubled
their attacks on our military patrols and checkpoints. Rocket-launchers and
drainpipe mortars extended the terrorists’ reach, although grenades and the
pistol remained their preferred weapons for indiscriminate murder. The NLF
appeared to be strengthened by the cooperation of a political group of Cairobacked
dissidents calling itself by the absurd name of FLOSY (Front for the
Liberation of Occupied South Yemen), though I never understood how they
related together and at least in its early days FLOSY publicly claimed not to
favour violence. The police arrested twenty or more thugs to break up the gangs
for a short while that April, but policemen were being heavily intimidated and becoming unreliable, and the army found itself responsible for nearly all aspects
of our security.
As soon as the curfew was lifted after three trouble-free nights, the Aden
trades union leaders promptly called a general strike. These strikes were
invariably followed by riots and HE revived his daily ‘Crisis Meetings’ to ensure
essential services, prepare for trouble in the docks, and control rioting on the
streets of Crater. Once more the Security Policy Committee met regularly;
and the senior police, security people and army chiefs gathered at GH each
evening, before issuing instructions for managing the rioting and responding
to the threats to public services. The riots were extensive, but on this occasion
at least, the security authorities did a good job, for only one life was lost in three
days of fierce violence and fracas in the streets.
Cairo and Taiz renewed their allegations of torture at the Fort Morbut
Interrogation Centre and HE was put under more pressure, as much from
London as from the Arab world, to allow outsiders to inspect the facilities and
meet the detainees. The International Red Cross was brought in. A junior official
of the highly respected IRC, a quiet, courteous but persistent Swiss named
Rochat, was sent out to investigate. He called several times at GH, quickly
obtained HE’s permission to visit the prisoners and kept HE in touch with his
enquiries. Rochat was looked after by Don McCarthy, and given access to the
prisoners and every facility by Tony Lee. After some days, Rochat reported back
to the IRC in Switzerland and to London that he found rough treatment, but,
I gathered, no evidence of systematic brutality.
The 1966 General Election
At the beginning of May, the heat intensified once again as the Aden
summer approached, and air-conditioners were once more in use while our
nerves grew a little strained, tempers frayed, and conversations turned to leave
and holidays for those lucky enough to get away. Sadly for me, my new friend,
Harry Nicholls, our staunch GH bodyguard, came to the end of his contract
with us. We also said goodbye to a number of other key people, including
some long-serving and popular officials, such as the Da Silvas of the Foreign
Office, and the Suttons from the Labour Department, and we were entertained
generously by the Coldstream Guards as their tour of duty also ended.
Meanwhile the terrorists refreshed their efforts to disrupt Aden’s commercial
life by strikes and go-slows. The ATUC called another general strike, which
led to another round of rioting and street fighting. Tension developed between
the army and the police authorities. Commissioner Peter Owen was very much on the defensive because the troops on the ground knew that many police
sympathised with the terrorists and could not be trusted in a tight situation.
Brigadier Cowper was constantly with HE planning ways of containing the
violence and improving our security, and HE was frequently in touch with the
leading businessmen to coordinate their response to the industrial turmoil.
At home, policy-making was suspended during the General Election
campaign. The Federalis took the opportunity to travel to Jeddah to seek help
from the Saudi royal family – with, I think, HE’s active encouragement, for
it seemed to some of us that the best hope of the rulers’ survival lay in Saudi
support. Meanwhile HE kept talks going with the parties and developed a plan
to persuade them all to meet on neutral ground in Beirut for discussions about
a future constitution. In due course, however, this plan was rejected too.
Under pressure, the Federalis then accepted the UN Resolution about a
democratic future for an independent South Yemen. It was hoped that such a
major concession would receive a positive response from the nationalists. None
was forthcoming. Lord Caradon, our man at the UN, reported to the General
Assembly the Federalis’ new position. In consultation with the Foreign Office,
he went on to invite the UN to send a Mission to South Arabia ‘to help effect
the transition to independence’ and thus inadvertently brought the house down
about our ears. Meanwhile everyone was waiting to see the colour of the new
Government at home.
To the dismay of the Federalis, the Labour Party retained power at the
Election. One of their first moves was to transfer responsibility for Aden affairs
from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office, and to initiate a fresh round
of political talks. We lost Lord Beswick and found ourselves in the charge of a
Mrs Eirene White, under Michael Stewart. As the talks developed some of the
discussions seemed to me to be constructive, and I mistakenly saw a glimmer
of hope of building up a unified state out of the former chaos. Sadly it quickly
emerged the parties were still nowhere near agreement, even on starting talks
Helpfully, as a gesture to placate the Federalis, the Foreign Office offered
them discussions in London about strengthening their armed forces after
independence to replace the protection that HMG would be withdrawing.
Nobody was under any illusions in thinking such talks would solve the
Federalis’ problems or satisfy their demands, but it was the least the Labour
Government could do on breaking their solemn treaty promises. Proposals
were therefore made to bring the Federalis to London. Sir Richard made plans
to attend the proposed talks in the middle of May and asked me to accompany him and perhaps have a little leave afterwards. In GH we were getting stale and
welcomed the prospect of a trip home and a spot of leave after several months’
hard labour in the heat.
Lady T went home first, much relieved to escape the blazing sun, while HE
fitted in several local trips, up to Habilayn and Dhala, and a day or two later
across to the island of Perim, before he, too, flew home. I followed two days
The Foreign Office
Thus it was that in the middle of May I found myself walking along Downing
Street and passing through the hallowed doors of the Foreign Office. Inside it
was fascinatingly ugly: all heavily Victorian with pokey corner offices next to
grand swooping staircases, and stout, oak doors hiding rooms full of dusty files
that the FO insisted on calling ‘dockets’. When I reported to HE, I found him
already well-established with his own room and on good terms with the officials
concerned with the Middle East, some of whom he had known when they had
been in the Colonial Office in his East African days. I was given a desk in the
‘Aden Office’, a small corner room high up in the old building tucked away
beyond the venerable India Library. With sash windows overlooking St James’s
Park, our room was occupied by three friendly middle-ranking men squashed
among bulging filing cabinets.
I accompanied HE that first day in meetings with Sir Roger Allen, the Deputy
Under Secretary, and other officials; I particularly took to Alec Cumming-
Bruce who had worked in Aden before moving to the Foreign Office. I caught
up with Harry Nicholls who had a base in the FO, and with Ralph Daly and
Dick Holmes, who had accompanied the Federal rulers on this London trip.
The Federalis were staying at the Mount Royal Hotel in Mayfair with their
British advisors, and had their own office, an embryonic embassy, at 21 Park
Lane, a small partly-converted private house with a Dickensian front and pretty
bow windows, incongruously squeezed in among ultra-modern high-rise blocks of
flats and hotels. Sir Richard and I called on them there, at the start of the second
day of meetings. Later that morning we all trooped across in a fleet of taxis to 18
Carlton House Terrace above the Mall, all dark panelling, burgundy red hangings
with gold trimmings and towering portraits of long-dead statesmen. Here Sir
Roger Allen formally opened the conference with the Federal representatives, and
Mr Brenchley, head of the Arabian Department, led for the Government. The
dignified Arabs in their best tribal robes looked totally out of place round an
enormous mahogany table among the be-suited officials. It was all formality - no constructive business was done in my hearing that day - and the next day was
equally unproductive when the Federalis were received by the Foreign Secretary
to be given further unwelcome confirmation of his Government’s plans for
withdrawal and their abandonment. On leaving this meeting the rulers returned
to Park Lane to lick their wounds and digest the meeting while HE took me back
to his room and gave me a number of jobs to do over the following weeks.
Perhaps the most important task I undertook was to select a replacement for
Harry Nicholls as HE’s bodyguard. I set about it immediately and, at the FO’s
request, Scotland Yard sent round for interview three single young men of some
experience in personal protection who seemed willing to do the job. With help
from my new colleagues in the Aden Office, I selected Stuart Myhan whom HE
vetted and who, in due course, joined us at GH.
My second job was to arrange hospitality for HE to offer the Federalis
while they were in London. He sent me to the Festival Hall to hire a room
overlooking the Thames on the South Bank, and this proved a great success.
We sat around a long table in a big, airy, modern room for a formal lunch one
day, when, in addition to the rulers, HE invited the Dalys, Dick Holmes, Joan
and Robin Thorne (recovering from his injuries caused by the parcel bomb that
January), and Laurie Hobson and his wife who were old South Arabian hands.
The food was good and our guests were impressed with the view of the broad
river flowing below the picture windows.
I had also to arrange a reception for the Federalis at the top of the tall
revolving Post Office Tower. As it circled slowly round, it gave our guests
the chance to see most of north and central London spread out below them.
The views were stunning and the place a great novelty, but the venue was less
satisfactory because the party was scattered among lots of small separate tables
with little room for movement around them.
The third task HE gave me was to talk to the senior people at the Public
Record Office in Chancery Lane about the eventual storage of the Aden
GH files and records following independence. I found this visit particularly
interesting as I walked through the portals of this massive neo-Gothic structure
and met the eminent experts on document storage. I covered many pages of a
notebook with their directions about stacking and storing the GH archives in
preparation for our departure on independence.
My final task was to fix a meeting between HE and Sir Barnett Janner, MP, on
behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Board was understandably anxious about the future of the small Jewish community in Crater, under threat
from the increasingly strident nationalist Muslims around them. Sir Barnett
invited us to the House of Commons to seek reassurances from HE about the
protection of this community after independence, but HE regretted he could
offer no comfort and give no guarantees - a depressing session.
Meanwhile the Federalis pressed FO officials about money to enable their
armies to be reinforced after independence. The Government found five million
pounds from somewhere; there was a formal exchange of letters, and HE shuttled
between Park Lane and Downing Street in an effort to find common ground.
Working parties met and talked about money and the post-independence
military requirements of the Federation - the rulers wanted things like scout
cars, aeroplanes and training for their pilots. FO and MOD officials were
prepared to hear these demands without commitment. The Federalis ended
the week with an interview with Denis Healey at the Defence Ministry before
attending the Trooping of the Colour on Horseguards Parade that Saturday.
During the second week of talks, sessions continued with FO officials. Paul
Crook was brought in to organise discussions at the MOD to assess and negotiate
the Federalis’ demands for military hardware. He also arranged meetings
between some of the rulers and the Boards of BP and British Aerospace at their
prestigious offices in Pall Mall. A little later they all went down to Farnborough
to see a demonstration of aircraft that they might ask HMG to buy for them,
such as the tough, low-flying and versatile Hawker Hunters that were much in
use for fighting in the mountains.
It was then that I learnt the first rule of Government negotiations. There
must always be two distinct phases. Firstly the responsible Ministry had to
be convinced of the validity of the demands put before them; secondly that
Ministry had to convince the Treasury of the case. Treasury officials were in the
background throughout the talks, but came formally on to the scene only in the
final two or three days of this conference; at that stage they were very tough in
analysing and checking the figures presented by the FO.
Government hospitality swung into action. The Crown Agents hosted a
lunch for the rulers in their grand premises at No 1 Millbank. A couple of days
later, following another session at Carlton House Gardens, the whole party
moved down the Terrace to lunch at the Foreign Secretary’s official London
residence. Next Sir Roger Allen held a reception in his rooms in the hallowed
old Foreign Office itself. Finally, at the end of the formal conference at Whitsun on 2nd June, the Government gave a luncheon ‘in honour of the delegates from
the Government of the Federation of South Arabia’ amid the somewhat faded
but still impressive pomp and circumstance of Lancaster House at the bottom
of St James’s Street.
Immediately after this party, the conference quietly folded up; the Federalis
flew off to Jeddah and thence back to South Arabia whilst HE and I took ten
days’ leave and went our various ways. At its end, much refreshed, the last thing
I did before returning to Aden was to buy myself a Walther PPK revolver. Acting
on Harry Nicholls’ advice, I went to Cogswell and Harrison, the gunsmiths in
Piccadilly, and chose a good solid weapon, beautifully put together by German
craftsmen. Thus armed I returned to the fray.
July – September 1966: The Aden Summer
Harry escorted me with the gun in my bag through the diplomats’ exit at
Heathrow and on to the Aden plane early one morning, and I found myself
back once more in that powerful, searing and relentless heat of Aden. Every
exertion was a strain in the very hot weather, but there was plenty going on. My
first few days back in the office at GH were spent in settling in Stuart Myhan,
the new personal bodyguard, who required a good deal of help in adjusting to
our way of life. He needed to understand the nature of the threat from which
it was his duty to protect the Turnbulls, and I sent him off on a quick tour of
both the WAP and the EAP in order to get the flavour of our life and meet the
key personalities in the field.
HE rapidly got into his stride, resuming talks with all the parties to look again
for a measure of agreement on the Hone/Bell proposals for a new constitution
for South Arabia to which the British could hand over power. George Brown
became Foreign Secretary that August and exerted pressure on HE to persuade
the Federalis to allow the Adenis more say in the federal government and to
accept an early date for independence. Brown thought that it would suffice
to bribe the rulers with offers of more money for their budgets on top of the
military aid already on the table. Understandably perhaps, the rulers refused
to contemplate early independence and continued to resist every proposal that
could weaken their hold on power.
At the end of July, Egyptian MIG fighter planes crossed the border from
the Yemen and bombed and strafed villages in Beihan state. The old Sharif was
hopping mad and demanded immediate retaliation by the RAF, to which he
and his fellow rulers believed HMG was committed under their Treaty. HE
sought the Foreign Office permission but George Brown hummed and hawed and then complained to the Security Council at the United Nations. Lord
Caradon, our man at the UN, kicked up a tidy little stink but the all-powerful
Committee on Decolonialisation ensured that the matter was soon forgotten
and kicked into the long grass. The Sharif remained intensely angry and let
the world know his view of the feebleness of the Labour Government. The
London press was full of the story and every headline at home meant a hectic
few days for us in GH, with delegations from Beihan and the Federalis, formal
letters of complaint, responses, protests and frequent demands for interviews
from journalists – a flap in the morning, a series of meetings, and telegrams all
through the afternoon.
Public engagements continued despite the heat. August saw the annual
visitations of a parliamentary delegation and the Imperial Defence College who
required briefing, entertaining and escorting on their sight-seeing tours. The
Royal Tank Regiment held a special parade, and a few days later gave us an
impressive demonstration of the capabilities of the Chieftain Tank.
Rear Admiral Martin, the new FOME, called on HE, and, on Trafalgar Day
in October, invited all of us in GH to a great party aboard HMS Fearless. This
was an ‘amphibious assault ship’ that had recently arrived in the harbour. We
were shown round it and saw the flight deck from which Sea King helicopters
could fly to help troops on the ground tackling the rioters and gangs of gunmen.
This was the Royal Navy’s useful contribution to anti-terrorist operations.
Of even more significance, Air Marshal Sir Charles Elworthy came out to
Aden. He was the new Chief of the Defence Staff and a distinguished New
Zealand airman. He spent a great deal of time at GH for he was to have ultimate
responsibility for the withdrawal of our forces on independence and wished to
acquaint himself fully with the situation of our armed services, the police and
the High Commission.
At the same time, HE continued efforts to form an Advisory Council to give
him advice in the execution of his role as Governor of Aden State. I called up more
leading Adeni figures to see him, but, sadly, he found few men prepared to stick
their necks out and work with him. Most of those he interviewed were either too
antagonistic or too intimidated to join such a Council. Despite constant efforts he
never got it off the ground and had to settle for a committee of officials instead.
The good news was that he had at last secured the funds, and found the man
to control the whole security apparatus in South Arabia and Aden. He had long
called for a single senior man to coordinate the work of the intelligence services
of the police, High Commission, Foreign Office and military throughout the
colony and protectorates. John Prendergast answered the call and arrived in Aden that June while we were away. I was introduced to him and his stylish
wife, Dolly, by our charming housekeeper, Eliane, who held a cocktail party
for them in her flat soon after my return. Dolly became a great friend of ours at
GH and we were very pleased to see her there from time to time. John was a tall
and upright Irishman who had made a name for himself in Cyprus and Hong
Kong, and happened to be a very good chap whom we all liked.
Brigadier Tony Cowper left after two hard years to a series of warm farewell
parties. John had a stronger personality and still fiercer determination than
his predecessor, and quickly swung into action. At much the same time, HE
formed what he called his ‘Ginger Group’, comprising himself, the CinC, the
GOC, Tom Oates, Prendergast and McCarthy to give even closer and tighter
coordination of the activities of the armed and intelligence services.
Prendergast’s coming was of course too late. Matters were getting out of
hand. As relentless as the oppressive heat was the terrorism. The NLF stepped
up another notch in its campaign of violence and was joined by FLOSY in
attacks on our soldiers wherever they appeared, whether off or on duty in their
constant efforts to keep the peace, in their scout cars, at their check-points, and
on their foot patrols. Two young army sergeants were shot and killed while
shopping in the Crescent. A month later, the terrorists assassinated a leading
member on the Federal Council and, as a reprisal, the Federalis closed the
border with the Yemen and deported a bunch of Yemeni undesirables. In early
October, the security situation was such that all civilians were advised to keep
off the streets on the increasingly frequent riot days and be home by 1800 hrs
whenever a curfew was imposed.
In Mukalla the Colonel of the HBL, Pat Gray was fired at and mortally
wounded by his own sentry as he was leaving his home. His wife was seriously
injured in the Land Rover beside him, and he drove her down to the doors of
the hospital before he died at the wheel of his vehicle. We were all horrified at
the murder, and acutely worried lest this attack should lead to the collapse of
the peace of the EAP. I supported HE at the Colonel’s funeral in Silent Valley
with a large attendance of Mukalla people and an impressive presence of the
officers of the HBL. Gray’s colleagues tried to obtain a posthumous award from
the Queen to recognise his bravery in saving the life of his wife as his own
ebbed away. I was privileged to forward the citation to the Foreign Office on
HE’s behalf; but no award was approved - apparently because courage in the
interests of one’s family was expected of everyone.
Other developments occurred in the EAP. The old Qu’aiti Sultan died and
authority passed to his heir, Ghalib al Qu’aiti, a handsome fellow, reputed to be a keen squash player, just out of school, sensible and likeable but somewhat
bewildered at the heavy responsibility that had passed to him. After consultation
with Jim Ellis the acting Resident, HE returned to Mukalla for discussions
about the future with the young man in early September and found him a
great deal more alert and informed than had been his aged predecessor. Sultan
Ghalib was, however, bound to accept the advice of his officials and still flatly
opposed to association with Aden or the WAP rulers. HE went on to Seiyun to
hear the same position reiterated by the Kathiri Sultan. Soon afterwards, HE
was summoned to London for fresh talks with the Foreign Secretary - while I
was much distracted by arrangements for my wedding and the honeymoon.
Winter 1966: Back to the Grindstone
On my return to work after the honeymoon, I learned that the NLF had split
from FLOSY, but another terrorist group had emerged with Nasser’s money
from the shadows. This new organisation went by the unattractive acronym,
PORF, comprised the hard core of professional terrorists and was probably
the nastiest of the lot. The terrorists were no longer rough country boys; they
were skilled exponents of street fighting, using both small arms and weapons of
heavy calibre. They seemed often to change their allegiance and alliances, but
never relaxed their frenetic attacks on our troops and civilians in the town and
the WAP. In late November a bomb was put on an Aden Airways Dakota on
a regular route from Wahidi to Aden and blew the plane up in the air. Among
the passengers was Tim Goschen, an Assistant Adviser; and I returned to the
cemetery in Silent Valley for his sad funeral.
HE was persisting in talks at Al Ittihad about the constitutional proposals in
the Hone-Bell report, and made yet another trip to Mukalla in the EAP on Ted
Eyre’s return from leave. At the same time, the High Commission came under
renewed pressure from those who chose to believe Cairo radio’s allegations that
the detainees were being tortured. Mr Bowen, an eminent QC, was sent out by
the worried Foreign Secretary to check the situation at Fort Morbut. He was given
every facility, made thorough enquiries, and wrote a report that rejected most –
though, it should be said, not all - of the detainees’ accusations. Even before Bowen’s
work was complete, however, Rochat of the IRC came back to Aden and re-visited
the Interrogation Centre. Once more Don McCarthy and Tony Lee looked after
him, ensured he had such access to the detainees as he required, and brought him
up to GH to discuss problems with HE on several occasions.
According to the IRC’s practice, their reports were confidential, but this
was not good enough for Radio Cairo. So Rochat was followed by others less polite and even more persistent who wanted a public enquiry and report. Only
a few days after his departure appeared Dr Rastgeldi, a Swede, an emissary of
Amnesty International (AI) who in his turn demanded access to the prisoners.
HE considered the investigations by the IRC and Mr Bowen were sufficient
and refused the doctor’s demands. This brought out the chairman of AI, a
certain Dr Peter Benenden, to whom HE gave half an hour before refusing his
insistent clamour to meet the detainees – and it was inevitable that he should
resort to the television on returning to the UK to reiterate his unsubstantiated
allegations of torture on the part of our interrogators. The British Government
was embarrassed and George Brown was not pleased.
