KHORMAKSAR.

 

 

 

 

 

KHORMAKSAR.
 
Khormaksar 1
 
 
Khormaksar 1950
 
Khormaksar
 
 
Khormaksar 1953
 
Khormaksar 4
 
Khormaksar 2
 
Khormaksar 3
 
 
 
 
Valetta s 1
 
Sheik othman
Shiek Othman was a native vilage we visited whilst stationed at R.A.F
Riyan,which was a six month posting from R.A.F Khormaksar.
 
Above 7 photos sent in by Ron Boyland.
 
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John coles292
Above photo is an Arial view of aircraft at RAF Khormaksar,
sent in by John Coles, via Jim Semple.
 
Aden comet
XL696 Comet 2
415812 SAC Holloway
RAF Khormaksar to UK via Entebbe,Kano and Idris
My Flight Home January 1957
Above photo and comments sent in by John Holloway.
 
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  The following was sent in by Mick Thompson.
 
RAF Khormaksar, and the British withdrawal from Aden in 1967.
In just over two year's time on or just before 31st December 2012, somebody will lower the RAF ensign at RAF Lyneham for the last time - assuming the flag pole has not been scrapped or moved to RAF Brize Norton!   After this final act they can lock the main gate and bring to a close one of the former major RAF bases, some 70 tears after it attained full station status in 1942.    Group Captain David Houghton, who is the man in charge of the move, considered that this will be themost complex and biggest non-equipment programme running in the Royal Air Force at the moment, with the movement of 2,500 people, 33 Hercules aircraft and all their attendant support being moved to RAF Brize Norton.
The planned withdrawal from RAF Lyneham has reminded me of the closure of RAF Khormaksar, an even larger RAF base some 43 years ago, when those concerned did not have anything like as long to plan and implement the closure of what was then the largest RAF base.  Due to a change of HMG's policy and plans for the Middle East, following the Six Day War in 1967, the date for withdrawal was changed and brought forward by several weeks, and due to the security situation in the colony which remained volatile, the main withdrawal was to take place over a 28 day period.  Except for carrier based Royal Marines, evacuating personnel would depart by air from RAF Khormaksar.   The first day of the final withdrawal period was called `W' -28 day.  As late as “W” 7 day, 3,700 personnel remained in the colony awaiting evacuation.  On what was the penultimate day, or “W” - 1, when the tactical stage of withdrawal had been reached, and the defences around the RAF base had been thinned out, the operation was at a potentially dangerous stage. On this penultimate day, over 1,000 servicemen and 350 civilians were flown out using 20 aircraft.   On the very last day, dateYear1967Day29Month1129 November 1967, 875 personnel were flown out to RAF Muharraq, (formerly RAF Bahrain), and around the same number of Royal Marines by helicopter to Task Force ships.  Whilst the political circumstances of the British withdrawal from the former British colony of Aden could not be described as one of the United Kingdom's finest hours, the final days without a shot being fired or a life lost,  must rank as the best planned and executed operations in British  Military history.
Just before the final 28 period commenced, I arrived at RAF Khormaksar with 2 Field Squadron RAF Regiment, which was, and still is the Parachute Squadron. I was a corporal medical orderly, and having passed the strenuous selection course, known as `Pre Para' and the full airborne soldier parachute course at RAF Abingdon, I could rightly claim to be a placePara Medic, a term now ascribed to most ambulance drivers!  This was my second tour in the colony with the Squadron, having completed a 5 month tour the previous year.  This tour was expected to last until the previous planned withdrawal date at the end of December, but the majority of the Squadron left on the revised penultimate day, after handing over their internal security duties at RAF Khormaksar to carrier based Royal Marine Commando units.
 Members of the Squadron represented the RAF on the only ceremonial act connected with independence, which took place on 28 November, or “W”  - 1 day.   This consisted of a Joint Services Guard of Honour, inspected by the departing Governor and the Commander in Chief, followed by a fly past of aircraft in a farewell salute as they made their way to RAF Muharraq, 48 years after the RAF first came to Aden.  Nobody was present to represent the new regime.  The band of the Royal Marines concluded proceedings with a solitary verse of the National Anthem, followed by,  not Auld Lang Syne as expected, but the more appropriate Fings Aint What They Used To Be !
