The Aden Emergency 1963 - 1967


After 128 years of imperial rule, the British withdrawal from Aden in 1967 was a sombre and unpleasant affair. Instead of cheering crowds, the streets of shuttered shops echoed only to the roar of armoured cars and the whine and rattle of rooftop gun battles between the rival Arab contenders for political power. And at Khormaksar Airfield, scene of the biggest airlift operation since that of Berlin in 1948, exploding mortar-bombs sped the 16,000 departing British servicemen and their families on their way. Relinquishing their tough peacekeeping role, the Royal Marine Commandos embarked by sea on November 28. On the same day the High Commissioner, Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, flew off by helicopter to H.M.S. Eagle without a hint of ceremony - just a terse message of "happiness and prosperity" to the new People's Republic of South Yemen of which Aden was now a part. The question of future British financial aid for the new state was left politely in abeyance. Union Jacks' still flying bravely over military depots were hauled down for the last time at sunset on November 29 and rearguards and the men holding the perimeter of Khormaksar Airfield finally flew out.

This picture shows A helicopter airlifting military baggage and stores from Steamer Point to a waiting aircraft carrier during the final stages of the British withdrawal from Aden.

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by Stephen Luscombe