An unusual distraction occurred at GH that winter. A bunch of drunken
guardsmen beat up and killed a taxi driver taking them along the causeway
on the way back to barracks in Little Aden late one September night. One at
least of these soldiers was found guilty of wilful murder by a civil court. Now,
unlike the UK and most of the Commonwealth, Aden had retained capital
punishment for premeditated murder, so the case came to HE as final ‘court of
appeal’ with the power to confirm the judge’s sentence of death by hanging. The
possibility of such a thing excited the salacious British press and GH received
letters from opponents of the death penalty and even from ordinary housewives
at home pleading for the soldier’s life. It fell to me to answer these letters which
I trust I did with proper sympathy and firmness. HE had to wait some time
while he took advice from the Aden AG as he was required to do, but there can
never have been any question in his mind of approving the capital sentence; he
remitted it to ten years in jail by a stroke of the pen (to be served at home) and
all the excitement immediately subsided.
In December, HE received firm directions from the Foreign Secretary to
terminate the Treaties of Protection between HMG and the rulers of both the
WAP and the EAP. Sir Richard, his advisers and the WAP Office objected
that this action would make the situation still worse because it would further
weakening the rulers on whom rested the only hopes for a peaceful solution;
but all our arguments were over-ruled. It thus fell to me to call in the lawyers
to prepare and process the legal documents addressed to each of the rulers. I
hated doing it. I shared the opinion that we were breaking the most solemn
promises and reneging on formal undertakings on which reliance had been
placed over many years. I was told this was no more than HMG had done to
the Maharajahs of the Indian states at India’s independence some years earlier,
but this was no consolation. We were officially and formally throwing the rulers
to the wolves.
The urgency thus increased tenfold with which HE pursued the will o’ the
wisp of agreement on a constitutional settlement for a viable post-independence
state in South Arabia. He was in endless discussions with his key advisers, and
spent Christmas Eve closeted with the Federal Ministers, but made no progress.
By the year end, every possible permutation of the Federal constitution had
been explored and no agreement had been reached.
Christmas was a busy time in my office at GH. Not only was the future
constitution under active and daily consideration, but letters had to be sent to
those receiving honours, we entertained the foreign consuls and local dignitaries
in a series of cocktail parties, and the flow of important visitors and journalists
continued through the winter.
Jeremy Rawlins’ time as ADC was up, and I daresay he was glad to be
returning to proper soldiering once more. HE happened to be away when
Jeremy left but we gave him and his young wife, Annie-Paul, a good send-off
and any number of farewell parties. It was then my task to welcome the new
ADC, ‘Ra’ Wilson, seconded from the RAF, and to introduce him to his new
duties and to the staff. He was a steady, competent and reliable fellow and
he fitted easily in to our team. Stuart Myhan, the bodyguard left us and was
replaced by Peter Riley, another staunch fellow from the Metropolitan Police.
Chapter 6: Farce and Tragedy
‘Across a world where all men grieve
And grieving strive for more,
The great days range like tides and leave
Our dead on every shore.
Heavy the load we undergo,
And our own hands prepare,
If we have parley with the foe
The load our sons must bear.’
From Justice by Rudyard Kipling
The New Year 1967
In the New Year we went to a beautifully-staged Beating the Retreat by the
1st Battalion of The Cameronians on the Steamer Point maidan; and a few days
later we were entertained by the RAF at a grand ball at Khormaksar following
HE’s presentation of a new standard to A Squadron. The retired General Sir
Oliver Leese, President of the British Legion, came to stay at GH, and the
intrepid Lady Listowel turned up (an old friend from Dar es Salaam days)
but Aden had become too uncomfortable even for her. Not long afterwards, a
roving Japanese ambassador called on HE and I found myself looking after a
large delegation from Japan that required particular care for their safety.
The CDS, Sir Charles Elworthy returned to Aden in January and spent more
time with HE. Subsequently HE received and entertained a long list of military
VIPs; the CQMG, the Vice Chief of the General Staff, the CinC of UK Land
Forces, the Head of Personnel at the MOD, the Controller General of Public
Works, and finally Admiral Sir Charles Ponsonby when his flagship was in port.
Fresh atrocities occurred and violence escalated in the first two months of
1967. The terrorist organisations were fighting each other as well as our police and army and an internecine war was developing. A grenade exploded in the
garden of the home of the former Chief Minister, Abdul Mackawee, killing
several members of his family and police who had been called to the scene. The
funeral the next day was the occasion for more rioting when several moderate
members of the established political party, the SAL, were lynched by the mob
before troops could intervene. A little later a battalion commander of the FRA
was assassinated, and his funeral was attended by NLF people as well as by his
In mid January, Dr Cen Jones, a senior doctor in Aden and the Permanent
Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, was shot and wounded in his car;
a day or two later a Deputy Superintendent of Police was murdered; and a
BBC engineer was attacked. A general strike was called by FLOSY and the
NLF which resulted in mass rioting in Crater by their supporters and a serious
incident at the Al Mansoura Detention Centre.
In early February the terrorists attempted to take control of Sheikh Othman;
in the subsequent riots, a mob lynched an alleged Yemeni royalist whom the
police refused to protect; and the NLF renewed their campaign of strikes
and rioting that brought the troops on to the streets as targets for the bomb-throwers
and assassins. Our men continued to receive casualties; on more than
one occasion that month I found myself representing HE at sad funerals of
young soldiers in Silent Valley.
The constant strikes and street demonstrations made it necessary for HE
to revive arrangements for a daily ‘Ginger Group’ meeting at 6.30pm every
evening, with his Deputy, the GOC and the heads of police and intelligence.
Late every afternoon, the Chief of Staff, Brigadier Dunbar, brought to GH the
statistics of the day’s incidents, dead and wounded, soldiers and Arabs, and
the high level team planned control measures for the following day. HE had
to weigh all the factors as each future step was discussed. He had to guide and
direct the forces of law and order in exercising minimum force in controlling
the violence, to consider his response to the constant pressure from the Federal
rulers for tougher measures, to do what he could to reassure employers that
everything possible was being done, and to meet the demands of the Chief
Justice for correct procedures in handling prisoners and the use of the courts of
law – habeas corpus and all that.
The army took over from the police and deployed in the known trouble spots
before trouble broke out, thus limiting some of the worst violence and catching
a number of terrorists in the act. The Police arrested several key FLOSY men
whom the Federalis stridently demanded should be hanged. The rulers and their advisers were very angry when the Government at home, presumably still
hoping to do a deal with the nationalists, decreed these FLOSY leaders should
merely be deported.
11th February that year was the ninth anniversary of the founding of the
Federation. The nationalists planned a general strike and all-out riot. The
Federal Supreme Council wanted HE to impose a curfew, have the soldiers
shoot anyone on the streets breaking it, and string up the leaders of the troubles.
He and the GOC were bound to reject their demands, and day after day the
troops were obliged to patrol the streets as sitting targets. HE was however keen
that the planned celebrations of the anniversary at Al Ittihad should go ahead
despite the rioting in Crater. He was preparing to set off in the helicopter to
take the salute at the maidan there at the parade of the FRA Camel Corps and
march past of the battalion of troops, when a grim-faced Peter Riley came in
to his office to tell us of reports that the landing ground had been sown with
anti-personnel mines. Soldiers were looking for them but could not find them.
HE was advised not to fly there. As we on his staff stood around wondering
about alternative arrangements, HE paused for only a second before deciding
to go ahead with the flight. Happily, all went well, and the celebrations passed
off without incident. But one shivered for a moment.
People at home were completely baffled to know the reason why the
nationalist leaders encouraged and backed the mayhem and killing in the
streets. It was hard to understand why, with early independence promised, it
was still necessary for our soldiers to risk their lives daily patrolling the town
to prevent rioting and bloodshed. In some other colonies, terrorism had been
instigated by nationalists with the aim of forcing the colonial power to hasten
the process to independence. In the case of South Arabia, HMG had already
announced its intention to leave as soon as possible, and told everyone its plans
and rough timetable. The imminence of our departure was already well-known;
the terrible violence was not only unnecessary to persuade us to leave, it was
delaying our departure because it immensely complicated efforts to form a
government for the future independent state.
HE was among those who understood the continued useless killing was
not normal nationalist activity. He had by then learned of the depth of the
animosity of Nasser and his minions to our occupation of a corner of Arabian
lands, as well as the intensity of the Muslim loathing of the infidel colonial
authority. He and the experienced arabists among his advisers had come to
realise that the violence was a carefully planned policy by the Egyptians and
their local allies. They intended to make the voluntary British withdrawal look like a military victory – a triumph for Arab force of arms. The local nationalists
wanted to appear to be throwing out the colonial power and be seeking blood to
the very moment of withdrawal. The terrorists and their backers were not open
to arguments of sweet reason. HE had by then, I think, reached the conclusion
that we had to keep on trying, but we would never be able to negotiate a peaceful
hand-over of sovereignty and indeed we would never find anybody prepared to
negotiate with us. Force had to be met by force.
At home, the Labour Government did not appreciate this situation, nor
did the Foreign Office grasp the futility of all efforts to accommodate the
nationalists or meet the terrorists half way. Instructions continually flowed
from London that showed how far out of touch with reality were Ministers and
the mandarins of the Foreign Office. Pressure came that the High Commission
should seek out the NLF and FLOSY leaders, and HE should try to do a deal
with one or other or both gangs. Negotiating with terrorists had led to peaceful
handovers of other colonies like Kenya, the Foreign Secretary asked, why should
the same ploy not succeed in Aden? As much on practical as on moral grounds,
HE resisted such demands from London.
Confrontation at the Foreign Office
In mid February HE was recalled for discussions as to the way ahead. Tom
Oates took charge for a few days, while Lady T kept going and had us all
working hard to arrange ‘purdah parties’ and painting groups at GH for senior
Arab ladies. When HE got back, we heard that he and Don McCarthy, who
had taken over the Aden Desk at the FO, had made some progress with officials,
especially at the Ministry of Defence. HE’s meetings with George Brown
had not been happy, however. The Minister had been unhelpful, rude, and
highly critical of our handling of detainees, our inability to rebut the torture
allegations, and our refusal to try and talk to the terrorists.
The next step, in the Foreign Secretary’s opinion, would be for the High
Commissioner to make concessions to encourage the nationalist leaders to
come forward, and the second step would be to engage them in constructive
discussions about a constitution. Apparently at one stage, George Brown
had floated the idea that HE should placate the NLF by lifting the state of
HE refused to contemplate the proposal on the grounds that it would lead
to the surrender of control of the town to the terrorists. It would allow civil war
to rage. HE was convinced that the police and army commanders whose men
were at risk would share this view.
As for talking to the terrorists, HE argued against the idea both on moral
grounds (shades of Mau Mau), and on the practical grounds that they had
rejected all past approaches and made it clear they would never change their
position. He may well have gone as far as accusing the Foreign Secretary of
ignorance of the local situation, and of misunderstanding the nature of the
The High Commissioner had not enjoyed this confrontation and came back
fulminating about the Cabinet’s failure to grasp the realities of the position. He
nevertheless plunged back into meetings to resume efforts to break the log jam;
he held several sessions with the Federalis separately and together, and made
no progress; and he sought to tackle the continuing violence through frequent
sessions of his Security Policy Committee and regular evening reviews with the
police and military of each day’s incidents and plans for the following days.
Aden became an uncomfortable place in which to live. Few tourists were
coming ashore, and the duty-free shops in the Crescent were running down
their stocks as the streets became unsafe in the winter sun. Life was thoroughly
unpleasant even without George Brown’s intemperate language. Late one
night, Peter Riley was told that one of the Northumberland Fusiliers sentries
on the GH perimeter had glimpsed an intruder slipping into the grounds. Peter
alerted me and, after consulting the military experts, we decided to persuade
the Turnbulls to abandon GH quickly in the middle of the night and spend
two hours as guests of the CinC at Flagstaff House while the Geordies searched
the gardens and cliffs. Of course they found nothing; the sighting had been the
mirage of a sleepy sentry, but it was an example of the stress and discomfort of
The Ingledow’s party
One evening at the end of February, our friends Tony and Monica Ingledow
held a party in their pleasant flat in Ma’alla. They and their guests were
cheerfully drinking and chatting, with their children asleep in the next room,
when a powerful ‘Jumping Jack’ mine exploded behind a bookcase in their
Ladies who worked on our GH telephone exchange happened to be gossiping
together close to the explosion. When the dust cleared Judy Stuart and Ruth
Wilkes were found to be bleeding severely from terrible wounds amid the
burning carpet and shattered glass. Help came quickly and they were rushed
to the RAF hospital for treatment, but both ladies died on the way. Betty Ellis
had serious wounds in her jaw and spine. She reached hospital in time for the surgeons to save her life; but we later understood she was likely to be permanent
disabled. Monica and Tony and most of their other guests were shocked and cut
with shrapnel and glass. Just two of the party, Desmond Cosgrove and Derek
Rose, were lucky to have been at the far end of the room from the explosion
and were not hurt.
We had great sympathy for the husbands of the three ladies who had been
so close to the explosion. The Turnbulls and their staff all went down to the
airport to see off Sandy Stuart who accompanied his wife’s body home by air.
We attended en masse a Memorial Service for her at Christchurch, and we gave
Len Ellis all the support we could while Betty slowly recovered in hospital. We
all went out to Silent Valley for the funeral of Ruth Wilkes. I wrote at the time:
It was a hot and windy afternoon. The service was conducted by Padre Pellant
of the RAF and there were fifty or sixty mourners led by Keith Wilkes and their
daughter Lyn and her smart young fiancé. HE and Lady T were present, having
flown over from Steamer Point by helicopter. Lady Willoughby (the GOC’s wife)
attended as did some senior army officers and many young soldiers from Keith
Wilkes’ company. His brother officers bore the coffin from the ambulance to the
grave, where a great heap of flowers lay. Among the grey rocks and the bare desert
sands round the cemetery, the poppies and posies fluttering in the wind were the only
splash of colour in the whole scene. It was a quiet and quick burial but the air was
highly charged with emotion, and the occasion was so pathetic that many of us wept
and all of us were deeply moved.
In GH we had been accustomed for many months to hear the voice one
or other of these three ladies every time we had lifted the telephone receiver;
and we were reminded of their absence at every turn in the office. Our sole
remaining telephonist was summoned back from leave and I appealed to the
RAF for help in manning the switchboard. In a prompt response, some welltrained
WAAF ladies reported to me for immediate duty and were a huge help
until we could recruit a new team, but it was a long time before we could forget
the quiet and efficient tones of our former much-loved operators.
The NLF proudly claimed responsibility. Some of us used to think ourselves
a little brave and were rather thrilled at living in the exciting atmosphere of
Aden. On the days following this incident, the morale of all of us in GH was
shot to bits – we thought we had been a cheerful and competent team running
our organisation – and suddenly three members were lost in the most tragic
One evening just one week later, I was Duty Officer at home when a phone
call came through to me to pass on to HE and the GOC reporting another incident. A small gathering of our friends had been sitting on the verandah of
a private house chatting in the cool evening air after dining together. I jotted
down on a memo pad:
Grenade exploded on verandah.
Group drinking coffee after dinner.
In guarded compound at Khormaksar.
Bob – slightly hurt;
Bridges – badly hurt (not v.s.i.);
Daly – head slightly injured, shocked;
Elizabeth – shoulder scratched.
Browns - both hurt;
Mrs Brown – shocked;
Jean Randall slightly hurt.
Fortunately this was nothing like as bad an affair as the Ingledow bomb,
but it reminded us again of the seriousness of the threat, and that the terrorists
had access to the supposedly protected areas within barbed wire. Nowhere was
entirely safe, and evening social life was increasingly curtailed thereafter. In
early March HE issued advice to civilians to take into account the background
of violence as they planned their daily lives and especially when considering
whether or not to bring their school children out to Aden for their Easter
holidays. The CinC nevertheless decided to allow servicemen’s children to come
out on their usual ‘Lollipop Specials’ trusting they would be staying with their
parents in houses within the strongly-guarded perimeter fences.
March – April 1967: Futile Initiatives
The next political initiative came from the Cabinet at home, increasingly
desperate to have a date agreed for independence in South Arabia, to close the
base, and create some sort – any sort - of vaguely democratic state to which to grant
independence. In mid March, instead of telling HE to approach the Federalis
with a new date, George Brown sent out to talk to them Lord Thomson, Minister
of State and roving ambassador. With no advance warning, he arrived early one
Friday morning, and asked us to fix meetings for him immediately. He seemed to
me to be a man of authority and a personable and pleasant fellow, not in the least
relishing his mission. He made the fatal mistake, however, of interrupting the
rulers’ weekly day of prayer and rest. He summoned all the Federalis from their
far-flung states to Al Ittihad and held two long sessions with the Supreme Council
on the Friday; and he demanded a further full morning with them the next day.
As I am sure HE had explained in February, the Federalis were not prepared to agree the FO’s latest proposals, even though accompanied by bribes in the
form of additional financial support after independence. They were in bad temper
and the meetings were a flop, and probably worsened rather than improved the
Government’s relations with the Federalis. Lord Thomson had a wasted trip.
Then Tom Driberg, journalist and spy, an unattractive and self-opinionated
fellow, called on HE and boasted of his part in the drama. He claimed he
had been commissioned to go to Taiz and Sana’a to approach the FLOSY
leaders on behalf of the Foreign Office to see if talks could be arranged to bring
them into the South Arabian Government. His mission too was a complete
failure. However, the fact that George Brown did not trust HE to conduct such
negotiations was ominous. Whilst nothing was said openly, it was becoming
clear to me at least that relations between us in GH and the Foreign Office at
home were breaking down.
The UN Mission
For a few days things quietened down, Lady T flew home once more to
escape the intense oppressive the heat of the coming summer months, and HE
found time to meet Wendell Phillips, the famous American archaeologist of the
Yemen, still wanting to return to his digs at Qataban and Sheba.
By early March telegrams were pouring in from London and New York
about a visit by selected UN diplomats to Aden. There was still thought to
be a chance that a UN Mission might help in finding the elusive political
solution to the South Arabian dilemma. Lord Caradon had been warned that
the Mission would harm rather than help Aden unless it was composed of
impartial members without pre-conceived views on, for example, the validity of
the Federal Government. In Aden we were assured that a Resolution had been
passed by the Assembly affirming the impartiality of the Mission, but at the
same time endorsing the earlier Resolution of the Committee on Colonialism
that had condemned the Federation of South Arabia as a catspaw of the colonial
Lord Caradon supported the despatch of the Mission on these terms,
expressing the hope the Mission and the Federal Government would ignore
the contradictions in the UN mandate and cooperate on a de facto basis to
enable the Mission to make a constructive contribution to Aden’s peace and
unity. HE cautiously welcomed the plan in principle, and through March
put the High Commission to some trouble to prepare exhaustive briefings,
extensive hospitality and a choice of tours to enable the visitors to see whatever
they wanted of Aden and South Arabia. Two RAF planes were placed at their disposal to carry them wherever they wished to go, and the press corps in their
The auguries were poor, however. The three men chosen by U Thant had all
apparently been closely involved with the UN Committee for Decolonisation
and came from Mali, Afghanistan and Venezuela. Their leader was the Latin
American named Perrez-Guerrero. The man from Mali named Keita was
accompanied by a friend who had no official position but considerable influence;
and the UN should have realised that the presence of these two from sub-Sahara
Africa risked serious problems. Not only were the coastal Arabs accustomed to
treat and employ such Africans as slaves, but the Arab population of Zanzibar
had been humiliated, massacred and expelled by the indigenous Africans and
former slave population in the revolution only two years earlier.
On their way to Aden the UN team stopped off in Cairo to be briefed
against the British by Nasser before going on to Jeddah for further unhelpful
advice. The NLF and FLOSY shared the apparent aims of the UN Mission –
to remove the British presence from South Arabia as fast as possible – but the
terrorist organisations took the perverse view that the UN was a ‘Puppet of
Western Imperialism’, and decided to boycott the Mission, prevent local people
from working for it, declare a strike and instigate riots throughout its visit.
With the advance party came a diplomat named Peter Hope from the British
Delegation to the UN to stay at GH, accompanied by Harry Nicholls, my good
friend and HE’s former bodyguard who flew out from the Foreign Office to
help us. No hotel would accept the UN team, so HE had requisitioned for them
the bilious turquoise-painted Seaview Hotel on the Ma’alla beach. No Adeni
would work for the Mission and the NLF threatened to evict them, so the RAF
provided cooks, and the army surrounded the building with barbed wire and
armed guards, equipped with a machine gun and searchlights to keep rioters
Then, totally unexpectedly, the Heavens opened. For the first time for
twenty-five years, six inches of rain fell on Aden in seven hours overnight on
April 1st. In the early morning I looked across from our verandah to Jebel
Shamsan, and to my astonishment and delight saw the hillside was green. The
rain had encouraged long-dormant seeds to spring into life and push bright
young shoots through the sands – at least for a few hours until the clouds were
swept away and the glaring sun burnt them off.
The rainstorm rapidly filled and overflowed the ancient tanks on the Jebel
above Crater, and torrents of water pelted down the mountainside, sweeping
away many mud shacks and slum homes in their path, making ten thousand
people temporarily homeless, and flooding large areas of Crater and Ma’alla
several feet deep. No one was prepared for such a storm; no monsoon ditches
existed to carry the water away; no protection was available from such a downfall;
most of the sandy roads were washed away, power supplies were cut and the
telephone system failed; for the twenty-four hours before the crucial visit of the
UN team, we were marooned. My diary recorded: Everything cancelled!