I spent most of my time working in the Station Sick Quarters at Khormaksar.  As both of the service hospitals had closed, this was the remaining medical unit during the last days, although there was a back up of medical services on the Royal Navy carriers. These were never required, and those personnel requiring any but the most minor treatment were transported as soon as possible to RAF Muharraq.  By the time I was due to leave, the RAF medical staff consisted of a single medical officer, Wing Commander Riseley - Pritchard and Corporal Gordon Wannell who was the aero-medical evacuation co-ordinator. In recognition of his work in this respect, Gordon was subsequently awarded the placeBritish Empire Medal.  Incidentally he now lives in Lyneham village, and will be one of very many who will greatly miss his long association with the station.  At the Station Sick Quarters, a  Royal Navy Sick Berth Attendant and Medical Officer appeared, ostensibly to take over for the remaining hours.  I doubt that they had very much to do, as hardly anybody went sick on those memorable final days in the life of RAF Khormaksar.
The withdrawal from a RAF base in what was a unique situation, raises some questions about which personnel are the most essential, and who can leave first, and whom, most intriguingly needs to be on that final plane.  Around 5 months before the departure of the final payload by sea or air, all service families were evacuated along with non essential civilians.  Soon after, the RAF hospital at RAF Steamer Point was closed, and then all of that station which included a Maintenance Unit.  Incidentally as there were no servicewomen ever based at Khormaksar, none remained for the final phase of the withdrawal.  The Education section was no doubt one of the first to close down completely along with the P Ed section, and doubtless  the large police section was closed or drastically reduced!   As the final phase was reached, all remaining sections  that were not were directly involved with aircraft movement, were increasingly reduced in size, with perhaps a corporal in charge of a section that may have had a warrant officer in charge. Conversely the movements section had to be greatly increased in size to cope with the task. Some sections such as aircraft servicing and air traffic were also working flat out and would remain until the final lifts.  One contingency plan that was introduced for the very last days, was to only use aircraft that could if necessary, take off safely with 3 engines, so that if an aircraft required an engine change, that was by this time impossible to implement, the aircraft need not be left behind.   The Hercules which had just entered service and the Brittania aircraft at the end of service were equally suitable, whereas the VC10 was not.
I do not know how exactly which key personnel were on the very last aircraft. I have heard that there were personnel from Air Traffic and ground servicing who completed their duties on the final flight as it landed, before they boarded the aircraft.  The very last RAF serviceman may have been a SAC Chris `Ned' Nethercott a member of MAMS, who has claimed on an placeCityAden web site to have boarded just ahead of the C in C placeMiddle East!
Footnotes:
A friend of mine recently met a young woman who had just moved into a house on a former RAF station married quarters site.  Her address was now Khormaksar road or similar.  She asked my friend what sort of aircraft a Khormaksar was !
Before I retired and was serving at RAF Halton in 1982, and 15 years after Aden, a young trainee noticed that I had two General Service Ribbons, the old and new pattern.  He enquired why I had two  Northern Ireland medals!!
1967 was the last year when bodies of service personnel who died or were killed overseas were not repatriated back to UK at public expense.  Those buried in Aden remain in the military cemeteries.  The following year, 1968 was the only year ever that no British serviceman was killed on active service.
 
References;
` Flight from theMiddle East' by Air Chief Marshall David Lee.
`The Rock and Roll Years of a Parachuting Medic' by Mick Thompson.          
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Raf003
 Above photo sent in by Jim Collier. From left to right, Jim, Jeff & Bill. 1964.
 
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A 52 riding 2 000 hp
 
 A 69 
Dave's old mate is George Turner, standing at the back of the Land Rover.
 
A 97
 
223 Squadron Valetta's 1960/1961.
 
A 117
 
A 133 re fuelling a pig
 
Above 5 photos taken and sent in by  Dave Bailey, an ex spanner wielder.
 
 
The following 3 photos are off duty ones, with Dave and his Mates.
A 103 in the billet
In the Billet.
 