The armed services were magnificent. The troops put away their guns and
brought out their powerful land-rovers, bull-dozers and lifting gear. For perhaps
the only occasion in those years the young soldiers were welcomed in the shanty
towns on the steep hillsides as they waded knee-deep through oozing mud to
save many lives from the water, repair many damaged homes, rebuild the roads
and restore communications.
The troops’ generous behaviour made no difference to the terrorists. Next
day, when the UN Mission was expected, both NLF and FLOSY organised
massive demonstrations in a town still in a fearful mess, without telephones,
and slowly clearing up after the floods. HE banned all public meetings, imposed
curfews, ordered all buses off the road, and urged civilians to stay at home.
Courting the Visitors
The Mission duly arrived from Jeddah in a UN aircraft and was conveyed by
helicopter to their hotel where they were holed up with the shouts and screams
of the mob beyond the barbed wire echoing in their ears. Peter Hope went
down with HE, discarding normal protocol, to call on the newcomers at the
Seaview. They found their visitors had no interest in any of the tours or visits
that were offered them, and no wish for any briefing or information on the
plans for independence in Aden and South Arabia.
The Mission grudgingly accepted HE’s invitation to travel up to GH for a
continuation of their meeting and an informal lunch on their first day, but it
was a short uneasy buffet affair. The team did not want to meet any one from
the colonial power or the Federation. The Mission was not going to compromise
and was not prepared to talk to the Federal Government or visit its territory -
on the grounds that dealings with the Federalis were ruled out by their terms
of reference. HE was ready for this, and simply explained that the existence
of the Federation was a factor that had to be taken into account. He asked
for a bit of flexibility and urged the search for a practical formula that would
enable the Mission to co-operate without conferring recognition. The Mission
members promised to consider the idea, while insisting they wanted to talk to
the politicians and people of Aden. That was fine, except that it soon emerged
no Adeni was willing to talk to the members of the Mission.
HE did his best to placate the visitors and courted them assiduously but
to no effect. As the rioting raged outside the hotel, he had the RAF take in to
them a wireless, a television, a hamper of food luxuries, a case of champagne
and lots of cold drinks. The Mission steadfastly refused to receive the press, or
petitioners, or visitors, and remained isolated from the outside world.
Next morning, the London newspaper, The Daily Sketch, reported that
twelve hundred Arabs had ‘demonstrated’ in Crater while the Northumberland
Fusiliers had engaged in a three hour battle with snipers on the rooftops of
blocks of flats and mosques; sixty-nine separate attacks on British troops were
logged, eight soldiers and ten Arabs were wounded, and three Arabs were killed
that morning, one in the act of throwing a grenade.
On their second day, the Mission asked to visit Al Mansoura Detention
Centre. HE had the trip speedily arranged and the civil police escorted them
through jeering crowds. Then we heard that the detainees refused to see them
and abused them from behind their barbed wire. When bazookas opened
up in nearby Sheikh Othman, the UN delegation fled back to the hotel by
We assumed they were somewhat chastened, but the following day they
asked to visit the Fort Morbut Interrogation Centre. They doubtless hoped to
witness torture and evil colonial prison warders. HE told Tony Lee to take them
across by helicopter and show them round. Their tour was uneventful. Tony
told us they found a well-run and peaceful facility. They invited complaints but
none was made to them.
Then came the crunch. On the third day the UN Mission asked to record a
message to the people of Aden to be broadcast over the local television station.
HE had explained at his Seaview meeting with the UN members that Aden’s
broadcasting facilities were under the control of the Federation’s government
and expressed the hope that a modus vivendi could be found with give and
take all round. The Mission’s message was put on a tape and passed, I later
gathered, to Federal Ministers Girgirah and Bayoomi to arrange to broadcast.
They were ready to do so, we were told, but when they listened to the message
and heard the Mission condemn the Federation and deny its right to exist, the
Ministers grew angry and refused to issue it. They said they found it insulting,
provocative and destructive.
After waiting cosily in the hotel lounge to hear their recording, the delegates
became angry in their turn on discovering that their broadcast had been replaced
by a cowboy film on the television. The visitors packed their bags in what can
only be described as high dudgeon, and demanded to be put on the next flight
back to London unless HE was prepared to over-rule the Federal Ministers.
HE declined to do so – he made it clear he saw no reason to contribute to
undermining the only government in being to which the British could hand
over power – while his staff desperately urged the Mission to stay and sort
things out in the morning. Apparently U Thant sent telegrams ordering the
Mission to stay and do their job, but he too was ignored.
The farce continued at Khormaksar airport. The departing delegates refused
to let their hand baggage be searched, and, naturally, the BOAC pilot refused
to allow their bags on board the plane until they had been checked. Mr Hope
and other senior people began turgid negotiations and it was late before a
compromise was reached and the plane left for the UK well behind schedule.
The Mission members were excessively rude to the press while impatiently
waiting at the airport. Shalizi from Afghanistan shouted insults at the journalists
crowding round them in the departure lounge with comments such as You
British have caused more bloodshed in the world than anyone else! As a result the delegates lost the sympathy of the press for their predicament, and were heavily
criticised for their behaviour in the following day’s London newspapers.
David Holden, a senior press correspondent well briefed by HE immediately
after the event, wrote a full account of the whole drama on the day after the
Mission’s departure from Aden and concluded with the following comment:
Not since the UN were in the Congo, perhaps, has there been such a determined
effort by supposedly experienced and intelligent men to ignore reality in the interests
of almost theological preconceptions to the extent that the Mission insisted that the
British Government was to blame for everything, and the Federal government did
not really exist. I can only say that if they believe that they will believe anything.
Perhaps that is where madness lies.
The Mission flew to Geneva to lick their wounds, decided never to return
to Aden and flew on to London. On arrival at Heathrow, the delegates were
greeted by Foreign Office people and swept off to Dorney Wood, George
Brown’s official residence, where he devoted a weekend in efforts to agree a joint
press statement with them. He, too, found them impossible. Even he, with the
whole Foreign Office at his disposal, failed miserably to secure their agreement
to anything useful.
The whole affair would have been laughable, had not HE’s judgement been
called into question and had we not been mocked in the press and Parliament
for the fiasco. It seemed hard that HE was blamed for the Mission’s failure
which he had clearly foreseen and forecast unless the UN provided an openminded
group. Reports reached us that Duncan Sandys had enjoyed himself
laughing at George Brown at Question Time in the House of Commons, and
it was clear the Foreign Office was thoroughly fed up with us in Aden. The FO
knew how contrary and difficult the Mission could be because its people had
behaved just as badly at Dorney Wood as they had at the Seaview Hotel. Yet
nobody dared criticise U Thant of the UN for sending into the political turmoil
three incompetent junior diplomats who were heavily biased and out of their
depth from first to last. They had come, not as we had fondly hoped, to help us
find a key to the constitutional deadlock, but rather to make trouble and seek
confirmation of their prejudices.
In refusing to do the Mission’s bidding by over-ruling the Federal Ministers’
decision not to broadcast the UN’s critical statement, HE upheld the authority
of the Federation at a heavy cost to his own reputation as well as to our
Government’s position at the UN. So it was that we realised in Aden that
HE’s name had been damaged by the Mission’s visit. I knew enough about
Westminster politics to be aware that when a British Government - of any political complexion - was mocked on the floor of the House of Commons,
it sought a scapegoat, and on this occasion the High Commissioner was the
The week following the departure of the Mission was hectically busy as we
licked our wounds and cleared up after the floods and strikes – not helped by a
further visit from the ubiquitous Tom Driberg.
I wrote numerous thank-you letters on HE’s behalf to those who had worked
so hard after the floods. The Irish Guards held an impressive parade of some of
the smartest soldiers I had ever seen, and we were grateful Aden came off the
national newspapers’ headlines, the town quietened down, and the worst of the
publicity was over.
As we were mopping up, we heard in telegrams that Lord Shackleton was
coming out from London to stay at GH for an indefinite period. We were told
the Prime Minister had appointed him as ‘Resident Minister for South Arabia’,
and was sending him out with the vaguest terms of reference to help the High
Commissioner and CinC. Eddie Shackleton bore a famous name and had earned
a reputation as a sincere and sound man, having been Minister in charge of the
RAF for several years in the Labour Government. In contrast to Lord Beswick,
Shackleton was pleasant, modest and sensitive, if a little reserved. I liked what I
saw of him on arrival; but his coming was both disturbing and confusing.
He came with a big Foreign Office team including an experienced Arabicspeaker,
Sam Falle, and took over the whole of the GH guest wing. We had lots
of furniture to move and rearrangements to make at short notice, and in a kind
of a way it appeared to us on the staff he was setting up a rival establishment
to the High Commissioner’s. The two men always observed the courtesies, and
I never heard sharp words between them, but HE made it pretty plain he was
aware that his authority was diminished by Shackleton’s coming and that it
represented a further weakening of the trust of the Government in the High
Commissioner’s ability to complete the job.
I wrote home to say I feared his sun had been eclipsed. Aden had ruined
numerous reputations, and was doing no good to Turnbull’s. His strenuous efforts
to bridge the gap between the Federalis and the Adenis by orthodox means had
not succeeded – and his influence was waning. Yet he soldiered on in the belief
that he had done all that any man in his position could have done to encourage
constitutional development while confronting the terrorist threat. Equally he
considered that the UN debacle had been none of his making. He might have been forgiven for thinking he had weathered the storm, but I have no doubt he
was increasingly worried about his relations with the Foreign Secretary.
On Shackleton’s arrival, it was immediately clear that George Brown wanted
him and Falle to make a direct approach to the nationalist and terrorist leaders,
both FLOSY (whom Driberg was already chasing) and the elusive NLF – and
thus we assumed the Foreign Secretary intended to test HE’s constant assertions
that they were not prepared to negotiate. Shackleton wanted to try other
methods, but we doubted if his backdoor approaches would cut the numerous
Gordian knots that tied Aden up – and so it proved. Falle risked his life in
seeking out untrustworthy terrorist spokesmen down the back streets of Crater
and in the stews of Sheikh Othman. Shackleton travelled from end to end of
South Arabia and gave a lot of time to the Federal rulers as well to hunting
for the nationalist leaders. After two weeks of persistent efforts to set up talks,
however, he and his team went home with nothing to show for their efforts.
The visits of peers and Members of Parliament resumed, while terrorist
activity continued unabated. In addition to the customary grenade-throwing
and sniping, murders continued with both British and Arab victims; a senior
FLOSY man was shot in mid April, and a former Aden Minister machine-gunned
the following day. Mr Horrocks, a civilian lawyer was wounded by
a sniper a couple of days later, and a British school teacher was attacked the
following week; and at the end of the month a bus carrying Arab schoolchildren
was blown up on a terrorist mine in Sheikh Othman. The Irish
Guards lost four men in an ambush up-country which saddened us all. There
was no let up in my role of drafting letters of sympathy, arranging wreaths,
and attending funerals. The belated exodus of service families began; and
fewer and fewer Europeans were to be seen in the shops around Steamer Point
and the Crescent.
Not long after Shackleton’s departure, HE sent me off with my new wife
for a long weekend of relaxation away from Aden’s problems. We chose to fly
to Hargeisa in Somaliland and had a restful few days, although, unfortunately,
our return flight was delayed for twenty-four hours by a strike of Aden Airways
people at Khormaksar. So it was not until the Tuesday morning that I could get
back into the office to learn there had been a flood of Foreign Office telegrams
over the weekend and HE had been summoned to London once more. I was
very apologetic about my late return to work, but HE was more concerned
about what they were up to in Whitehall. The telegrams had been maddeningly silent about the decisions reached by the Cabinet following Shackleton’s return
We had a difficult week, kept in the dark, and wondering what was in the
wind. HE nevertheless prepared himself carefully to meet officials to discuss
the aftermath of the UN Mission visit and the next steps for constitutional
development. He flew off very early on the Sunday, 7th May, to see George
Brown again. Tom Oates was sworn in as Acting High Commissioner, and I
looked forward to a few easy days in the office, but it was not to be.
HE was called to Downing Street to see the Foreign Secretary on the Monday
morning and we received telegrams from Don McCarthy that afternoon to say
the High Commissioner had been dismissed. HE took the first flight out he
could find, changing in Beirut in order to get back as quickly as possible. We
of the GH staff went down to the airport at one o’clock in the morning to greet
him; and we were joined by Tom Oates, others from the High Commission, the
CinC and other senior military men. Our small crowd gathered at the bottom
of the plane’s steps to welcome him back quietly but warmly. We were told by
Foreign Office friends that he was speechless and stunned when he heard he
was sacked; he was equally tight-lipped when he landed at Khormaksar that
Our reaction in Aden was one of incomprehension and of bitterness; and yet
none of us would have minded quite so much, had HE not himself appeared
totally surprised, shocked and desperately hurt. He conducted himself when
back in Aden with dignity and total discretion; he behaved impeccably on his
return that night and through the following days, but I am sure, despite his
stiff upper lip and his silence, he was most deeply distressed by George Brown’s
action. With hindsight, friends of the Turnbulls said Sir Richard should not
have taken the sacking as a personal affront; rather, he should have accepted
it as a cheap gimmick of panicking second-rate politicians, and as a change of
policy clumsily handled, but that was not the way he saw it.
Then of course we were swept up in hectic farewells. My immediate task was
to oversee the despatch of all the letters of goodbye, and the winding up of the
many plans that had been made for the future. Socially, life became chaotic;
two cocktail parties and two dinner parties were arranged in four nights, and
two big lunch parties took up a large slice of each day.
HE’s impending departure over-shadowed the end of General Sir John
Willoughby’s tour of duty as GOC. HE missed the CinC’s grand dinner party
to say goodbye to the General and decided not attend his farewells at the airport
in order not to steal his thunder. All of us at GH respected and liked the General very much and considered him to be first class at his job, understanding the
complexities of the Aden military situation as no one else, and knowing his soldiers
well. We believed he was admired and highly respected by them, as he was by
those of us who knew him in the High Commission. We thought his departure
at the end of a normal tour, six months before independence was a mistake. In his
place General Philip Tower arrived from a public relations job at the Ministry of
Defence. He was a tall and powerful man who immediately impressed us at GH
with his commanding presence as well as the speed with which he took over of
his new duties. With a supremely difficult task ahead of him, he came up to GH
to call on HE and pick his brains just before the latter’s departure.
Lady T flew back urgently to Aden to be with her husband at this critical
moment, and to organise with her customary charm and efficiency their packing
and goodbyes. She recruited Susan Trousdell, the bright and cheerful daughter
of my GH colleague, Colonel Jim, to help her as a Lady in Waiting during the
following difficult days. Meanwhile I found myself out at Silent Valley once
more when I represented HE at the funerals of the Irish Guardsmen and of
three other soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in the mountains.
The armed services demonstrated very publicly their respect and admiration
for Sir Richard – and their regret and indignation at his peremptory dismissal.
The CinC and his senior colleagues undoubtedly took the view that HE’s
sacking was a monstrous act by the Foreign Secretary. HE was invited to say
goodbye to the Aden Brigade and was invited down to the Maidan below GH
to find a very large body of troops and their officers drawn up in ceremonial
gear in a spontaneous demonstration of support and respect. With their bands
thumping away and their colours on parade they marched past with masses of
swank in HE’s honour.
The Turnbulls had their hands full with packing and farewells to both their
official contacts and their numerous friends at all levels of Aden society. Of
all the sad occasions, the most moving for my wife and me was a meal for
the ‘family’ in the High Commissioner’s private dining room on their last
evening in GH. The little room was lit by candles with silver on display; Eliane
Stephanides, Ra Wilson, Peter Riley, Barbara Garrett, Joan and I, and one or
two others were present. We tried hard to cheer ourselves up but were all shaken
and profoundly sad at the parting. It was a bad dream from start to finish.
I was a member of a little group that met in the CinC’s War Room to plan
the ceremonial for the Turnbulls’ departure from the airport. The CinC’s Secretariat put out six foolscap pages of minute by minute military procedure
from the moment when HE and Lady T stepped out of GH through the tall
glass doors for the last time at 0715 hrs to the closing of their plane’s doors at
0900 hrs. They were provided with no less than six royal salutes performed
on each occasion by guards of honour of ninety-six men and three officers
with their bands and regimental colours. First of all, the civil police paraded in
the courtyard at GH alongside the Lancashire Regiment who were providing
the guards at the gates at the time. The FRA Camel Corps escorted the cars
carrying the Turnbulls and us on their staff from GH to the Maidan, where the
FRA and FG were assembled to salute the Turnbulls as they stepped from their
car and before they boarded a Wessex helicopter. Susan Trousdell, Ra Wilson
and I accompanied them, escorted by six other Wessex on either flank across
to the airport. On arrival at Khormaksar airport, the Turnbulls were greeted
by a seventeen gun salute and a fly-past of sixteen Hunter aircraft. Lined up
before them, 45 Commando did the honours proudly in full ceremonial dress,
looking immensely smart and tough with bayonets fixed, colours flying and all
the trimmings. They were magnificent.
A big crowd of friends had gathered despite the early hour and the goodbyes
were painful as the Turnbulls went down the line of friends and close colleagues
shaking hands and murmuring a few parting words. Last in the line were Lady
Prue Le Fanu in her wheelchair and Sir Michael, the CinC. Ra Wilson and
I followed the Turnbulls up the steps of the plane with some of their hand
baggage and had a few moments on board for our rather nervous and stilted
good wishes. Then they were gone. I could not help remembering the previous
occasion five and a half years earlier when I had said goodbye to them on a
frigate in Dar es Salaam harbour. Then they had been leaving triumphantly,
full of honours at the close of a totally successful mission. The Khormaksar
farewells were of a different nature.
Sir Humphrey Trevelyan
Ra and I returned to GH to oversee the final packing of their boxes and the
like. It was a miserable business - the doctor put me on course of tranquillizers
for the first time in my life - I was overwhelmed with work, trying to wind
up the Turnbulls’ affairs and sort out a great deal of tedious paper-work in a
matter of two or three days. Some of their bulkier possessions caused us all
sorts of problems; the piano needed special care; a rowing machine presented
difficulties; the telescope was passed to Eliane to keep until she got back to
England; the wretched parrots were a worry – finally we persuaded a friend of
my wife’s to look after them; and the noisy peacocks we were happy to bequeath
to the future incumbents.
Two days after the Turnbulls’ departure, the new High Commissioner, Sir
Humphrey Trevelyan arrived and moved straight into GH. It was immediately
clear he wanted his Private Secretary to be a diplomatic service officer with
Arabic and experience of the Arab world. He had appointed Oliver Miles of the
Foreign Office who was already in the country and swiftly moved in and took
over – I had a brief meeting with him on his arrival to hand over the keys, and
it was obvious he was going to do things totally differently.
Sir Humphrey leapt into action on the day of his arrival and GH once more
throbbed with hectic activity. I was invited to join Barbara, Eliane and the new
GH staff for a lunch with him and found he had turned the old secretaries’
office into a small but comfortable dining room for no more than ten people.
He was a small man with a big presence, friendly and hospitable, with a very
easy and relaxed style, a great deal of charm and a winning courtesy. He was a
pleasure to engage in conversation, and quietly dominated the discussion round
the dining table drawing on his wide and varied experience of the Arab world. We celebrated together the good news that Barbara Garrett, the Government
House personal secretary and my former colleague, had been awarded the MBE
in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. That apart, I regret I was so fascinated by
the way the new High Commissioner wiggled his ears while talking and eating
- not unlike an Irish leprechaun, I was warned - that I remember little of our
conversation over that meal, but it was pleasing to be made welcome.
Ra Wilson rapidly handed over the ADC function to a newcomer from
the RAF named Bob Morris who became very useful and I have no doubt
helped look after GH in the following very difficult months. Peter Riley stayed
on as bodyguard and had his hands full looking after a very active High
Commissioner who wanted to be everywhere at once. It was my final duty to
hand over to Oliver Miles my area of management of GH with its forty staff,
valuable contents and complicated finances, but Trevelyan’s people were too
busy to bother with domestic problems for some days. I had lost my office, but
Eliane lent me a corner of her sitting room across the courtyard and the use of a
desk and telephone, and gave me lots of good advice before she took some leave.
I hung around there for several worrying and dreary days before Oliver could
give me time to go through our organisation and review the numerous domestic
problems that were handled by the Private Secretary. Our meetings were strictly
business and I fear he looked down his long nose at a member of the defunct
Colonial Service who was no Arabist, but I was delighted to be relieved of my
responsibilities and escape GH for good.
Violence continued unabated up country, in Mukalla and in Aden town.
There were battles in Sheikh Othman, and the tiny Jewish community in
Crater was attacked and forced to evacuate. Troops were at every street corner,
and all the squalid streets were dangerous for Europeans. The people of Aden
were deliberately destroying themselves by continuous strikes and go-slows, but
they were no longer my concern.
Chapter 7: At Leisure and in Love
‘What is love, ‘tis not hereafter,
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me sweet and twentie:
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.’
The Clown’s song from Twelfth Night.