 
A 104 my trusty triumph trw
My trusty triumph TRW.
 
A 63 stark wilderness
 Stark wilderness
 
A 68 skin diving i m on the right
 Skin diving, I am on the right.
 
Memories of RAF Khormaksar 1960/61
 
Ones recall cannot be relied upon to accurately recount events that took place fifty two years ago, a mere fifteen month segment of a very full and sometimes adventurous life. Memories of my time spent as an airman at RAF Khormaksar on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsular are a jumbled collection of half forgotten times that handsome young sun tanned Junoesque men experienced within the limited freedom that military service would allow. When memory banks are jolted by photographs or reminiscences of those times, the utterances of a generally disliked Scots corporal from administration, 'Geet doon th leen Ballie' one is caught between homicidal thoughts and hilarity (a touch of Spike Milligan). Memories of my time served at RAF Khormaksar have been jotted down as they come to mind and are not necessarily in chronological order.
The crowd of pale, sweating and kitbag humping “Brylcreem Boys” disembarking from HMT Oxfordshire at Steamer Point were patently ignorant of the situation that awaited them as they clambered into the waiting trucks to be transported to their unknown destination. Starkly blue skyunbearable heat, dust, turbaned Arabs, camels pulling rickety carts competing for road space with honking taxis, the strange smell that pervaded the whole place that we unkindly called “woggish”,
one thing was certain, this was not Oxford Street even on a Saturday morning.
Disembarking from the trucks on entering RAF Khormaksar we must have been “processed” somewhere and decisions made as to where we were to be billeted and to what squadrons posted to.
My next remembrance was stumbling along in the dust and intense heat, kit bag humped on an aching shoulder, between three storey billet blocks in company with my unfortunate comrades to the jeers of half naked sun tanned Apollo's leaning over balconies screaming 'Mooney' - 'Get some in'.
My first night was something of a horror occupying a minuscule bed space on a second floor east facing balcony with forty odd coughing, wheezing, groaning and farting airmen. The four or five slowly rotating fans hanging from the ceiling contributing little to alleviating our discomfort in the appalling heat of the night following which we were burnt out of our beds at five in the morning by the merciless desert sun. What a ghastly shock following my well ordered time at RAF Valley where each airman had the luxury of his own room.
The gnomes in the administration department had, following my three years service on smelly “blow lamps”, finally got it right by sending me to a squadron equipped with aircraft that were fitted with the engines I was originally trained on at RAF Weeton, the Bristol Hercules.
The Valettas of 223 Squadron were accommodated on a salt pan stuck out on the eastern side of the camp, we felt very much the poor relatives to the 8 Squadron Beverleys and coastal command Shackletons with their servicing hangers and fully equipped workshops and offices but as is often the case a primitive situation creates a solidarity of comradeship. The shift system latterly introduced on 223 Squadron provided the occasional opportunity to go “native” for a couple of days
discarding the bondage of squadron orders, khaki drill, beret and boots for ultra skimpy shorts, colourful Bermuda shirts and “bondu” boots setting off on my fully loaded and trusty Triumph TRW that I had purchased from the Maahla scrap yard. Grub, water, face mask, flippers and harpoons precariously lashed on with bungees, the half litre side valve twin transporting us along dusty roads to the remote freedom of a favourite skin diving spot often far from the confines of RAF Khormaksar.
Most of the aircraft stationed at Khormaksar suffered greatly from the harsh environment. Engine and airframe lives drastically shortened, corrosion, fine dust ignoring the congested air filters playing havoc with the sleeve valves of the air cooled Hercules and Centaurus engines of Valettas and Beverlys. The liquid cooled Griffon engines of the Shackleton's fared little better as proved the occasional collapsing of supercharger bearings effectively writing off beautifully engineeredproducts of the Rolls Royce Company.
Although I attempted to make the most of my last fifteen months of RAF service at Khormaksar it was clear that I was not the best of service material, too independent of nature which was forcefully made aware to me by once being hauled up in front of a Wing Commander for failing to complywith an order (not wearing my beret between the Squadron offices and the cook house). I was given the choice of one week polishing the floors of the Guardroom or two weeks extra Squadron duty, I happily accepted the re-fuelling of aircraft, who wants to be at the beck and call of “SPs” for a week? This unfortunate incident strengthened my resolve to forego the security of military life and return to the uncertainties of “Civvy Street”.
Under service conditions ones true friends tend to be solid and dependable, I had three that I felt happy at ease and great fun to be with, “Thicky” Crossfield, Brian Birkwood and George (Ned) Turner who to this very day is still my best friend and latterly steadfast travelling companion. “Thicky” was a fanatic rod and line fisherman, I enjoyed his company on many expeditions to Crater and Steamer Point, Brian Birkwood was, like me, a motorcycle man who towards the end of his Khormaksar tour invested in a brand new R50 BMW, a fine machine with which he was very proud of until fate took an unkindly twist when he collided with the rear of a Mercedes car near the civil airport sliding over the roof and bonnet impaling his head on the radiator mounted three pointed star fortunately not suffering any severe injuries but his bruised “starred” nose and foreheadwas the object of much merriment for several weeks.
My friendship with 'Ned' Turner (as he was then known) started off somewhat negatively in the 223 Squadron crew room. The theory of two seemingly incompatible characters supplementing each other has, following many more post service adventures, been fully proved as we are still in regular
contact sharing a deep respect for each other and a well tested friendship.
Evening performances at the roofless Astra Cinema could, at times, be favourably compared to a House of Commons debate, a veritable bull pit of cat calls and yells especially if there was a film that in any way portrayed love scenes or bikini clad beauties, 'get em down deari', or 'cor! get a load of that'. There was an interval advert that guaranteed to bring the house down, AND. REWS. Andrews Andrews for inner cleanliness, the last line of the second stanza totally drowned out as the cinema erupted into a thunderous and rots your guts much to the embarrassed annoyance of the occupants of the upper circle which consisted mainly of Officers, NCOs and their wives. For the rabble of airmen below it was a heaven sent opportunity to gleefully and safely let off steam in the presence of ranking members of Her Majesty's Services.
CSE (Combined Services Entertainments) visited the station occasionally, their performances held in the Airman's Club which as far as I can remember was run independently by non-commissioned ranks. The food in the station cook-house was generally acceptable but if one hankered after a really good nosh up of steak and chips washed down with a beer the Airman's Club was the place to go, shows were put on by travelling artists, comedians, actors and musicians.
I well remember on one rather tragic occasion a female classical singer was reduced to tears as she was howled off the stage unable to complete her performance, RAF Khormaksar had a rather negative reputation among visiting artists, performers had to be tough professionals able to give as good as they took.
“Jemmys”, a small hut regularly visited jammed solid with all the necessary accoutrements needed to enhance the male ego. Shorts, Bermuda shirts, flip flops, scanty swim trunks, flippers, face masks, snorkel tubes, harpoon guns, underwater camera cases etc. etc. a veritable gold mine for the friendly Arab gentleman who owned it and an absolute 'must' for us young adventurers keen to see what lay below the surface waters of the Gulf of Aden.
Arguably the best ice cream (Mango flavour) I have ever tasted could be purchased and safely consumed in the 23rd. of July coffee shop in Crater under the watchful eye of President Nasser who's portrait dominated one wall of the caf?. Service personnel had been warned to take care visiting this small town situated in the crater of a long extinct volcano as it was apparently a hotbed of Jemen nationalism where the British were looked upon as imperial interlopers. We experienced no trouble during the daytime dressed in our colourful 'off duty' garb but at night visiting Crater was a definite no-no. One could sense an underlying tension which several years later exploded into open rebellion finally forcing the British (and Mr. Harold Wilson) to throw in the towel during 1967 following 128 years of imperial occupation. Shamsan, I think was what the highest rim of the crater was called that dominated the Aden skyline.