May 1965: Ras Boradli
Let me go back to the early morning when I found myself on the tarmac
of Aden airport and was met at the bottom of the plane’s steps by the ADC at
Government House. He whisked me back there, deposited me in a bedroom in
air-conditioned splendour in their guest wing of GH and left me to sort myself
My first concern, while learning my job and finding my way round GH and
Aden, was to lay hands on my possessions, which were on their way by boat
from Dar es Salaam, and to collect my car en route from the London docks. The
beautiful Peugeot arrived first. She was brought in on the SS Rhodesia Castle
in early June, but, maddeningly, was badly scratched while being unloaded by
the Aden stevedores. She had to go straight into the agent’s garage for repairs,
and it was some time before I was able to reclaim her and get about under my
In the last week of May, I took possession of a small, convenient flat at Ras
Boradli. This was a rocky outcrop a mile along the coast overlooking the beach
and the sea and five minutes by car from GH. The flat was on the fourth floor
of an angular and ugly block round a central concrete stairwell that had been
put up only the previous year by Aden Airways, originally for their own flight
crews. A tiled entrance hall opened into a big living room, cut in half by a heavy
old wooden PWD sofa, leading out to a little verandah overlooking the sea. The dining table was almost immediately inside the front door, with a small
neat kitchen tucked away on the left hand side facing across the road to the
rock face. Beyond a tiny bathroom was a neat air-conditioned bedroom with
high windows, also looking over to the mountainside. The flat had no fitted
cupboards, but a storeroom in the basement next to the garage held most of my
trunks and boxes.
It was not easy to find a servant to look after the flat and cook my meals
when at home, but GH contacts produced Abdallah who was a middle-aged
chap with a leathery face and high beaked nose. He spoke sufficient English to
get by, and seemed sensible and practical enough. He was able to cook Italian
dishes with some skill, and came with good recommendations, vetted by
Eliane, who, as GH Housekeeper, knew what to look for, advising me it would
be appropriate to offer him a monthly wage of twenty-five pounds.
My baggage came up from Dar es Salaam on a ship of the British India line
at the end of May, and GH staff collected the boxes from the customs shed to
allow Abdallah to unpack them in the flat. Eliane provided well-made, plain,
bright curtains from the GH store, and at last I had my own place in which
to sleep and relax. My birthday came and went, marked by cheerful letters
and parcels of goodies from home, but I had no time to unpack because of a
constant stream of visitors at GH and frequent trips out with HE. It was not
until the middle of June that I was able to spend a quiet evening on my own,
and only when a big box arrived in late June from Bakers in London with my
Poole pottery could I have a cup of tea, and at last hang pictures and put things
straight. The flat then made a pleasant home for the following months.
The Telephone Department was slow to install a phone in the flat and callers
wishing to contact me had to ring my neighbour in the flat below, occupied
by Halcyon Mount who ran the High Commission Filing Registry, and was
a straight-laced and slightly forbidding single lady, with fair hair piled on the
top of her head. One evening, a few days after moving in, I was unpacking
feverishly when she knocked on my door to say rather grudgingly I was wanted
on her line. So I dashed downstairs and into her living room to answer the
call. A stranger was chatting with Halcyon over coffee after their supper. A
strikingly beautiful girl with a fascinating face looked up at me from her chair
with a gentle quizzical smile. I was introduced to her when I put the phone
down; she launched at once into a series of personal questions and seemed
genuinely interested in my responses. I found her hugely attractive and was
flattered and excited before excusing myself to nip back upstairs to continue
unpacking – and that was the first time I met Joan.
Visits from Friends and Relations
One of the pleasantest things about Aden was the frequent visits from
distant family and old acquaintances on ships that called in the port during
voyages between the UK and Africa or the Far East. In late May, my sister
Liz’s great friend, Wendy Glover, stopped off at Aden. She had entertained me
wonderfully in Malta in 1954, and was on her way home to join her children at
school in the UK having left behind her husband, then a senior army officer in
Singapore. Wendy knew the Haringtons well and stayed with them in Flagstaff
House for a day or two. I was invited to a drinks party there to say hello to her,
and was delighted also to meet the CinC and his family informally.
A few weeks later, Patsy O’Hagan, the Turnbull’s Kenya friend, called at
Aden on the way to the UK on the SS Braemar Castle with several other old
Kenya hands. Having stayed with the O’Hagans in Dar es Salaam two years
previously, I was very pleased to be able to collect her party off the ship and
support HE in entertaining them at GH, and subsequently dining with them
on board as their guests.
By a strange turn of the wheel, the first GH visitor that June was a man
whom I had met and hosted on his visit to Dar es Salaam only a few months
earlier. This was John Wilson, Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society
for the Blind, who was touring schools for blind children in Commonwealth
countries. His Aden programme had been arranged by David Treffry, who was
not only a senior official at Al Ittihad but also the Honorary Chairman of the
Aden Society for the Blind. In the light of my experience in Dar es Salaam,
David asked me to join his Committee, and together we met John Wilson at the
airport off the London plane early one morning and whisked him away to GH.
I found for him there a comfortable room and an office for his discussions with
members of the Aden Society and the staff of the blind schools.
On Mr Wilson’s second day, the army lent him a small plane to fly to Beihan
to inspect an Agricultural Training Centre for blind Arab farmers. Next day he
was back in GH for more meetings before being taken out to the Reilly Centre
for the Blind in Ma’alla where the Aden Society held its AGM with HE in the
chair. After one final day of meetings and press conferences at GH, the Director
took the plane to Nairobi in continuation of his tour. It was gratifying to learn of
his well-deserved award of the OBE in the Birthday Honours later that month.
In late June my former employers and their spouses turned up on the SS
Kenya on their way home on retirement from their jobs in tea in East Africa.
John and Elinor Walsh had come up from Dar es Salaam, while Richard
Magor, his wife and family had travelled from Nairobi to join the ship as it passed through Mombasa. I boarded their liner as it dropped anchor in our
harbour, brought them ashore in HE’s launch and carried them back to GH in
style where they spent the afternoon with the Turnbulls. I did some shopping
for Elinor, and sorted out various bills with John. We then went back on board
together and had a jolly time at the bar – a thoroughly different atmosphere to
that ashore which I was already finding depressing.
HE then formally gave Richard Magor the engraved antique flask I had
brought as the farewell present from the Tanganyika Tea Growers Association
to their retiring Chairman. This is John’s account of the occasion:
RBM (Richard Magor) was presented with a silver half-flask by Sir Richard
Turnbull in Aden on Monday, 21st June. Present were Lady Turnbull, Dick
Eberlie, Mrs Magor, Elinor and self. HE, I think, greatly appreciated being asked
to make this presentation, which he did with his customary grace on behalf of the
members and staff of the TTGA. RBM was most appreciative of, and touched by,
the gift, which he had quite obviously not expected. We were all entertained royally
at Government House before the ceremony and then came aboard in the Governor’s
launch. It was a worthy finale to RBM’s service on behalf of the TTGA.
Another pleasant occasion was the appearance of my cousin Caryl, her
husband Dick Woof, and their children, Peter and Virginia, when the SS
Orcades docked at Aden that summer. They were travelling back as a family
from England to Tasmania where Dick worked as a naval architect and Caryl
had made her home. The ship docked late one Friday afternoon with time for
Caryl to come ashore and inspect my flat, and for me to go on board to join
them for a delightful dinner. I enjoyed meeting the children, found Dick most
friendly and hospitable, and we had a very happy evening party before they
continued on their way to the Antipodes.
Leisure that Summer: July – October 1965
The July weather was not only relentlessly hot but the wind blew ferociously,
and scattered sand and grit through the flat. Despite the terrorist threat and the
heat and dust, my social life looked up; kind people started to put me on their
guest lists, and I made friends among the expatriate community, particularly
among those living in the Ras Boradli flats where we could move around
freely on the increasingly frequent curfew nights. Robin Thorne and Michael
Maloney who worked in the Aden State Secretariat, and Austen Jackson of the
High Commission, lived with their wives in the big flats on the other side of
our block, while below me were the flats of Barbara Garrett, Personal Secretary
at GH, and Halcyon Mount who had taken my phone calls in the early days. Tony and Thelma Lee, and Pam and Leslie Wink were rather less accessible
as they lived out at Ma’alla, but they were good enough to invite me over for
drinks or supper from time to time.
The Army was very kind too. Some of the senior men with whom I was in
daily contact at work were most hospitable, and lived within easy reach of GH
on the hills across the valley. A number of delightful girls came to stay with
their parents working in Aden over the summer holidays, so there were new
faces and numerous cheerful evening parties despite all the problems. I gave
my first sundowner in Ras Boradli in mid-July to get to know my neighbours
better – a very mixed bag of about fifteen very nice and friendly people, to most
of whom I owed hospitality.
On 1st August I enjoyed my first day off since starting work on 12th May.
The High Commissioner had been called to London to pursue the plan for a
constitutional conference, and Tom Oates, acting in his place, had little need
of my services at GH. Three hours each afternoon were sufficient for me to keep
an eye on the office, and I joined an Arabic language course for the mornings.
I even went round the shops in the Crescent for the first time and bought a few
electrical items and cooking utensils needed for the flat. I set up my easel on my
balcony looking across the bay to the flanks of Jebel Shamsan and started an oil
painting. I went to see the doctor in the big, modern RAF hospital where I was
checked out and passed fit. I became a member of the Aden Yacht Club hoping
to have the chance for an occasional sail.
It was then we brought in the joiners and decorators and carved a slice off
HE’s big conference room in order to make a separate little office for the Private
Secretary. Plenty of space remained for the High Commissioner’s massive
desk and long conference table, while I acquired a narrow cell, no wider than
the double French windows that framed it at one end, with one door into the
secretaries’ room and another into HE’s office. My desk fitted neatly across
the new room whilst there was just enough space for me to squeeze behind it
with my files around me, and a view out to sea through the open windows. We
thought this arrangement would make things rather more efficient, and, as I
sat at my desk, I was able to enjoy a beautiful outlook over the sparkling Indian
On 31st July, David Ledger and Derek Rose, the two fellows who worked
for the Foreign Office in the huts across the GH courtyard, threw an evening
buffet party in their old house on the beach below Ma’alla; and it was there I bumped into Joan again. We went off together into a quiet corner of their
upstairs verandah and we started talking. Joan asked me about books. Had
I read this? What did I think of that author? And about me - where was my
home? Where had I been to school? What had I done in the army? and much,
much more. Here was someone who wanted to know all about me as a person.
We were oblivious of everyone else at the party, and we started a conversation
that has never really ended.
I soon found myself calling frequently at Joan’s flat. She lived on the first
floor of an old, thoroughly dilapidated block on the open ground at Steamer
Point opposite the Union Club, known as the Secretariat Flats. There I met
her affectionate collie dog, Wonky, her ginger cat with a limp, Sidney, and her
African Grey parrot – indistinguishable from the Turnbulls’, also called Suku
(is it the Malay word for ‘parrot’?). Slightly quirky and totally bewitching, Joan
and I began to meet in the evenings whenever I could escape GH, at her flat or
mine, at the Rock or the Crescent Hotels, and at the homes of mutual friends.
On Sundays Joan introduced me to the swimming at the Gold Mohur Club,
situated within sight of my flat at the end of the beach below the Elephant
Rock. A shark net protected us in the water, and snacks were provided at a
shady bar on the sands. The crows were a nuisance, but the place was never
crowded and there was time for a quiet chat about this and that.
At Gold Mohur or in the flat, I told Joan about myself and gradually pieced
together her background. Her father had been a regular soldier, a Captain
Quartermaster in the Sherwood Foresters, who had fought in the trenches in the
Great War. He had contracted TB as a result of his war service and died when
she was about five, and she could not remember him at all. Joan had two older
brothers. Bob had married an American and emigrated with three daughters to
Auckland in New Zealand. John was married to Olive, with one son, David,
living with Joan’s mother in Tavistock while preparing to emigrate to Australia.
Joan’s sister, Jean, was a few years younger than her, married to a German with
two daughters, Claire and Gillyan, living in Hartley in north Kent. Joan and Jean
had been brought up by their mother in Weymouth during and after the war, and
had spent many of their school holidays at the home of her great-uncle John in
Tavistock – a little market town in the shadow of Dartmoor I remembered from
the time when I had been stationed in the army at Crownhill Barracks, Plymouth.
Joan had a special feeling for the place, and often spoke lovingly of her kindly greatuncle
with his strong Devonshire accent, his habit of calling her his ‘little maid’, and
his ability to recite chapters of Dickens’ novels to her while was working in his big
kitchen garden and greenhouses fully of lilies destined for Covent Garden.
Joan seemed to have had a happy childhood; but it was clear to me she also
had a restless and adventurous spirit that I hugely admired. She had trained
as a librarian, but had wanted to go abroad and had looked for the chance to
travel. For a while she had been a junior secretary at the Foreign Office German
section at Wilton Park, near Beaconsfield, but she had seen an advertisement for
a job that would take her overseas with the War Office - as it was then called.
This had been her first introduction to the tropics and had been something of a
disaster. She had been housed in an almost empty block of flats outside Lagos
in Nigeria without electricity and with few amenities, where she had caught
malaria badly, which had obliged the Office to bring her home quickly.
Nothing daunted, and after a period in headquarters in London, she had
applied to go out to Singapore, and, after two years, transferred to the Royal
Federation of Malay Police at Kuala Lumpur where she became PA to the
Head of the Special Branch during the Emergency there. This seemed to have
been her happiest posting; she had many amusing stories of KL and made
many friends there. Her next posting had been with the Colonial Police in
Zanzibar - yet another hot spot. She had enjoyed the social life and made more
friends there, too. Happily her tour of duty had ended a couple of months
before violent revolution turned that island into first a bloodbath and, then,
a communist outpost. She was on her second tour in Aden when I had the
greatest good fortune to meet her, working for the police at their headquarters
off the Crescent, and well dug in socially.
On the Friday following HE’s return from the London talks in August, he
decided to go for one of his regular early-morning mountain scrambles. As was
our custom, at about five in the morning, HE, the ADC Jeremy Rawlins, and
I set off incognito in my car, and motored past Ras Boradli and Gold Mohur
into Conquest Bay to the foot of one of the tracks leading up Shamsan. At the
bottom of the mountain we put our revolvers into the pockets of our shorts,
and carrying nothing else set off fast on a steep climb up loose lava and shale.
On reaching the rim of the ancient volcanic crater, we took a narrow
track, probably used only by goats, running to the right below the crest of the
mountain. It was a new route to us and rougher and slower than expected.
At times the path climbed steeply upwards; at other times it dropped sharply
down. The views were superb; to the south we could look many miles out to
sea, and below our feet we could see all of Steamer Point and the harbour full
of ships. To the north we found ourselves high above Crater where smoke was drifting up from the courtyards of the little houses as fires were lit for
Sir Richard held a steady pace, slowing down for the difficult bits, while
Jeremy raced ahead of us like a mountain goat. Where HE and I would carefully
go round an obstacle, Jeremy would carelessly bound over it. So on we went
from peak to peak until we came to the end of the track at about half-past
seven. Normally we reckoned to be back home by eight or so for a bath before
breakfast. But that day we went much farther than usual, as Jeremy persuaded
us to have a look round the next corner, and then go along the next ridge, until,
finally, even HE decided to turn back.
Jeremy was determined to find a route down the north side of the jebel into
Crater and left us to make his way home on his own. Sir Richard and I turned
round and began the long trek back along the path to the ridge and then down
to the bottom. It was at this point that I found to my horror I could not go on. I
simply could not persuade my limbs to respond to the usual instructions I gave
them. I was stuck.
The sun was still below the horizon and much of our walk had been in the
cool early morning air with a refreshing breeze blowing in from the sea. Despite
the pleasant freshness, I found I could not move. So HE took my car key, in
order to drive himself home in my car, and ask the RAF Mountain Rescue
Team to collect me while I rested in the shade. Off he went, and I found myself
alone on the huge mountain with legs that would not respond, with the sun
For an hour the sun was still weak, and I rested, hoping to gather strength,
but I still could not get my body to work properly. I could do no more than
edge and shuffle towards a flat space where I reckoned a helicopter could land.
I slithered, slid and scraped over the loose rocks with frequent rests wherever
shade from a vertical rock offered relief. All too soon, the sun was a blazing
circle of intense heat high in the sky above me. I missed the path twice, and
on the second occasion scrambled on to a rocky outcrop to find it thirty feet
below. Instead of retracing my steps, I tried a short cut and ended up twelve feet
vertically above the rough trail with no way down and no strength to go back
up and round again. After long deliberation, I slithered slowly and painfully
down the jagged rock-face to regain it.
Two hours later a Land Rover appeared at the bottom of the valley where
we had started our climb, and I thought my rescuers had arrived. With dismay
I observed the vehicle’s occupants made no attempt to climb the hill, but soon
drove back out of sight. Deciding then that rescue would come up the path and not from the air, I pressed on beyond the southern peak of Shamsan on the
second half of the goat track along the mountain top. I was in the glare of the
sun all the way, but I pushed slowly forward until I reached the ridge at the head
of a steep descent that I reckoned was beyond me. There I lay in a tiny patch of
shadow waiting for rescue - tired, thirsty and hating the sun.
Soon after noon, a helicopter flew over. I struggled to my feet, and waved.
Making a fearful noise, the machine hovered twenty feet above the ground,
and a burly crewman appeared out of the open door and came down slowly in
a sling on a wire and stood beside me. Without saying a word, he put another
sling round my waist, gestured to me to grasp the rope above my head, clamped
his legs round mine and gave a signal for us both to be hauled aboard. After
what seemed hours of hanging in space, miles above Aden, they winched us
through the door. Jeremy gave me a cheerful wave from the co-pilot’s seat, and
so started my first flight in a helicopter.
In five minutes they touched down to offload Jeremy at Government House,
but insisted on taking me to the airport sick bay. Suffering from dehydration,
sunburnt in the face and scratched on my knees and hands, I was otherwise unscathed. There the young doctors were very stern with me, and gave me a
long lecture on the need to take lots of liquid and salt in the heat. I tried to
explain we were usually back home before the sun rose, but I don’t think they
believed me. I had a bath, drank a couple of pints of salt solution in water and
dozed until mid afternoon, when a GH car arrived for me with clean clothes.
At GH I found both Sir Richard and Jeremy in fine form. They looked on my
escapade as a grand prank, were very solicitous and packed me off home to
drink pints of lime juice.
On the wireless the seven o’clock local news announced that a whirlybird
helicopter of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team went to the top of Shamsan this
morning to rescue an army officer suffering from heat exhaustion. I was no army
officer, but they must have meant me. I was relieved they had not brought the
High Commissioner into the report, for I must have cost the taxpayer a packet
My new flat
In September I had to move out of my fourth floor flat because its permanent
occupant returned from long leave in the UK, and I was given another flat in
the same block on the ground floor. With a little terrace, a private entrance and
direct access to my garage, my new home was just as comfortable and clean as
the other, but rather more convenient, and perhaps a little cooler and smarter.
The paved terrace, dropping down to the road (through coils of barbed wire),
gave the place an air of space and size - though still lacking storage and spare
Once sorted out, the new flat looked quite pleasant, and all my neighbours
came round for a drink on the terrace after sundown one evening. People had
been very kind in entertaining me and I had much hospitality to repay. I relished
the social life in the evenings and at weekends, despite the security threat which
obliged us to keep our gatherings small.
The climate changed for the better as the year rolled on; the temperature
dropped ten degrees in October, and the early mornings and evenings were
gloriously refreshing and stimulating. Air-conditioning was no longer needed
at night. At least one blanket was essential on the bed, and one could leave the
windows wide open and revel in the refreshing night air. Only in the middle of
the day was it still fearfully hot at 90 degrees. At the Officers’ Club below GH,
at six o’clock in the morning the sea was warm and peaceful, the sand was cold
under one’s bare feet, and all was cool and quiet until it was time to change for
My new flat
In September I had to move out of my fourth floor flat because its permanent
occupant returned from long leave in the UK, and I was given another flat in
the same block on the ground floor. With a little terrace, a private entrance and
direct access to my garage, my new home was just as comfortable and clean as
the other, but rather more convenient, and perhaps a little cooler and smarter.
The paved terrace, dropping down to the road (through coils of barbed wire),
gave the place an air of space and size - though still lacking storage and spare
Once sorted out, the new flat looked quite pleasant, and all my neighbours
came round for a drink on the terrace after sundown one evening. People had
been very kind in entertaining me and I had much hospitality to repay. I relished
the social life in the evenings and at weekends, despite the security threat which
obliged us to keep our gatherings small.
The climate changed for the better as the year rolled on; the temperature
dropped ten degrees in October, and the early mornings and evenings were
gloriously refreshing and stimulating. Air-conditioning was no longer needed
at night. At least one blanket was essential on the bed, and one could leave the
windows wide open and revel in the refreshing night air. Only in the middle of
the day was it still fearfully hot at 90 degrees. At the Officers’ Club below GH,
at six o’clock in the morning the sea was warm and peaceful, the sand was cold
under one’s bare feet, and all was cool and quiet until it was time to change for
December 1965: Nairobi, Kenya
While my parents were moving into Little Bricklehurst at the end of
November, I was arranging ten days’ leave in Kenya. HE and I planned to get
away for a few days in November, for we needed a break after Aden’s long and
exhausting hot season. I was very unfit, had put on an absurd amount of weight
and was more than ready for a short holiday. Sir Richard had to cancel his leave
because of Lord Beswick’s visit and its aftermath, but he insisted I went away
as originally planned. The airfare from Aden to Nairobi cost £60 for a return
flight, which was heavy on my salary, but not out of the question, and Kenya
friends pressed me to fly over and offered me generous hospitality.
Thus it was that on 3rd December, Charles and Annette Gardner met me,
tired, fat and pasty-faced, off the plane in Nairobi at about five o’clock on a
Friday afternoon, and took me to their beautiful home at Karen, which lay
amid forest and farms beyond the Nairobi Game Park. They had a spacious,
comfortable house in a garden of green lawns and exotic flowers, and gave me a
quiet evening catching up on Nairobi news.
My first full day in Nairobi was spent shopping energetically for Lady
Turnbull. While it was not very exciting, it was a delightful contrast to the dusty,
hot and ugly shopping centre in Aden, and I took great pleasure in seeing good
shops again, new fashions worn by smart, well-dressed people, and well-run
restaurants. That afternoon, Charles and Annette took me into the Game Park
for a picnic tea with the children. We watched monkeys and antelopes and
saw masses of ostrich, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, sights that never fail to
thrill me. In the evening, Charles took me to a dinner at the Norfolk Hotel
of the Kenya Oxford and Cambridge Society. We dressed smartly and had an
excellent meal, everyone was very friendly and civilized, and I found I knew
several men from my Cambridge days.
On the Sunday, we drove out in the morning about 100 miles to Nakuru
to attend a motor racing event. Charles lent me a little, old Volkswagen, rather
slow but very reliable and sturdy, and not uncomfortable, and I revelled in the
chance to drive through the superbly beautiful country. There was so much
space, and the land was all luxuriant and fertile, fresh and green with recent
rain. The magnificent forests and huge, endless rolling plains took one’s breath
away after barren, claustrophobic Aden; as did the gorgeous country gardens
and wealth of lovely flowers – gladioli, carnations, delphiniums, dahlias,
agapanthus, arums, and many more that formed a long and lovely list. After
Arabia, anything green and colourful was heartening, and a few days in the
Kenya Highlands were hugely refreshing.
Nakuru is in the Rift Valley, low-lying and dry and good farming land. The
racing was informal and friendly; the meeting was not particularly well organised,
but had all the proper pits, flags and track events, and the excitement of the circuit
interested and amused me. We had a picnic lunch on the grass and strolled among
the cheerful crowd of prosperous Kenya farmers and settlers there.
The Nandi Hills
When the races ended I said goodbye to Charles and his family. They went
back to Nairobi while I motored another 100 miles in the late afternoon into
the Nandi Hills. I was invited for a couple of days as guest of Peter Mence
with whom I had worked in Dar es Salaam and stayed before at Kericho.
Nandi Hills was a small village serving the tea estates on a beautiful plateau
amid lush forests on the edge of an escarpment thirty miles off the road to
Uganda. Dirt tracks weaved in and around the dozen or so estates that were
scattered over a wide area of the hills. Peter had become the Secretary of the
Nandi Hills Branch of the Kenya Tea Growers Association, which handled
the administration of the estates and negotiated with the trade unions on
behalf of the planters. He had an interesting and fairly easy job, was well
looked after and had been given a pretty little house in a valley on the edge
of the village.
He gave me a warm welcome and made me comfortable, and I spent three
lazy days as his guest. He was a kind host as well as an interesting talker, and
played the piano and organ to professional standards. I was invited to a cocktail
party where I met all the tea planters and their wives and picked up the local
gossip. I accompanied Peter on a shopping expedition to Eldoret, and found it
little more than a village, though an important source of supplies for the estates,
popular with the old-time farmer settlers who abounded thereabouts.
That apart, I happily devoted two full days to painting. Using the easel and
paints I had brought on the plane. I painted two pictures; one of a view over
thorn trees and forest from Peter’s verandah, which was a success and offered to
Peter as a thank-you present, and the other of a well-cultivated tea garden with
the deep golden and lime green of newly plucked tea bushes - but that picture
was more difficult and much less successful.
I left Nandi Hills reluctantly on the Thursday of my holiday, to drive in the
aged Volkswagen across Kenya to Nanyuki, which lay astride the road north
from Nairobi and nestled at the foot of Mount Kenya. I was to be the guest of Fiona Alexander with whom I had worked closely when she had been Social
Secretary at the Dar es Salaam Government House, and I had been the ADC.
Fiona was a hearty, cheery girl, mad keen on animals and wild things, always
dashing off on some crazy safari, but with a kind and generous heart. She had
married John Alexander, who described himself as a ‘white hunter and Alpine
guide’, and whom I was to meet for the first time on arrival at Nanyuki.
When I had spoken to them on the phone from Nairobi, they had asked me
if I wanted to climb Mount Kenya. I had demurred, on grounds of expense -
the official price was £40 a head; time - I had to be back in Nairobi by Sunday
evening; lack of equipment - I had nothing in the way of climbing gear with
me; disinclination - I was feeling in need of an idle holiday rather than an
energetic mountain climb.
I was horror-struck, therefore, when at the end of five hours’ driving I
reached Nanyuki on Thursday evening, ready for a quiet supper and talk over
old times, only to be told:
By the way, we’ve decided to go up the mountain after all. The organisers have
agreed to reduce the charge, so we are going up for three days, and we leave in half
an hour’s time. You’ll need lots of warm clothes. Hurry up, and get your things ready!
I had to borrow everything - climbing boots, thick woolly socks, sweaters,
wind-cheaters, a balaclava helmet, ice-axe, goggles, and all the usual cold-weather
high-altitude equipment. We left by Land Rover soon after dark to join
a party bivouacked on the moorland slopes of the mountain. We climbed for an
hour through forests and wild jungle, spotting many creatures in the headlights
of the Land Rover including one large buffalo who stood a few feet from our
vehicle and was reluctant to get off the road to allow us to pass. Emerging at last
from the forest, we had a bumpy ride through marshes and over moorland to
reach the camp in time for an alfresco supper round a campfire, where we met
our companions on the climb.
I was provided with a minute tent, camp bed, sleeping bag and pillow for
myself, and found it strange to crawl into the bag – under canvas for the first
time for some years. I slept well, however, and woke in the morning to find
the ground covered in frost and the temperature well below freezing point. We
enjoyed a warming breakfast and were told we had fifteen miles to walk that
day to reach the top camp in a place called Hinde’s Valley.
It was a vast, lovely country, as we plodded across the slopes towards the high
peaks. At first, our path lay over fairly open country with giant heather and tufted
grass. Then, as the vegetation grew sparser and the path much steeper, we entered
an area of the strange, giant lobelias, giant groundsel and pale everlasting flowers. Birds were everywhere and innumerable, pretty streams coursed down the
mountain slopes, but it was too cold for any normal flora - just these exotic and
slightly sinister plants. This was the same ‘Afro-alpine’ microclimate and ecology
that I had met on my climbs on Mounts Elgon and Kilimanjaro.
After walking all morning on these rough open slopes, my legs were doing
well, but I was growing weary. Happily, ponies were at hand to carry the
laggards and lazy, while mules bore our kit and the camp clobber. So I mounted
a pony and rode for the rest of the day. Hinde’s Valley lay in a charming little
basin in the hills encircled by giant groundsel. The ground was churned up and
very rocky and the snow-covered mountain tops towered over us, silhouetted
at the head of the valley. We arrived in a bitterly cold snowstorm, staggering
into camp in swirling mist. Already at 12,000 feet, the air was rare, and we
were short of breath. Every movement was difficult and we were liable to head
and tummy aches. I was particularly afraid of disgracing myself as I had before
in Aden on Shamsan, so I swallowed masses of aspirin to control my altitude
headaches and took things very carefully.
Mount Kenya has three peaks, two of which, at about 17,500 feet, can be
reached only by skilled climbers over steep rock, ice, and snow glaciers, for
professionals only. The third peak is called Lenana, lying at the head of a steep
glacier, and can be won by a scramble along the rocks at its side and does not
require much skill or equipment. The storm had ceased by the morning and we
set out in sunshine on Saturday towards Lenana. Several of us rode most of the
way up the mountainside on the sturdy ponies. Progress was slow because the
altitude affected us all. We struggled up through very picturesque mountain
scenery, scrambled over rocks, shingle and shale, and rode through mushy snow
and slippery ice as we climbed higher. The sun went in at about nine in the
morning and we entered freezing mist and cloud. Two hours later we made
a long traverse on foot across scree, and came to a remote mountain rescue
hut at about 15,000 feet. The hut was full of safety and emergency medical
equipment, and lay in a hollow by a frozen pond where there was very little air.
I decided to sleep. So, while the toughest of our party including Fiona and
John went on to the summit of Lenana, I curled up on a stretcher and fell
asleep, huddled under sweaters and waterproofs. It was eerie and lonely whilst
the others were gone, with no sounds but the snorting and champing of the
mules at their traces outside and a chill wind growling round the hut. I was
content at having come so high on the mountain, even though I had had no
chance to acclimatize myself. The others reached Lenana’s top, and I heard their
disembodied voices in the cloud high above me at noon.
When they returned, weary and chilled to the bone, we harnessed the mules
again and set off back the way we had come in another snowstorm that continued
all the way back to Hinde Valley. The trek was long and tiring, as we struggled
up, down, and round the bleak, stony mountainside. We reached the camp as
darkness fell, tired and stiff and thoroughly exhausted. That evening we assembled
in a big tent for a magnificent supper of steaming hot soup, warmed-up pie and
coffee to recover strength and thaw out. We were then very weary and quite ready
to burrow into our sleeping bags for our last night on the mountain.
We came down the mountain on the Sunday morning leaving the camp at
about 8 a.m. The fifteen-mile trek was by no means all downhill. We were each
given a pony to help us over the difficult terrain as we struggled over a series of
high ridges and climbed up and down their steep sides on our way out. Moving
slowly, but steadily, our party reached the lower camp and the waiting vehicles
after about six hours.
Fiona, John and I piled into their Land Rover, had a picnic lunch as we
drove down through the thick forests clothing the mountain’s lower slopes and
rushed back to the Alexanders’ home in Nanyuki. I came away with the smell
in my nostrils of dirty, wet clothes and the steamy canvas of my tiny tent. I had
neither shaved nor washed for four days, had had no clean clothes, still less seen
a newspaper or heard a wireless, and I had totally forgotten about my office. I
had done nothing but walk and eat and sleep, surrounded by the awesome and
forbidding mountain scenery around me. It had been a great escape and hugely
satisfying, even though I had failed to reach the mountain peak.
All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi
Once off the mountain I found myself in a fearful hurry, for I wanted to be
in Nairobi by 8.30 p.m. and faced a three and a half hour journey by car from
Nanyuki before I could clean up to appear in polite society again. I was invited
that evening to attend a Christmas concert in All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi.
Handel’s Messiah was being sung with a big choir and the full orchestra of the
Kericho Music Ensemble; and friends were taking part.
The drive down the main road was hectic, fast and dangerous, but I made
good time until lost in the outskirts of Nairobi where I had to ask the way. At
last I found Karen, and was able to wash at the Gardners, put on a suit, drive
back into town and park at the cathedral just in time to hear the opening solos.
It was a superb performance in a lovely setting. The cathedral had been
built sixty years earlier in heavy, grey stone. It held one thousand people, and
was packed for the occasion. The altar and choir were beautifully lit in dark blue and silver; the flowers were magnificent including tall gladioli, arums,
agapanthus, white dahlia and huge carnations. The congregation was welldressed
and absorbed in the performance. Among the musicians, Peter Mence
was at the organ; Annette Gardner played the violin in the orchestra; two of the
Nandi Hills people sang solos, and Patricia le Breton (travelling up from Zambia
where her husband David was in the Diplomatic Service) sang the contralto
solos. The organist, string players and vocalists performed movingly to a very
high standard. Somehow it was all quite magical, particularly, perhaps, so soon
after the rigours on the cold bare mountain. It was the climax of my holiday.
The rest of the story is soon told. We got home to Karen late, and had some
supper at the Gardners’ at about midnight. Monday was a day of rest when I
took a few photographs of the garden and joined them all in a picnic in the
afternoon. I took Charles and Annette out in the evening and joined Peter
Mence at the New Stanley Grill Room, but it was not much of a night out.
While the band and dancing were pleasant, the food was mediocre, and the
décor and atmosphere were dull.
Early on Tuesday I left Karen for the airport. The plane had to turn back
shortly after take-off because it had punctured a tyre when leaving the runway,
and was stuck on the tarmac for two hours while the wheel was replaced.
Then we flew home via Mogadishu in Somalia and reached Aden in the early
afternoon. After the fresh highland air and battling through snow-storms on
Mount Kenya, I had lost weight and felt remarkably healthy.
December 1965 – January 1966
Soon after my return from Kenya, Christmas was upon us and, to my delight,
my family drowned me in gifts and the children’s letters gave me special pleasure.
Joan and I were seeing a good deal of each other and spending as much time
together as we could – and I enjoyed every minute. Our evenings that December
were full; my neighbours entertained us generously - Robin and Joan Thorne
threw a big cocktail party in their flat opposite mine, which we especially enjoyed;
and I was able to repay their hospitality with drinks among friends in my flat only
a day or two before Robin was seriously injured by the parcel bomb.
On one memorable night Harry Nicholls, my good friend HE’s bodyguard,
and I took Joan and a friend of hers to Aden’s only respectable nightclub
where we danced until two in the morning. It was great relaxation and grand
fun for a change.
Aden was at its best in January: it was cool in the mornings and afternoons,
and the sunsets were magnificent. Better still, when HE was summoned to London to meet the new Secretary of State and plan the way ahead, my work
eased off once again. Tom Oates was in charge and gave me leave to stay with the
Somerfields at Dhala (as reported in an earlier chapter) and my working life was
comparatively easy while, happily, Aden was reasonably peaceful. Lady T had
remained behind in Aden when HE had gone to London, and I accompanied
her on several trips, including an interesting journey out along the seashore to
Abyan and back through Zingibar, and I supported her at several small GH
dinner parties at which she was hostess.
I started another painting of the mountainside behind the flats and threw a
cheerful cocktail party for a number of friends. I was inveigled in a plot hatched
between Lady T and Joan to transport her parrot from the Steamer Point flat
to Government House to join the Turnbulls’ talkative bird. Manoeuvring the
huge wire cage out of Joan’s flat and down her narrow twisting staircase to the
street was a messy business. The parrot disapproved as I struggled with the
big angular cage and we cursed in unison all the way until my mission was
complete and I delivered the bird to its new friend.
I got to know Jim Trousdell much better, met his wife and daughter, Susan,
and found them a delightful family and Jim a very pleasant colleague. I spent
several afternoons and evenings with acquaintances from East Africa who were
passing through Aden by boat. Better still, my old and dear friend from Nzega
days, Rummy, arrived on the SS Kenya Castle from Tanzania while I was in
Dhala. Rummy had taken on the job of Health Visitor at the Aden Clinic in the
depths of Crater – tough, dirty and rough work for a middle-aged lady, but I
think she relished the challenge. I was delighted to see her again when I looked
her up at the hotel, spent some time helping her find somewhere to live and buy
a car, and introduced her to Joan and my friends at GH.
Another old friend who turned up in Aden was Christine Bratt. Her elderly
mother, had lived in an old house by the bridge at Monkey Island, and used
to call on us frequently when I had worked for my sister, Liz, as barman at
the hotel there. Chris had qualified as a doctor, was great fun with a cheerful
disposition and a very hearty laugh, although I never quite understood what she
was doing in Aden.
Early in the year the news came through that all Aden civil servants were to
receive a pay rise in April - an extra £18 a month for me, backdated to the date
of my appointment - and our gratuity on termination of contract was increased
to twenty-five per cent of salary. I paid off my debts and bought a smart carpet
for the flat and the automatic Omega Seamaster watch that I wear today.
March – April 1966: Falling in Love
March was a busy time socially. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the distinguished
archaeologist, stayed a fortnight at GH. He used us as his base for travelling
around South Arabia, inspecting our ruins and archaeological remains. He
was a most entertaining guest, but a bit of a bore if one let him go on too long.
He was looked after by Brian Doe, the eager Director of Antiquities in Aden,
who shared his enthusiasms and was in his element. Brian lived out at Ras
Marshag and one evening when we were visiting friends near by he showed us
with pride the ‘mermaid’ he kept in a glass case on the verandah of his house.
It was in fact a stuffed dugong and one of the strangest–looking creatures you
could imagine. Sir Mortimer laid the foundation stone for a new museum for
Aden and threw himself into an evening of Scottish dancing organised by
Lady T. It was a highly technical affair, starting with eight-some reels before
going on to much more complicated exercises.
At the end of the month the Aden Arts Society arranged an exhibition in the
Union Club in Steamer Point. I framed several of my oils and hung six. One of
my paintings was bought within an hour of the opening of the exhibition, and
two others were sold for a few pounds during its course.
I gave occasional sundowners at Ras Boradli, and Joan entertained frequently
in her old Steamer Point flat. Here I was welcomed by Joan’s pleasant circle
of girl friends and a selection of her boy friends among the young officers of
45 Royal Marine Commando, the SAS and infantry regiments. They were
all good sports and sometimes very entertaining. I enjoyed their company
immensely, and Joan’s even more. The only one of the army officers whom I
had met previously was John Slim who had been ADC to his father, the Field
Marshal, when they had paid a visit to Dar es Salaam GH. Joan had known
John and several of his fellow officers from Malaya days and he had received
rapid promotion to become CO of the SAS Unit in Aden.
I was much preoccupied with the long tour made by Lord Beswick to Aden,
and I escaped from him only once in order to accompany Joan to The Yellow
Rolls Royce with Rex Harrison and Ingrid Bergman, which we both thoroughly
enjoyed. After Beswick’s departure, we went to a performance of The Mikado
put on by an RAF Amateur Dramatic Company at the beginning of April, and
together we attended our local amateur theatrical show Simon and Laura one
night soon afterwards. By then I was seeing Joan every other evening, talking to
her most mornings on the phone, and enjoying her company hugely.
Her office, at that time, was in the vulnerable police headquarters in Tawahi
behind the Crescent, and we were greatly relieved when she changed jobs and moved out to work at Al Ittihad. She was given charge of the secretarial side of
the Federal Intelligence Office run by Desmond Cosgrove and Jeff Jefferson.
It was slightly worrying that Joan’s journey to and from work involved a
twenty minute or so drive out of Aden, across the causeway and a stretch of
the desert, but happily her office was in a well-guarded location at the other
An Enchanted Evening
On 8th April, it so happened we were both invited to a drinks party in
Eliane’s flat above her office in the GH courtyard, and it was one of those
happy parties where everyone was friends, our elegant hostess made sure the
food and drink flowed, the evening was cool and we all chatted cheerfully.
Joan was at the other end of the room when, by chance, I caught her eye. She
smiled; I grinned back and discovered, to my delight, I was in love. I knew
then I wanted her to be my wife.
We came away quickly to be together, holding hands, saying silly things,
laughing at nonsenses and suddenly feeling very, very happy. I loved the girl
for her quietly humorous individuality, her sense of ease in her own space,
the way she seemed to carry the light with her, and, above all, that irresistible
The next event was the ADC’s wedding and reception at GH. Jeremy
Rawlins chose Annie-Paul Roux, the daughter of the French Consul in Aden,
a sweet, bubbling and laughing young lady, and they seemed very pleased with
each other’s company. They were married at Christchurch, our Anglican church
down at Steamer Point, and the reception took place in the drawing-room at
Government House. Then they left on honeymoon and I found myself acting
as ADC for a spell once again.
The new Labour Adviser to the High Commissioner turned out to be my
former boss, John Walsh, who had accepted the job at HE’s pressing invitation.
I met John and Elinor on their arrival from England on the SS Iberia and took
them back to GH where they stayed their first few days as the Turnbulls’ guests.
Sir Richard gave them a very friendly dinner party to meet all the right people
for John’s new job, and we looked after them carefully at the start of their tour.
Unfortunately there was a problem over their accommodation: life was not as
comfortable for them as they might have hoped; their standards were high and
they rejected the house they were offered at first. Fortunately I was able to let
them use my flat and car while I was away that May.
May – July 1966: Little Bricklehurst
When HE went back to London for the conference with the Federal rulers
that May, I followed him home. On flying back from Aden, my parents met me
at the much-enlarged London airport and drove me to their newly completed
house in the garden of Liz’s school at Bricklehurst Manor outside Wadhurst.
They called it ‘Little Bricklehurst’. My father described it thus,
Little Bricklehurst is a good looking small house, built East Sussex style, with
white brick walls, old tiles above, and a slate roof. It has white painted casement
dormer windows, and the glass is square latticed. Its appearance blends well with
the manor house sixty yards away, of which it was called the annexe for rating
and tax purposes. There are three bedrooms, two leading off the big square hall
with a cloakroom between them, and two commodious garages on either side. As
the roof had been lowered to save expense, the staircase is shallow. It leads to the
main living room, which is an L-shaped drawing and dining room, lit on three
sides by windows and with a door on to a balcony and oak stairway leading into
the garden. The only fireplace in the building is on the fourth side of this room,
which is big enough for a twenty-person cocktail party. The kitchen leads off the
dining area and on this floor are the main bedroom, bathroom, lavatory and hot
cupboard with an immersion electric boiler. The expensive, but labour-saving,
heating is electric throughout. Altogether it is a very comfortable
much more for two old people with the minimum of help than was our fascinating
and lovely Island Cottage.
My parents had been in occupation for less than a month when I returned
from Aden, and were working hard to make the house comfortable and lay
out the garden. My mother was proud of her new kitchen on the first floor,
with windows overlooking the sunken lawn, and they were building a wooden
balcony outside the glass door in the upstairs drawing room with broad steps
running down to the grass below. I thought it was a delightful house and greatly
enjoyed my weekend there, catching up with family news.
Early on the Monday, however, I was obliged to go up to London by train
to start work at the Foreign Office in Downing Street. My sister, Margaret, was
kind enough to give me a bed at their Willow Road home, and for a few weeks
I found myself a daily commuter between Hampstead and Whitehall.
Each weekend I returned to Little Bricklehurst to see my parents and help
my father work outside. He was engaged in a heavy job laying crazy paving
along the side of the new house, and I gave him a hand with it. I attended a cheerful cocktail party given by Liz for her friends in Bricklehurst Manor
across the garden, and a well-organised dinner party given by parents; and I
managed a series of short visits to catch up with my relations at home as well
as old friends.
I sent off a fresh set of application forms for entry into the Diplomatic
Service. The High Commissioner agreed to be my character referee, and I had
great hopes. When my forms reached the Foreign Office Personnel Department,
however, I was turned down flat – they gave me an interview only to say they
had nothing to add to earlier assessments of my unsuitability for the job of a
I was, however, able to look forward to a proper break. At Whitsun the
London conference folded up quietly, most of the participants flew back to
the Middle East, while I hired a car and started a long trip round the country
visiting friends and relations. First I went down to see my eldest nephew, Peter,
at Sherborne, my old school; I then drove back across the country to Norwich
to stay with Peter’s father and my brother, John, Doreen and their two younger
children, full of plans for their move to Canada where John was to join a GP’s
practice in a small town near Toronto. From there I went up to Scotland to visit
various Cambridge friends and the Macleods in Edinburgh. I bought some
pretty things for Joan in the smart shops in George Street, took a great liking to
Edinburgh and was sad to have to move on. On the way south I called on my
Cambridge friend, Roger Moat, and his bride, Rhona, in their very pretty, new
house in Horsforth near Leeds.
On the last day of my expedition I looked in on Repton School and took my
godson, Michael March out to lunch before the long drive back to my parents’
home in Stonegate. All too soon I was back on the BOAC plane on my way out
to Joan and the job in Aden.
Chapter 8: Married and Sacked
‘Let us roll all our Strength, and all
Our Sweetness up into one Ball;
And tear our Pleasures with rough strife,
Through the Iron gates of Life.
Thus, though we can not make our Sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run’
From To his Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
Domestic affairs: July – August 1966
On my return to Aden after leave in the UK, Joan met me at Khormaskar
airport in the early morning. It lifted my heart to see her again despite the
I had written regularly while in England and Scotland, but my letters
had been boring, and we had much news to exchange as she drove me back
to Ras Boradli. The Walshes, to whom I had lent my little flat, had found a
place of their own while I had been away, and I was able to move straight
back, but even on the flat’s lovely open verandah overlooking the sea, there
was no breeze in July, and I lived in my air-conditioned bedroom. Social life
was flagging because of both the increasing violence on the streets and the
fierce heat. Places like the open-air bar at the Officers’ Mess were too warm
for comfort. Only in the sea off their beach and at Gold Mohur could one
At home my parents were saddened at the departure of my brother John and
his family to start their new life in Canada, but were greatly cheered when my
sister Margaret gave birth to David a few days after my return to Aden. Then I
threw in my tupp'orth to add to the family excitement. I sent a cable home on
8th August as follows:
I’VE ASKED JOAN TO MARRY ME AND SHE’S AGREED HURRAH
I had gently cast a fly a week earlier, and had more formally proposed the
preceding evening. One night after supper together, we were sitting on the
terrace outside my flat, having a late drink, looking over a silver sea shining in
the light of the nearly full moon, and I proposed to her again. Joan said Yes, and
the balloon went up.
Next day we announced our engagement. For me the world seemed to
explode and began to revolve a great pace. Supremely happy, I went about in a
daze, unable to believe my great good fortune. The first step was to choose a ring.
We went to Bhicajee’s, and selected a cluster of nine sparkling, little diamonds
with a big one in the middle, which looked very well on Joan’s elegant hand. We
went on to the grillroom of the Aden Rock Hotel for a celebration lunch with
a couple of friends, and enjoyed our first bottle of champagne together – it cost
two pounds, ten shillings.
The next step was to have a party. Sir Richard got the ADC to call together
our friends for an impromptu gathering at GH; fifty or so guests assembled four
days later. Lady T was still in Henley sorting out their new house, but we were
joined by Alison Weller whose husband Paul was serving in the army in Aden, by old friends like the Walshes, Rummy and Christine Bratt and by many of
our new friends. We drank lots more champagne, HE proposed our health in
a charming, little speech, and I replied briefly. It was a very happy occasion.
Then we started planning the wedding. It was sad that we could not afford
to marry at home in the presence of Joan’s mother and my parents. I know my
mother was much distressed, but Joan would have lost her gratuity and the
expense of the fares would have been prohibitive. I wrote home as often as I
could, describing our plans as they developed week by week, explaining the
gradual development of the arrangements for an Aden wedding in the cooler
weather of late October when many of our friends could be present.
As soon as we received confirmation that we could have a cabin on the SS
Africa, sailing from Aden to Mombasa on 28th October, we booked it and
spoke to the senior RAF chaplain, Padre Pellant. I knew him because he had
officiated at many of the funerals in Silent Valley that I had attended. In his
quiet easy way, he readily agreed to conduct our marriage service. We wanted
to hold the ceremony at Christchurch, the little stone church in Tawahi, and we
arranged it for the early morning, when it would be cool and the roads would be
quiet. The solemnities were to be followed by a mid morning reception at GH,
with HE’s warm agreement. Invitations went out and acceptances and presents
flooded back. Joan became one of the GH ‘family’ and a frequent guest at
evening parties and dinners; I moved into her circle of friends and I was able to
introduce her to mine, and the pleasant High Commission folk like the Stuarts,
the Winks, the Lees and my army contacts like the Trousdells.
In the weeks that followed, HE was away a good deal, travelling in the EAP
and later back home working at the Foreign Office in London, thus allowing me
time to make the complicated arrangements for our wedding and honeymoon.
Sadly the Walshes decided not to stay in Aden. Though they enjoyed the
company of the Turnbulls, John found the job of Labour Adviser, dealing with
the recalcitrant trade unions unsatisfactory – and, indeed, impossible, while
Elinor was unable to find a house and staff to suit their style of life. We were
sorry to see them go, but gave them a big farewell drinks party and a very grand
dinner at GH, and saw them off in fine style by air early one morning.
More Job Hunting
The prospect of marriage made it all the more urgent for me to fix myself
up with a permanent job to follow the end of my Aden contract. My second
attempt to obtain entry into the Diplomatic Service had been firmly squashed
while in London in July. Then before John Walsh left Aden, I sought his help once more about opportunities in the tea industry. Just before he left he offered
to write on my behalf to his senior contacts in the tea world of Mincing Lane;
and he encouraged me to write, too, to ask about openings in the business of
tea-estate management in both London and East Africa.
Accordingly I wrote to George Williamson’s in Nairobi, and was invited
to call on them while on honeymoon there. I also wrote to their head office in
London and was told to make an appointment when I was there the following
summer; they hinted they might then have an opening at their offices in
Calcutta. I considered the opportunity with care. I would have much rather
preferred working for them in Nairobi or London, but concluded Calcutta
could be a useful stepping stone as the base from which GW managed their
major tea-growing operations in Assam. So I let GW know I would be prepared
to work for a few years in India, on the understanding that they would give me
a permanent job with good prospects and a reasonable salary. The matter rested
there until I could see them on return home.
Sir Richard returned from London to Aden at much the same time as Lady
T flew in, having completed the purchase of their new house. Robin Thorne was
still in England on leave, recuperating at their house in Old Heathfield in East
Sussex not far from my parents’ new home. By post he generously promised
to act as my Best Man on his return to Aden, having made a strong recovery
from his injuries from the parcel-bomb. The warm-hearted Leslie Wink readily
agreed to give Joan away at the altar, while her close friend from Malaya days,
Anthea Hay undertook to come out from London to be matron of honour.
She flew out ten days before the wedding, bearing my morning dress suit on
hire from Weekes of Tenterden. She was an inspired choice for the role, for she
turned out to be just the right sort of person to help Joan and steady us both
through the following hectic days.
An investiture took place at GH on the day of Anthea’s arrival. All the great
and the good of Aden were assembled in lines of chairs in the big reception room,
and it was my task to announce the names of those to be honoured and call them
forward to receive their awards from HE. The first in line was General John
Willoughby who was made a CB – an honour that gave much satisfaction to
those of us who knew him well. Others among our friends to be honoured were
James Bridges with the MBE, and Brian Doe the Director of Antiquities with
the OBE for his efforts to preserve the region’s heritage and build a museum to
hold its ancient artifacts. Near the end of the line, Rummy received the BEM as token recognition of her wonderful work as Health Visitor among the young
mothers in the Western Province of Tanzania. She invited Joan and Anthea to be
her ‘supporters’. We met Anthea off her plane early that morning and made her
put on a hat almost at once and join Joan in her glad rags at the ceremony up at
GH. I then took them all to a slap-up lunch at the Aden Rock which had the best
restaurant in Aden, and escorted them both in the evening to see La Belle Helene
performed by the local amateur dramatic society.
I moved into GH for a couple of nights before the wedding to allow workmen
to clean up and redecorate my flat. We said goodbye amicably to Abdallah, who
had looked after me loyally since my arrival at Ras Boradli, and we took on a
cheery, younger chap named Abdu who was quiet, neat and biddable, and had
been Joan’s servant in the Steamer Point flats. Abdu knew Joan’s ways, was
rather more suitable for a married couple, and served us faithfully and sensibly
for the remainder of our time at Ras Boradli.
I picked up more furniture from the Government PWD stores including a
double bed so that the place was fresh for us both to move into on return from
the honeymoon. Two evenings before the wedding, my Best Man gave me a quiet drinks party. On the day before the ceremony I was rushing around all day, in the
morning collecting tickets, travellers’ cheques, passports and other documents, and
in the afternoon helping to set out the presents and flowers. I nipped out to the
Cable and Wireless office and sent the following telegram home to my parents.
SO VERY HAPPY BUT SO WISH YOU WERE ALL HERE DICK.
Then I drove out to the Winks’ where Joan and Anthea were staying and we
had scrambled eggs for supper together. The two girls had packed up Joan’s flat
and were even more exhausted than I. Then, for the very last time a bachelor on
my own, I went back to Ras Boradli for an early night.
Next morning I was given breakfast by kind neighbours. Robin Thorne was
present and opened thirty-two telegrams between the cereal and the marmalade.
All was bustle, people looking in and going off on some errand, everyone helping
to dress me and pack a bag for the cruise and Kenya honeymoon.
There were several last minute unexpected guests. Alison Weller was able to
attend; Sheilagh Bailey, my close Dar es Salaam friend, had got a job as a personal
secretary in the High Commission and happened to fly in from London early on
the morning of the wedding. She must have come straight from the airport to the
church, donning a hat on the way. She looked as if her outfit had come out of a
bandbox, and she was kind enough to enjoy our happiness. Then there was the
cuckoo in the nest. Mr Bowen, an eminent QC, had been sent out by the Foreign
Secretary to investigate the condition of our detainees, and, as he was staying at
GH which had been turned upside down for the wedding reception, we thought
it churlish to omit him from the party. In the event he rallied well, seemed to
enjoy himself, was very pleasant to us and gave us a generous present.
Padre Pellant’s only fault was in calling me ‘Dickie’ which I have always
loathed, but he prepared and rehearsed us well. Security was assured by
a platoon of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers who acted as sentries and
guards around the church. Then, as happened all too often in those days, a
general strike was promised for later in the morning, and a curfew was imposed
to limit the rioting. Fortunately it transpired that our guests could enjoy the
party and reach their homes safely before the curfew hour.
Christchurch was a small, intimate church with a cool peaceful interior
with lots of polished wooden pews within stone walls. It had a calm and
friendly atmosphere and was just the right place in which to be married, and
it was full to overflowing when Robin escorted me to the front pew at half
past eight that morning. Flowers that had been carefully selected by kind
friends from the New Stanley Florists in Nairobi were flown in by the RAF
on a ‘training’ flight, and arranged in the church by Dolly Prendergast and Judy Stuart. Huge vases were massed everywhere adding to the beauty and
cheerful colours around us. The smiling choristers were dressed in sparkling
white surplices – and their singing of The Lord’s my shepherd was beautifully
done - and our hundred guests wore a colourful selection of hats and outfits.
Everyone we knew and liked in Aden was there, and we said a very special
prayer for absent family and friends.
Eliane Stefanides had made Joan’s wedding dress. It was a plain, long, pure
white shark-skin design, which made her look tall and very smart, and had a
seam at the back with thirty-six buttons in the same material. In this lovely
dress she arrived in a GH car, decked with ribbons, after a long drive from the
Winks’ house in Ma’alla at the other end of town. She and Leslie were on time
at the church, but spent five minutes outside arranging the veil. We all stood to
sing, Lead us, Heavenly Father, Lead us, and, when I looked round there she was
– the most moving moment of my life – in a very, very, lovely dress with slim
elegant lines, shrouded by a feather-light veil, a cloud of white net, and crowned
with a little pillbox hat. Beneath it, the prettiest face imaginable smiled at me,
blinking a little because she had decided not to wear glasses. On Leslie’s arm,
she was bearing a bouquet of stephanotis and white roses, and Anthea was in
It was a wonderful ceremony. The RAF padre was gentle with us and yet
very correct. He did it all with efficiency and great propriety, and led us through
the service stage by stage, easily and quietly, giving us no chance to make any
mistake. We soon lost the worst of our nervousness, and were both composed
and confident when we had to make our vows, sign the register in the vestry
and lead the way out of the church down the central aisle. For security reasons
only a couple of photographs were taken at the church door before we were
driven up to GH for the reception.
My bride, the Turnbulls and I stood at its imposing entrance shaking hands
with our guests as they streamed in and filled the big drawing room. Yet more
flowers from Nairobi had been arranged by our telephone ladies to decorate the
room beautifully; lots of agapanthus, carnations, roses, giant blue delphiniums
and plenty of greenery - the colour and the beauty of the flowers were a feature
of the wedding. The presents were displayed in the dining room and looked very
good. On my behalf Jeremy had bought sixty bottles of champagne from the
NAAFI, at one guinea each; the Rock Hotel provided a quantity of petit fours,
and a friend of Joan’s made a very grand cake, which the NAAFI iced for us.
We allowed an hour for drinking before the speeches and the cake. In
proposing the toast HE was devastatingly quick, clever, and very funny. He
began with the usual introduction and then, recalling that Joan had once
worked for MI5, recited the following verse that he claimed to have composed
before breakfast that morning.
Arise, my Muse and show how apt your nerve is,
To sing the glories of the Foreign Service
But tune thy lyre with tact and with composure,
And shun, ah shun, the ill-advised disclosure.
Let wisdom and discretion be thy guide
To see that all that’s writ’s UNCLASSIFIED.
Calliope herself might well be interdicted
For making free with matter that’s RESTRICTED.
And great Zeus rot, in durance penitential,
For failing to identify what’s really CONFIDENTIAL.
And pray you clothe, as Muses should,
in decent Greek obscurity,
All reference you chance to make to
And jargon is as jargon does with staidness and civility –
The essence of intelligence is its unintelligibility.
Robin followed HE with a few kind and quiet words, said how he had
recently seen my parents, and read out a few of the telegrams from family and
closest friends. I gave our thanks in what, I hope, was a suitable reply before
we cut the cake together with Jeremy’s sword, and were whisked away by our
ushers to circulate among our guests as the cake was handed out.
It was all a whirl and a bustle as we went round the room, saying a few simple
words to everyone; I think we covered most of the ground, and found people
universally saying very nice things, but it was hard work. We slipped away
from the party at eleven o’clock for more photographs in the garden, in which
Joan looked every inch the stunning bride. Then we changed and left GH by
car fifteen minutes later. Our guests gathered in the hall waiting to see us off,
and sent us away in the finest possible style in a blaze of triumph to shouts of
goodbye – doubtless relieved to be able to dash back home before the curfew.
At the Post Office Pier, the Harbourmaster’s launch was waiting. The
Winks, Anthea, the ushers and one or two other good friends jumped aboard
with us, escorted us to the SS Africa waiting in the harbour, and came down
to our cabin with a couple of bottles of bubbly so that we were able to continue the party happily and in a more relaxed atmosphere. The ship’s Captain and
the Company Agent introduced themselves and joined us and we had a merry
half hour before the big ship prepared to cast its moorings. Then we hurriedly
bundled our special guests on to the launch and the liner steamed out of the
harbour bound for Mombasa.
Robin Thorne was kind enough to write a full report to my parents:
I would like you to know what an outstandingly beautiful wedding it was, how
well Dick came through it, and how charming was the bride... You will probably
have received full accounts of the wedding, but I will give you my own version
The day started with the minor crises, which seem to be inevitable on such
occasions. As I sipped my morning cup of tea, out of the window of my bedroom I
saw Dick’s car dashing down the road and out he leapt. I found myself imagining
all sorts of disasters, but it was only a cufflink crisis remedied by collecting cufflinks
from the luggage already at GH. Next came a button crisis as the laundry had
laundered off one or two buttons of the wedding shirt. That too was quickly resolved
by the good offices of Cecilia Jackson. And from then things never looked back.
Dick, whatever may have been going on inside, was splendidly calm and self-possessed,
less nervous apparently than his best man. Everything in the church and
to do with the service was beautiful. Joan’s wedding dress was a masterpiece and
fitted her to perfection. The floral arrangements would have done justice to any
church anywhere. The congregation was full of people all very much wishing well to
the bride and bridegroom; and Dick and Joan went through their paces with quiet
dignity and without a hitch.
Joan’s face during the service was so full of sweetness and tenderness that I found
myself an intruder on something very private. You need not worry about your
Then the reception, and that was a very happy occasion. After HE’s brilliantly
witty speech, it must have been testing for Dick; but he couldn’t have done better.
He gave pleasure to all with his gratefulness and sincerity, and there was just the
right number of flashes of wit and humour, which came out without any self-consciousness.
My experience of weddings is limited, but I have never known a
bridegroom do better. In fact the whole occasion, from the service on, was just what
a wedding should be. So there are the best of auspices for the years ahead.
It was sad that you could not be there, and the absence of parents was the one big
thing missing; but I am certain that if you had been there you would have wholly
Leslie Wink wrote a similarly flattering letter home, adding,
We got Dick and Joan on the Africa well in time, and the Captain who joined
in the revelry in their cabin, managed a kiss for all, except one of the camp followers
present, and this default was merely from exhaustion. Anthea leaves here tomorrow
– she has been a positive tower of strength.
Like most successful honeymoons, I am sure, the adventure was probably
less in the exotic places we visited than in getting to know each other. Sharing
life together was a completely new experience for both of us; we had to make
adjustments to our outlook and attitudes; the excitement of those two weeks
was in our learning how to live and enjoy the world around us as a married
couple, and at the same time we managed to have the greatest fun.
Our ship sailed at noon. We were in the First Class of an Italian cruise
liner of the Lloyd Trestino line, with well-trained staff and comfortable public
rooms. Our cabin had two narrow berths at right angles to each other - which
was inconvenient to put it mildly - but we had plenty of room, were well looked
after and enjoyed our four days aboard as the boat cruised southwards round
the Horn of Africa and down the east coast of the continent. Each morning we
lazed on long deck-chairs in the sun by the swimming pool on the promenade
deck, read a little, swam a little and sunbathed from time to time. Each evening
we dined well, danced to the orchestra and were entertained with film shows.
Much of the time we leant lazily against the rail and stared across at the distant
African coastline shimmering in the heat haze on the starboard beam. We
watched passengers disembark at Mogadishu in Somalia by clambering into
the great net slung overboard from davits into the waiting flat-bottomed barge,
which took them onto the beach. The following morning our boat crossed the
Equator and we witnessed the crossing-the-line party as the great ship steamed
cheerfully southwards, with all the usual noisy festivities. The next afternoon
the liner sailed proudly and smoothly into Kilindini, the wide Mombasa
harbour, and there we disembarked into the hot and dusty huggermugger of
the dirty old island port.
The Mombasa shops were not great, but sold all sorts of things unobtainable
in Aden, and we had an hour or so in which to buy Joan a swimming costume
and a few other necessaries. With reluctance we tore ourselves away from the
supremely comfortable ship, and took a cab from the boat to the Jadini Hotel,
which lay about twenty miles south of Mombasa and was a quiet, relaxing,
easy-going sort of spot. We stayed in half a bungalow opening immediately on
to a beach of sparkling white sand above gentle waves and translucent emerald green sea. At low tide we could explore the coral reef with its shells, sea urchins,
gently floating weed and masses of silly, multi-coloured fish darting about
under one’s goggles. In the lazy evenings we enjoyed lobster in the hotel’s little
outdoor restaurant on a deck by the sands. We had a lot of fun there, relished
the beach and sunshine for two days, and wished it could be ten.
The hotel car took us back to Mombasa railway station where we caught the
Nairobi train. We boarded at 8 p.m. one evening, had a good dinner (reputed to
be the best coffee in East Africa) and a long sleep in their cosy bunks in a private
compartment. Next morning we woke as the sun was rising to see antelopes and
other wild game on both sides of the railway line as the train trundled through
the open bush-land beside the Athi River. Watching the animals with our early
morning tea and over breakfast in our compartment was a magical experience.
We turned back without much enthusiasm to face the day and disembark at
Nairobi’s bustling station at 8 in the morning.
We did more shopping in the first class shops in the big city – I was beginning
to learn about the importance of shopping in the new scheme of things – and
my good friends the Gardners once more lent me their old Volkswagen that I
had borrowed on my Kenya holiday the previous year. Having sorted ourselves
out in the little car, Joan and I set off from Nairobi on the road north for the trip past Lake Naivasha to Nanyuki. The weather could not have been more
different from that we had enjoyed in Mombasa; on the slopes of Mount Kenya,
rain poured down under black clouds, the forest dripped with water all about
us, the rivers were everywhere in muddy spate and the roads were awash – and
ours was only a little bouncy Volkswagen.
We paused briefly on the line of the Equator and drove on to the home of
my friends, Fiona and John Alexander, who had taken me up Mount Kenya on
my previous trip. It was a delight to see them again, to introduce Joan to them,
and over a pleasant meal for us to hear about John’s work as a white hunter and
the many game safaris he made with foreign clients. Fiona had always wanted
to work with animals in the wild and had evidently found the right man as
companion in her enterprise.
Pam and Leslie Wink had given us a wedding present of two nights at the
Mount Kenya Safari Club. Built and owned by American film-stars, the hotel
lay in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. It was on a slight rise in
the foothills of Mount Kenya with snow-covered peaks behind it and endless
empty plains in front of it – a panorama that can seldom be equalled. Around
the hotel stretched extensive gardens of smooth green lawns, with a heated
outdoor swimming pool, a golf links, big ponds and exotic flowers. The water
gardens were the home of swans, storks, geese, a pelican or two, and masses of
wildfowl. Elegant crowned cranes stalked through the grass and were a special
delight. Guest bungalows were scattered across the lawns, and the main hotel
building was set back into the hillside, with well laid out and luxurious public
rooms - not necessarily in the best of taste – the bar was done in bamboo and
zebra skin in what you might call American big game-hunters’ kitsch.
Our first night was spent in William Holden’s personal bungalow situated
several hundred yards from the restaurant along a slippery muddy path. The
bedroom was unheated and uncomfortable. One went down several steps to
a sunken bath done in an absurd pink mosaic with gold dolphins for taps in
a sort of basement; the water was never hot and we wallowed around like a
couple of hippos. Despite all the luxury offered to us, we did not think much
of the Hollywood design. So when we went down to see the Alexanders on
our first morning, we asked John’s advice about negotiating a move to a more
comfortable room. He had a word with the management and arranged for us
to be transferred to the Bridal Suite in the main building – which seemed
absolutely right and proper.
So we were given a vast bedroom on the first floor of the hotel with its own anteroom,
thick pile carpets, an open wood fire burning all night, and a magnificent view from our panoramic windows over the gardens to the plains beyond. The
log fire turned out to be a mixed blessing; while it warmed the room all night, it
gave Joan nightmares, but in every other respect the Bridal Suite was a delight.
The other snag was the rain, which poured down for a day and a half of our short
visit. When the weather cleared John took us out in the Land Rover to look for
game in the wilderness of a ranch belonging to friends beyond the township, and
later we enjoyed a quiet evening as their guests.
We had two days of holiday left and on Fiona’s recommendation drove out
to a place called Secret Valley to see leopards. We met the Indian owner of the
enterprise at the Sportsman’s Arms, an old hotel a few miles outside Nanyuki.
He bundled us into his battered old Land Rover and took us up a rough road
through twelve miles of jungle, to his elaborate hide in the forest high up the
mountain slopes. We found ourselves in a small version of the famous Treetops.
It was a tree house built thirty or forty feet up on huge bamboo stilts. Half a
dozen little cabins with simple beds encircled a big central sitting and dining
room. Outside the cabins a balcony ran almost all the way round the building;
and it was here we were able to stand and observe the game under discreet floodlights as they came for refreshment at the waterhole and salt-lick across
the clearing below us.
We had been told leopards came regularly for an evening meal near by, and
a haunch of raw meat had been tied to the branches of a tree only some thirtyfive
feet away from the open balcony - it seemed to be almost within touching
distance. As we held our breath in silence, three powerful and muscular leopards
leapt into the tree one after the other, slipped through the branches to where
the meat was hung and tore at it. They were the most lovely and frightening
of beasts; they were quite impervious of the flood-lights and the awestruck
watchers in the hide. At the other side of the clearing a succession of buffalo and
bushbuck came to the water, and paddled and splashed around as they drank
After viewing the fascinating scene around the hide for a while, we shared
with another English couple a cool beer and evening meal sitting round a
brazier burning in the middle of the central room. The owner and his small staff
looked after us very well and took us back after supper onto the balcony. After a
while I left Joan and the other woman waiting for the animals to return to their
prey. Joan leant over the balustrade to see if anything interesting was happening
under our tree, and her glasses slipped off her nose into the undergrowth thirty
feet below her. She could see little in the half-light without her glasses, and
could not even find the bamboo door into the inner room to tell me of the
catastrophe. At last she found the door handle and entered the room where she
vaguely saw two men sitting at the brazier in sweaters. To my astonishment
she approached the other chap – a big burly Yorkshireman – leant over his
shoulder and kissed him lightly on his forehead. He was surprised - but very
pleased. Very short-sighted, in the gloom, she had thought she was kissing me.
It took time to sort out the muddle, but Joan’s glasses had to remain where they
had fallen all night, as it was considered too dangerous for any of the staff to
retrieve them until daylight came. As a result, she missed the second visits of
the leopards and buffalos later in the evening before we went to rest in our little
Having retrieved Joan’s glasses next morning, we were taken back down the
mountainside to our waiting Volkswagen and drove on to Nairobi for our last
two days of holiday. We took a room in the courtyard at the back of the Norfolk
Hotel, which was comfortable and convenient for our shopping to try to buy
some clothes for Joan and a few things for the flat. We did quite well and enjoyed
strolling the streets, seeing the latest fashions and newest things. We returned the
borrowed VW to the Gardners and set off on our homeward journey in good order, only to lose a big parcel of shopping out of the back of the taxi that took
us to the airport. We flew by Air India in an insalubrious, uncomfortable, smelly
and much delayed plane. But even this rather wretched end of the holiday could
not detract from the tremendous excitement and supremely happy honeymoon –
the two of us together.
December 1966: Starting life together
Back at Khormaksar airport in Aden Joan and I stepped off the Nairobi
plane, man and wife, into the sultry atmosphere. We were much later than
expected because of the miserable delays, but a GH car was waiting for us, and
whisked us straight back to our Ras Boradli flat. There we found chaos. Kind
friends had put up the curtains and made the bed into which we fell, but we
had to spend the whole weekend sorting out Joan’s possessions and unpacking
wedding presents in a flat that was waist-high in boxes, crates and suitcases.
Our problems were exacerbated by an electricity failure over the weekend, and
a fever I collected in Kenya. We struggled to church for the Remembrance
Sunday service, and Joan sent me to see the consultant at the RAF hospital who
eventually solved my problem.
Having hurriedly straightened out the flat, I spent my evenings writing
endless thank-you letters, sending out bits of the wedding cake, and sorting
out the wedding photographs. Then, we were saddened and shocked to hear in
early December that Joan’s mother had suffered a severe coronary thrombosis
and was promised a long spell in bed. John and Olive, Joan’s brother and sisterin-
law, were looking after Mrs Noble, but anxious to hand over her care to
others in the family and fulfil their plan to migrate to Australia.
We collected Joan’s animals from the friends who had been looking after
them and settled them in their new surroundings. We took Wonky out every
evening after work generally on the beach below the house, and occasionally
at weekends much farther afield; he fell in the salt-pans on one memorable
occasion, and I had to fish him out covered in the revolting salty crust and
foam. Sidney, the cat, soon adjusted himself to his new home, although he
too caused problems when he disappeared one day, having fallen over the cliff
below the flats and spending several days among the inaccessible rocks on the
Tidying-up after the wedding merged into preparations for Christmas.
Despite the periodic strikes and rioting, Joan and I led a busy social life, and
enjoyed going out together as the air cooled down in Aden’s winter months.
We frequented the open-air cinema in the Port Authority compound in the evenings, slowly adjusting our lives to each other, were much involved in GH
entertainment and sometimes received guests ourselves in our pleasant flat.
Charles and Annette Gardner came through Aden one evening with their
children aboard the SS Uganda on their way back from Kenya to the UK
on leave. We met them off the boat and were pleased to be able to repay just
a little of the hospitality we had received from them at their lovely Karen
We gave a party at Ras Boradli for our friends on Christmas Eve, lunched
out on Christmas Day, and attended a family dinner as guests of the Turnbulls
at GH that evening Day with crackers, charades and party games ad nauseam.
The following week we had more friends in and were invited to GH for a big,
noisy party on New Year’s Eve. The Turnbulls were very generous, although
Joan cordially disliked their Scottish dancing. On the following day we all went
to a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in Christchurch led by Padre Pellant
who had become our friend. It was a moment of peaceful reflection amid the
bloody violence of the place.
January – March 1967
The New Year started with a happy occasion - the wedding of Jane Lee,
the daughter of Thelma and Tony, to her police officer fiancé named Irving.
I attended his stag party, and we both went to their reception at the Officers’
Club on Tarshyne beach, which proved a happy diversion from work.
Joan continued to drive out each morning in her sporty little Triumph Herald
to her office at Al Ittihad, but the threat was such that we borrowed a reliable
man from the Federal Army to act as her bodyguard and accompany her in the
car on her journeys out of the town. I was as busy as ever at Government House,
and we were still called to dinners and parties at GH from time to time, but,
perhaps, less frequently than in earlier days. In return we invited Lady T over
to have a look at our flat one evening in February when HE was in London.
Strikes and riots in Tawahi were frequent, but we managed to avoid
problems during our periodic visits to the two or three acceptable grocery and
general food shops – Blue Bay Stores and the Cold Store. We were also able
to make occasional visits to Bhicajee Cowasjee’s general stores that stocked
everything you could possibly want, and we went out from time to time to
dine at the Crescent or the Aden Rock Hotel and at the nightclub on the road
out of town.
We were fortunate that we liked the company of those with whom we
worked, and were happy to see them socially in the evenings and at weekends.
Frequently we enjoyed supper with Eliane, the GH housekeeper, and Kathleen
Poole and Barbara Garrett, the two senior secretaries. We saw a good deal, too,
of Joan’s colleagues, notably Desmond Cosgrove who was always good value,
the easy-going Jeff Jefferson, and Joan’s young clerical assistants. We kept in
touch with Rummy, my friend from far off Nzega days, and Sheilagh who
had come back into my life after our Dar es Salaam friendship. We attended
Christchurch from time to time, having much affection for the church in which
we had been married, and we often met the kind and gentle Padre Pellant
socially - until mid March when he left to take up the post of vicar of London’s
famous RAF church, St Clement Danes in the Strand.
Our friends in official jobs began to slip away without replacement; we went
to numerous farewell parties, and I was particularly sorry when Don McCarthy
was recalled to London to take up the job of Head of the Aden Department
in the Foreign Office, but it so happened that he and Rosanna had a house in
Frognal, not far from my sister, Margaret’s Hampstead home, and she made
contact with them when they had settled back in London. We also said goodbye
to Stuart Myhan, whom I had recruited as HE’s bodyguard when I was at the Foreign Office the previous summer, and welcomed his successor, Peter Riley,
whom Joan and I introduced to our friends and seemed to fit in very well.
I enjoyed the company of many of Joan’s friends. Sibyl Ross lived in a flat
in a block on the beach below Crater. She had asked Joan to join her on a sea
trip to Singapore and I had been very relieved when they had decided not to
go. Pat Catchpole lived in the middle of the busy shopping centre, and became
engaged to a man who worked for Unilever - I never took to him. Halcyon
Mount lived in the same block of flats as we did, and insisted we teach her
to drive her tiny Fiat car. This was a tedious business because she could never
grasp the difference between clutch and accelerator, and despite all our efforts
she never got her licence.
Some of Joan’s friends were mildly eccentric. Mark de Spon kept a parrot
and was reputed to drive in his open car with the bird on his steering wheel.
Mark came to one of our noisier parties and when drunk tumbled over the
metal banisters down the concrete stair-well outside our flat, fortunately with
no lasting ill effects. James Bridges was another odd fellow who gave large
dinner parties and tended to go to sleep with the coffee to the consternation
of his guests. He lived on the second floor of the Secretariat Flats where he
had been Joan’s neighbour. He was reported to have leant out of his bedroom
window late one night and fired his revolver at another tenant, a Fisheries
Officer, who was banging on the old wooden door that served their flats. The
poor man had been locked out by mistake, was knocking on the door to be let
in, and had not expected to be under fire from an irritable Bridges, annoyed
at being woken up so late.
Above all, Joan and I liked each other’s company and took particular pleasure
in doing things together - sometimes doing nothing or very little - walking the
dog on the beach as the sun went down over the mountain or lazing on Sunday
mornings in the sea behind the shark nets at Gold Mohur.
By April, the threat from terrorists in the town was such that we sharply
reduced the frequency of our shopping trips. I avoided going into town even to
have a hair cut, and went to the RAF barber in the Steamer Point Compound
rather than go to the Crescent. I was asked to persuade Lady Turnbull and Eliane,
the Housekeeper, to carry pistols in their handbags for their self-defence. I was
not surprised when they both firmly refused the army’s offer, but the request
was an indication of the worrying and dangerous times in which we were living.
Lord Shackleton came and went. At GH we celebrated his departure by
going one evening in a big party to see the film My Fair Lady. We were blown
away by the glamour and gorgeousness of the music, costumes and lyrics. We were content with our life and my job remained intensely interesting;
so at the end of March I wrote to the Director of Establishments requesting
an extension of my contract until, I cheerfully suggested, independence comes
to South Arabia. I then put in for one month’s home leave from 20th June in
order to be able to go home with Joan to attend my parents’ Golden Wedding in
mid July. A big party was planned when many of my relations and my parents’
old friends were invited to celebrations at Bricklehurst Manor. When I spoke
to HE about my idea, he responded by suggesting I would be wise to keep my
leave plans flexible. Only then did I realise that he felt his own position as High
Commissioner to be insecure, and that, as my future depended on his, my
employment was equally precarious. I started to worry once more that I had no
job waiting for me at home.
Early that May HE gave me a weekend break, which coincided with the
conclusion of Joan’s contract with the Federal Government. We wanted to get
well away from the heat and the violence, and found that the quickest escape
and closest place for a short holiday was Hargeisa in the newly independent
Republic of Somalia, just across the Gulf of Aden. Joan knew that the old
colonial club there was still open and had beds and a bar. So we took a small,
uncomfortable plane bound for Nairobi on the short journey south over the sea
and the French colony of Djibouti on the African coast. We flew across in the
company of the jolly Bishop of Somaliland and Joan’s large stuffed and wellworn
monkey who kept each other amused.
We landed at Hargeisa’s small airport where, at over 4,000 feet above sea
level, we revelled in the cool in striking contrast to Aden. We piled into a taxi
on the short drive out to the club. We saw nothing of the town, which had
once been the capital of old British Somaliland, and little of the countryside,
other than that it was green and fertile with abundant tall grasses and leafy
The club was basic, but perfectly adequate for our needs for the weekend,
though fairly expensive - a small bottle of beer cost £1. The bar and restaurant
were almost empty; few expatriates had remained behind on independence and
very few frequented the once popular club. Those whom we met in the clubhouse
were friendly and relaxed and we found the whole place to be blessedly peaceful
and quiet. The trip enabled us to unwind after the intense pressure at work.
Joan and I did little, and left the clubhouse only to stroll through the scrubland
Early one morning as we wandered along a track not far from the club-house
we heard a hearty grunting coming from a dry wadi bed. Peering through
the bushes we were delighted to see one giant tortoise on the back of another,
doubtless busily fornicating with all his might. Their shells must have been the
size of soup tureens and the male on top was a strong muscular creature for all
his ungainly shape. We christened them Albert and Victoria, and watched them
happily enjoying themselves for much of a cheerful morning.
Most unfortunately we were unable to return to Aden on the Monday
morning as I had promised HE. Our plane was grounded because of a wild-cat
strike at Khormaksar airport, which had temporarily closed down. On return
to work a day late I heard that HE had been summoned to London. Off he flew.
Then soon after his arrival there, the news reached us of his summary dismissal
by the Foreign Secretary.
Following this unhappy turn of events, my first task was to help in organising
as big and heart-warming a send-off for the Turnbulls as Aden could manage. I
worked hard with the C-in-C’s team on arrangements for their departure.
As soon as they had gone I was told that the new High Commissioner,
Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, did not need me as his Private Secretary. I had lost
my job. I was half-heartedly offered a transfer to the Secretariat of the High
Commission working in Steamer Point under Tom Oates, but I had had
enough. Accordingly I wrote to the Aden Establishments Department on 11th
May withdrawing my letter of 30th March about staying on. Instead I expressed
the firm intention of terminating my contract on the due date two years after
my arrival (after taking into account the previous summer’s UK trip), which
happened to be 10th June. At the same time I cabled Don McCarthy at the
Foreign Office in the hope that he could iron things out at his end, and he
responded with sympathy for my predicament and offers of assistance.
In early May I was offered a job at £2,400 as Assistant Secretary to the Uganda
Federation of Employers in Kampala. I was tempted, but felt the need to get back
to London to have a look at the labour market and try other possibilities. All my
thoughts were directed towards making a clean exit so that we could start again at
home. Lord Shackleton reappeared, doubtless to advise Sir Humphrey at the start
of his mission, and off his own bat offered to help me look for work in London.
As he was on the management boards of several big companies like John Lewis,
I was hopeful he could be of use to me. I gave him a copy of my curriculum vitae
and arranged to call on him at the House of Lords as soon as I was home.
My birthday at the end of May was quiet and relaxed, with lots of presents
from Joan and a delightful dinner party in the evening, but it was also a sad
occasion. It was the last day before we started to strip our flat and pack up our
belongings. Kind friends rallied round; our neighbours in Ras Boradli fed us,
and good friends like the Winks, Rummy, Halcyon and Sheilagh, looked after
us in the evenings, while we lived out of packing cases and were up to our
eyes in tin trunks, wooden tea chests, cardboard boxes, sacks, straw and old
newspapers for wrapping things.
We had had great hopes of being able to return by boat – I reckoned we
need a break before starting again at home - but messages reached us that Joan’s
mother was still seriously ill at her home in Tavistock, and we were terribly
afraid she might be failing. So there could be no question of a holiday and we
had to rush home by air as soon as we could.
Then the Egyptians decided to invade Israel and the Seven-Day War broke
out. In Aden, ostensibly in sympathy with the Arabs under attack, a general
strike was declared. The port, airport and town shut down conclusively. Aden
became a prison. Most of the shops were closed, and we had difficulty in
settling our household accounts at the grocers in town. The Treasury and the
banks did their best to fix my gratuity, extract the income tax I owed and
repatriate my slender funds, but one of the GH accountants was badly hurt in
a terrorist incident in Crater and the bank’s clerical staff were marooned there
under curfew. The Government would pay for the repatriation of our car, but
first an international driving licence had to be obtained, then seat belts had to
be fitted and the garage was shut most of the time. Worse still, no petrol or oil
was available, nothing moved in the port, and the shipping agents refused to
take the Peugeot to arrange its despatch by sea. Eventually the army stepped in
to take over the port facilities in place of the striking stevedores, but despite the
help of the military we did not see the car again for five months.
Joan’s animals were one of the biggest worries; special airy crates had to be
made for their flight back to the UK, quarantine kennels had to be booked
for them at home and their flights arranged. We packed them off from the
airport by BOAC a few days before the war started and some time before we
left ourselves, and it was a tearful time knowing we should be parted from them
for a long while.
For some days I could get no flight. All the fights schedules had to be changed
because commercial airlines were unable to fly across the area of the fighting.
We were wait-listed on two or three indirect BOAC flights and enquired with
increasing desperation for connections through Addis Ababa or Nairobi. I spent half of each morning on the phone, reviewing our plans, examining the options
and planning our escape. At last confirmation came through of a BOAC flight
via Nairobi and over the Libyan desert in order to avoid the conflict.
Then suddenly our turn came to say goodbye, knowing we should never see
many of our friends again. My former GH colleagues kindly gave us two big,
cheerful, bittersweet farewell parties; they also put us up with a bed in the GH
guest suite on our final nights in Aden. Suddenly we were off.
It was a ghastly flight: Joan was unwell from worry and nervous exhaustion,
and the stewardesses were harassed and unhelpful. We were seventeen hours in
the air before the weary travellers struggled out of the plane at about one in the
morning on a miserable night at Heathrow airport.
We were met by my equally tired sister, Margaret, and her exhausted
children who had been obliged to wait for us most of the day and half the night
in a dreary airport lounge. Dear Margaret hustled us away in her little car, only
for it to break down on a flyover on the Great West Road into London. It was
a disaster at that awful hour of the night, and I have no recollection how we
eventually reached the Little’s home in Hampstead and fell into bed.
Aden was already a distant memory.
Chapter 9: The Curtain falls
‘Let us admit it fairly,
As business people should.
We have had no end of a lesson.
It will do us no end of good.
We have had a
jolly good lesson
And it serves us jolly well right!’
From The Lesson by Rudyard Kipling
Aden after we left
Joan and I were lucky. Many people we knew well in Aden had been
victims of the terrorism and had had horrifying experiences, but we came
home happily married, with pleasant memories, having made many friends.
Leaving early in June, we avoided the fierce intensification of the street
battles, the rows among the army top brass, the disintegration of the
Federation, the evacuation from the EAP, and the collapse of government
that occurred in the following months, until the withdrawal under fire that
After our abrupt departure we received little news of those we had left
behind or subsequent political developments. The papers told us that the
FNG and Armed Police mutinied in June, causing more casualties among
our troops and enabling the NLF to take over Crater for two weeks to the
humiliation of the British army. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders,
under Col Colin Mitchell, dubbed ‘Mad Mitch’ by the press, roared back
in and somewhat redeemed our name, but nothing done by the new GOC
or High Commissioner seemed able to stem the inexorable descent of South
Arabia into chaos.
We read that the streets of Aden were unsafe for all Europeans, day and
night. Strikes and riots took place every week; labour disputes proliferated; public buildings were burnt; and the oil tanks were blown up. The NLF and
FLOSY engaged in a civil war. They were still killing as many European
soldiers and civilians as they could, but at the same time they were fighting
each other for dominance and the kudos of kicking out the hated colonial
One of the first things I did on return home was to write a letter to the
Times. I wanted to put on the record the gratitude felt by us civilians for
the young soldiers who daily patrolled the town and put their lives on the
line to protect us throughout the very tough Emergency. My letter was not
published but a copy may be found in the second Appendix.
In the middle of August, we heard the tragic news that Captain Jeff
Jefferson had been murdered. He had been Joan’s office colleague in the
Intelligence Section of the Federation at Al Ittihad, where they had worked
together for many months. During his leisure, he had been a keen potter
and used to give us the pots and bowls he made on the wheel during his weekends. He had been a solid and dependable friend to us both, usher at
our wedding and a great help during the reception that happy morning. We
were deeply saddened by his tragic and needless death.
Jeff had been machine-gunned from a passing vehicle while driving his
car on the desert road past the salt-pans between his office and his home in
Ma’alla. The car had spun off the road into a ditch where his body had been
left to be found only much later. He lies now among so many others in the
graveyard of Silent Valley in the hills behind Little Aden.
Our good friend, Eliane, wrote to us with the latest news and stories
about Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, the new High Commissioner, whom she
found kind and thoughtful. She told us in early August:
The evacuation of all wives caused trouble but at heart half of them wanted
to go, a quarter wanted someone to decide for them, and the other quarter were
rather upset or annoyed because they had to go. Dolly (Prendergast), Margaret
(Ashworth) and Betty Crook stayed because they are considered essential. Thank
God for that.
Last week the H.C. (or ‘big ears’ as the French press call him) asked me
whether I would like to go to see Tony Hancock and his show on the Maidan.
We went. Not very good really. He is too old and although he was not drunk
one could see he was soaked with years of gin. Anyhow the troops seemed to like
it. Just before the end it started to rain and then poured, but poured. I had just
had my hair done, had a nice dress on, and in British phlegm pretended it was
not happening, although we were wet through.
I never go out alone in the evening now. When I first arrived I went to
Khormaksar to dinner but never again. It is too weird and I was rather
That September and October, the newspapers recorded more murders
of civilians in the Crescent and the Tawahi shopping centre. The Danish
captain of a merchant ship was reported killed in the streets near the port.
His assassination was followed by that of a German reporter and then a
British accountant on the way to his office in the bank. Next we read that
Alan Macdonald, Director of the Public Service Commission had been shot
and severely injured outside the Crescent Hotel. Alan had been one of the
High Commissioner’s key advisers throughout the Emergency whom we
had all admired for his sound advice and his steady nerve.
Writing again in the middle of September, Eliane wrote:
Aden is horrid – eerie. I never go out, have even arranged for the hairdresser
to come here. She does Dolly, Margaret and I, but she is also going – a problem.
I dread the 3rd October when Dolly and Margaret leave. I do want to go, but
I just can’t. I am not in danger and ‘the little man’ thinks I am essential. Pity.
The Crooks leave on 22nd September for good. Everyone has left the EAP. The
Ellises are in Aden and Joanna is on the switchboard but we don’t know for how
long Jim will stay….
The staff situation is getting worse… My flat and veranda are as usual full
of people - which is a blessing as it is the only thing to keep us sane…. Peter (the
bodyguard) is not very happy. He and Bob (the ADC) do not get on….
Your luggage and car left on the 16th August to Le Havre and from there the
Crown Agents will take over and deliver to UK.
It is hot and humid, a typical September. I find it too hot to go to the beach
at lunchtime as I have been doing.
Happily, Eliane finally left war-torn Aden late that October. She set
herself up in a charming flat in Pimlico with the help of her son, John, a
well-known and successful interior designer. She was very hospitable; and
Joan and I were in the habit for several years of calling on her every so often
after our working day in the West End. We would enjoy her cooking and
chat about old times before driving back late in the evening to our new
home in the country at Ightham, near Sevenoaks.
In late October, our sadness at the events in Aden was immeasurably
increased when we heard that Derek Rose had been shot and killed by an
assassin outside the camera shop in Tawahi. Derek was the young chap
who had worked in the Foreign Office Information Department situated
in the GH compound along with his colleague, David Ledger. The two
men had always been cheerful, friendly and easy-going, and had a wide
circle of contacts and many friends among both the Arab and European
communities in the town. They had been hospitable too; Joan and I had
been their guests on several occasions at evening sundowners in their flat on
the harbour front in Ma’alla, and we owed them much.
I went to Derek’s memorial service at a London church in the late
autumn. I was able to meet his family and express something of the sincere
regret of Derek’s many friends and colleagues from Aden at their dreadful
Sir Michael Le Fanu
Three years after the withdrawal from Aden, Sir Michael died. He had
been immensely popular in Aden when CinC of Middle East Command, and
much admired and liked by us in GH. Some time after his return to London
he was designated Chief of the Defence Staff and made an Admiral of the
Fleet – the highest honour in the Royal Navy - but then he was diagnosed
with leukaemia, and with appalling suddenness he was gone. He had reached
the pinnacle of his profession; he was on the brink of obtaining the highest
position in the armed services of this country, and his sudden early death was
a national tragedy.
In December 1970 I walked across the road from my office at the CBI
in Tothill Street to attend his Memorial Service in a packed Westminster
Abbey. It was full not only of the great and the good of the military and
political establishment but also of many hundreds of others like me who
had known a little of him and much admired him. In a fine eulogy, the First
Sea Lord said of Sir Michael some words that echoed my own view of the
People saw that he had the happy knack of getting people to do better than they
ever thought they could, and that, despite the unconventional style which was an essential part of him, he was a master of his own profession (and) as tough and
forthright as he was an accomplished administrator and outstanding leader…
As Commander-in-Chief of all the British forces in the Arabian peninsula during
our withdrawal, he was able to deploy all these qualities. With them and with his
panache and his infectious sense of fun and gaiety, he inspired and encouraged
everyone, Service and civilian, in their thankless daily round and did much to keep
their spirits as buoyant as his own.
Over the ensuing years, the Reaper has taken many others whom we knew
in Aden, with whom we worked and played, and we remember them with great
pleasure, but I shall not mention them here. I do not want to end this story with
a sad roll call of the departed. I should, however, like to close this Memoir with
a few words about my boss at that time, Sir Richard Turnbull.
Sir Richard Turnbull
For some years, we kept in touch with the Turnbulls at their new home,
‘Wharf House’, next to Phyllis Court, in Henley and were able to call there
once or twice. Their long lawn ran down from a wide terrace to the Thames. At
the end of their garden, old willow trees bent over the water exactly opposite
the winning post of the Henley Regatta. There we knew that Dick Turnbull
was in his element among the rowing fraternity and busy with a job helping
to resettle the unfortunate Asian community expelled from Uganda by Idi
While I was job-hunting, I was invited to meet him in London - although
no longer at the Travellers Club from which he had resigned. After a pleasant
meal on one occasion he put into my hands as a farewell gift the biggest book
I had ever owned at that time, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. I still value
it highly and use it frequently.
Dick Turnbull could have made himself a nuisance to the Government. He
could have seriously embarrassed George Brown and his Cabinet colleagues by
revealing some of their mischief and misconceptions. One word to the press
or to Duncan Sandys, the Opposition spokesman, would have done it, but, as
a man of honour, Turnbull kept his peace. So far as I am aware, he said not
a word in public about Aden, and he behaved perfectly correctly despite the
bitterness and disappointment of his dismissal. He kept to himself his personal
opinion of the Labour Government’s management of South Arabian affairs.
I saw just one report of a conversation he had with a journalist after his
return. About a year after coming home, he spoke to a man on the Daily
Express some rather sad and pointed remarks, saying:
I think I’ve found the ideal spot to live. It does seem my days of being a High
Commissioner are over. Which is sad after thirty-one years in the colonial service;
but I’ ll find plenty to do pottering around here….
I suppose the usual thing for a retired Colonial Servant is to become either a
bursar at a minor public school or secretary of a golf club. Would I do that? Not on
your life. I would far rather have another overseas posting and I’ d be happy to go
to another trouble spot. I always seem to be at trouble spots. It’s as if hand grenades
follow me around.
When a year or two later, Dick and Beatrice Turnbull were interviewed by the
BBC, they spoke only about their life in East Africa, the Mau Mau insurrection
in Kenya, and their safaris in up-country Tanganyika. Some of their comments
were subsequently recorded in a charming little book by Charles Allen entitled
Tales from the Dark Continent – but there was no mention of Aden.
It was only years after his death that a few of Turnbull’s real views appeared
in print. A ‘synopsis’ of a private letter containing his assessment of Aden’s
political scene appeared in the book Without Glory in Arabia, written by Peter
Hinchcliffe and others in 2006. Those few remarks apart, to my knowledge
he took his views of the Aden debacle with him to the end. Though keenly
interested in the Oxford University project for collecting personal papers of the
colonial era, he neither recorded his own experiences nor wrote his memoirs.
The Impossible Task
Had Dick Turnbull felt inclined, he might reasonably have made public some
damning criticisms of Government policy and conduct at that time. The first point
he could have made was that he had been given an impossible job to do. He had
been told to bring peace to the trouble-torn region of Aden and South Arabia; to
unite them; and to make them into a viable democratic state to which the colonial
power could grant early independence. These were laudable ambitions. They were
entirely in tune with the rapid decolonisation process that successive Governments
were then pursuing, but they never had the remotest chance of success.
In our former African and Pacific colonies, nationalist leaders had seen the
virtue of paying lip-service to the concept of democracy as a route to independence.
On this basis HMG had had some success in constitution-making, and could
not see why the same formula would not work in Aden. Sadly, it never did. No
one was able to persuade the South Arabian rulers or Aden’s nationalist leaders
to sit round the negotiating table with a serious intent; no one could bring them
to consider properly a plan for unity, independence and democracy. No one was
even able to stop the terrorists from their murderous activity.
The Adeni leaders, encouraged by Nasser in Egypt, and Sallal in Sana’a,
would not negotiate because they had decided that the best way to rid themselves
of the colonial power was to refuse to talk to it. Their plan was simple and
irrevocable; they would expel the infidel authority at gun-point. None of the
blandishments of Government Ministers, nor yet the High Commissioner’s
skills could persuade the Adenis to lay down their arms and accept the colonial
power’s suggestions for a peaceful constitutional settlement.
The tribal rulers in the Protectorates stubbornly rejected all proposals to
surrender their authority, to enfranchise their subjects, or to join in government
with the Adenis. They were equally reluctant to negotiate because they were
happy as they were; content to be the autocratic rulers of their petty fiefdoms.
In the WAP, they feared they could not survive without British protection;
and, if associated in government with Aden, they knew they would always be
dominated by the educated urban elite. In the EAP, they just wanted to be left
alone. For these reasons the rulers were just as determined as the Adenis to avoid
commitment to the creation of a neat little democracy on the Westminster
Each of the last three Aden High Commissioners tried different approaches
to bring peace and start constitutional talks, and none of them made much
progress. Government Ministers like Anthony Greenwood, and their emissaries
like Lords Beswick and Thomson and Tom Driberg, came out to Aden to try
their luck, and one by one they failed too.
The most intensive effort was made by Lord Shackleton in early 1967.
He arrived at Government House as Resident Minister with full powers and
instructions to employ his own specialist diplomatic staff (specially summoned
from the Far East for the purpose) to contact the NLF and FLOSY terrorist
leaders and open negotiations with them. In their turn he and his experts failed
The reason for this failure must have been that the people of Aden and South
Arabia had different values from us at home. Their character had been shaped
over many generations by the Koran and the harsh environment in which they
lived; and their nature was to despise and distrust concepts of individual rights,
impartial law and democratic institutions. They preferred their time-honoured
systems of power – to use force to dominate all opposition and fight their way
to freedom from the occupying regime. Their mindset then was probably much
the same as that of our ancestors in Western Europe five hundred years ago.
The High Commissioners in Aden in the 1960s, advised by Arabic-speaking
political officers, understood the situation well enough, but public opinion and politicians in London failed to grasp the point. Dick Turnbull for his part could
never convince the Government of the reasons for the stubborn resistance of
nationalists and rulers alike to an orderly move to independence. Ministers
misread the South Arabian scene and never accepted – until too late - the
futility of their approach to the decolonisation of South Arabia and Aden.
The Poisoned Chalice
On arrival as High Commissioner, Dick Turnbull was quick to learn of
the immense difficulties in the way of progress, but he never gave up. As the
options for a constitutional settlement were rejected one by one, he worked
on fresh proposals, fostered new initiatives with energy and persistence, and
pursued negotiations with intellectual rigour, fertility of mind, and great skill.
It was no fault of the High Commissioner that success eluded him as it did
Anthony Greenwood had dismissed Sir Kennedy Trevaskis as High
Commissioner for being in the pocket of the Federal rulers and became
suspicious of Turnbull for the same offence. Greenwood and others in the
Government who shared this view subjected the High Commissioner to a
stream of criticism, while conveniently overlooking the fact that he was under
an obligation to try to build on the Federation. He knew well enough it was a
ramshackle affair but it was the only legitimate government in South Arabia to
which the colonial power could hand over.
It is a sad irony that while Greenwood and friends condemned Turnbull for being
too close to the Federalis, the rulers and their supporters, for their part, subjected
him to equally virulent criticism for being too friendly with the Adeni nationalists.
HE’s efforts to persuade the Adenis to abandon terrorism and work for peace and
unity in South Arabia laid him open to the charge of being a poodle of the Labour
Government; and the Federalis and their friends were quick to condemn him and
charge him with ignoring the legitimate needs of the Protectorates.
Turnbull was obliged to plan and implement his policies while subject
to this carping and sniping every step of the way. Like all senior men in the
colonial service, he was accustomed to working in a controversial environment,
but never before can he have been obliged to submit to continual interference
from Ministers and constant recrimination from elements of both Government
and Opposition in London. Nor, I think, had he ever before directed policy
to meet the Government’s objectives without the whole-hearted support of
colonial officials in the field. Nor could he ever have imagined that his efforts
would lead to his summary dismissal.
George Brown said in the House of Commons immediately after he sacked
Turnbull in May 1967 that he considered the post needed a diplomat rather
than an administrator. The Foreign Secretary never elaborated on this cryptic
statement, beyond a rambling and unhelpful comment in a Sunday newspaper
a few weeks later. At the time, Brown’s action seemed to us in Aden to be not
only hurtful and clumsy but wholly unnecessary. We saw it as especially foolish,
changing horses in mid-stream with a dangerous current running and only a
few months to go before Britain’s final withdrawal from South Arabia. It is
recorded by Richard Baker in Dry Ginger that the CinC considered that Turnbull had been monstrously treated
and many of us out there at that time shared this opinion. We considered his
many qualities were still needed. His experience of the complex constitution making
was invaluable; his excellent links with the armed services had been
built up over many gruelling months. He should have been allowed to carry
the work through. There was much to lose by replacing him at that critical
Looking back over the record, it seems likely to me that the Foreign
Secretary’s main concern was Turnbull’s refusal to treat with the terrorist
leaders, and this was the trigger for his dismissal. George Brown is reported to
have taken the first steps to look for a new High Commissioner immediately
after their meeting in February 1967, and it was at that meeting that Dick
Turnbull flatly refused to contemplate talking to the NLF or FLOSY. His
successor, Sir Humphrey Trevelyan seems to have focussed on doing just that
from the moment of his arrival. Apparently he handed over the administration
of the colony to his Deputy in order to concentrate his efforts on tracking down
the nationalist fighters in their lairs and persuading them to work jointly in
planning the future of the territory. Despite his efforts I have the impression
that he succeeded in meeting them only when their victory was assured, a very
few weeks before the evacuation.
Be that as it may, I recall that when Dick Turnbull’s friends heard he
had accepted the appointment of High Commissioner in South Arabia, they
expressed the fear that Aden would be his poisoned chalice. If this means an
assignment that looks interesting to the recipient but turns out to be full of
insoluble problems and leads only to danger, embarrassment and humiliation,
then, yes, Aden was Dick Turnbull’s poisoned chalice.
In due course the Turnbulls left their lovely Henley home to move to the
Scottish Borders. All too soon, Beatrice died there and left Dick very much on
his own. He returned south and died at Minchinhampton in the Cotswolds in
December 1998 after living for a while near his daughter Alison.
A service of thanksgiving for his life was held in Holy Trinity Church there
early the following year. The Reverend Canon Michael gave a moving address
to an overflowing church, and numerous tributes were paid in recognition of
his many achievements.
One of the most apt was that of Denis Healey who had of course been the
Minister for Defence in the Labour Government that had dismissed Turnbull.
Mr Healey as he revealed in his biography, understood his qualities far better than his colleagues when he
wrote of him and his successor:
"Such men were the last of Britain’s proconsuls, a remarkable breed, who brought
a degree of order and justice to millions of people who had known much less, but
ultimately wanted much more. They do not deserve less respect because the tides of
history have washed away so much of their achievements."
|Review of Aden: The Curtain Falls:
The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie: Part 4, 1965 to 1967
|Aden State Map, 1965
|Aden & the Protectorates of South Arabia, 1965
|Other Maps of Aden
|Books by Dick Eberlie
District Officer in Tanganyika: 1956 - 1960 Part 2: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie
by Dick Eberlie
The Winds and Wounds of Change: 1961 to 1965 Part 3 (The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie)
by Dick Eberlie
Aden: The Curtain Falls:
The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie: Part 4, 1965 to 1967 by Eberlie, Dick
My Job as a Private Secretary
Unpublished Letter to the Times of
Exit From Empire: A Biography of Sir Richard Turnbull
by Colin Baker
Dry Ginger: The Biography of Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Michael Le Fanu, G.C.B., D.S.C.
by Richard Baker
The Kingdom of Melchior
by Lord Belhaven
The Uneven Road
by Lord Belhaven
An Element of Luck: To South Arabia and Beyond
by Michael Crouch
Roads To Nowhere: A South Arabian Odyssey, 1960-1965
by John Harding
Last Sunset – What happened in Aden
by Stephen Harper
The Time of my Life
by Denis Healey
Without Glory in Arabia
by Peter Hinchcliffe
Arabia and the Isles
by Harold Ingrams
The View from Steamer Point
by Charles Johnston
Last Post: Aden
by Julian Paget
Coasts of Incense
by Freya Stark
The Southern Gates of Arabia
by Freya Stark
Sultans Of Aden
by Gordon Waterfield
by Jonathan Walker
|Glossary of Abbreviations
||Aide de Camp
||Annual General Meeting
||Aden Trades Union
||British Empire Medal
||British Overseas Airways
||British Petroleum Ltd
||Companion of the Order of
||Chief of the Defence Staff
||Chief of the Imperial
||Commander in Chief
||The Colonial Office
||Chief Quarter Master
||Deputy High Commissioner
||East African Airways
||East Arabian Protectorate
||Front for the Liberation of
the Occupied South Yemen
||Flag Officer, Middle East
||Federal National Guard
||Federal Regular Army
||An Arab kilt
||George Williamsons, Managing Agents
||Hadhrami Bedouin Legion
||His Excellency the High
||Her Majesty’s Government
||HQ Middle East
||International Red Cross
||Curved dagger worn at the
||The barren plateau of the
||Parade ground or public
||Bren light-machine gun
||Member of the Order of the
||Middle East Command
||Middle East Centre
for Arabic Studies in Beirut
||Middle East Land Forces
||National Liberation Front
||Officer of the Order of the
||Organisation for the
Liberation of the Occupied
||Popular Organisation of
||Peoples Socialist Party
||Public Works Department
||mild narcotic leaf chewed in
||The Royal Engineers, the
||South Arabian League
||type of dhow
||sandbag or stone wall
||The Special Air Service
||Steam Ship - passenger liner
||United Nations Organisation
||very seriously injured
||dried river bed
||Western Aden Protectorate