Several day long expeditions were made to the summit humping the very necessary water flasks and food packs, the astounding view from the summit well worth the hard 2-3 hour slog up the stony footpath past the ancient “Tawela” water reservoirs (that seemed permanently empty). Far to the west the oil refineries of Little Aden, to the left the double highway known as the 'Maahla' straight beyond which was the spread of RAF Khormaksar with it's black hangars billet blocks and endless huts. The green smudge of vegetation in the far distance was Sheik Othman behind which was the endless brown dusty mass of desert stretching away to the distant border of a hostile Jemen.
Immediately to the north east was Crater Town and the Gulf of Aden coastline stretching away to the distant RAF outposts of Mukkala and Salalah.
A rare and beautifully cool morning was taken full advantage of for a Squadron Valetta service check, airframe/engine/radio etc. stripped to the waist, screwdriver and spanners hanging from a belt holding up skimpy oil stained khaki shorts I sit astride the Hercules engine replacing the sparkplugs when the squadron land rover pulls up in front of the aircraft, our line corporal yells out, 'Bailey, hand the job over to your mate, you're wanted at the guardroom'. Oh shit! What have I done now, back to the squadron crew room, quick change into clean khakis, shoes and beret, walking swiftly to the dreaded guardroom mind racing. 'SAC Bailey reporting from 223 squadron', SP sergeant wearing a strange smile, 'Ah, Bailey, step into my office, I steel myself for the expected misdemeanour's to be read out but there standing by the desk is, my Father! I am dumbstruck, 'Well say something, he's come to see you', the squadron office has telephoned, I have the rest of the day off. Apparently Dad had managed to cadge a lift in one of his firms Britannia's that was delivering aircraft spares, he and the crew overnighting in the Crescent Hotel at Steamer Point returning to the UK early the next day so we had to make the most of the time we had together.
A brisk walk back to our new air conditioned billet to change into 'civvies', show Dad around the camp then taxi into Steamer Point where we spent the rest of the day rounding off with a meal, a good chat and a couple of beers in the Hotel before saying our goodbyes, a most unexpected event during the relatively short time I spent in Aden.
Due to the 'touchy' security situation in the Protectorate guard duties had to be mounted during the night at the aircraft dispersal areas, on reflection the whole thing was a bit 'Dad's Army' armed with a Lee Enfield rifle, five rounds of 'ammo' and a torch. We had to learn a few Arab words of command, 'Auqueff ' Halt! 'Hinna' Come here! but during my time at Khormaksar nothing really untoward happened apart from several bullet holes being punched through the fin of a Meteor during a reconnaissance sortie. Most of the action took place up country, we knew when there was a'flap' on when rocket equipped 8 Squadron Hunters were scrambled and a distant cloud of dust denoted the movement northwards of an army tank squadron but the information we received on what was going was very sketchy. There was one tragic incident when a supply dropping Beverly had to make a forced landing in contested territory, the entire surviving crew members being butchered by tribesmen which sadly included a handful of airmen who had hitched a ride.
Hitching flight rides had to be masked by official duty's, on one occasion I managed to cadge a flight to French occupied Djibuti as a mechanic. One of our Valettas had developed a minor engine problem that was quickly rectified giving me time to have a smooch around the French Airforce base, amazingly they were still using Junkers Ju 52 transports, their corrugated skinning and fixed strutted undercarriages making our Valetta's look very modern and up to date. The return trip to Khormaksar was not wasted as boxes of pineapples and raw steak for the airmans club was loaded into our returning Valettas, a most enjoyable and interesting break from the routine of the Khormaksar flight line.
One of our favourite skin diving locations was Elephant Bay, a rocky outcrop round the coast from Steamer Point. The disadvantages of access and lack of a beach were far outweighed by the direct diving entry into the wonderland of deep crystal clear water, beautiful coral formations and the rainbow colours of fish of all shapes and sizes that once we were in the water took little notice of  us. On one unforgettable and potentially dangerous occasion as I was returning to the surface a fair sized shark swam lazily within a couple of meters of me, the first one I had ever seen in it's natural element. It was as if we understood each other, he had no apparent interest in me and I was without fear, totally enthralled in his incredibly beautiful form. From the tip of his nose to the little tab on the end of his swept back fin he was sheer perfection, the effortless way in which he gently swathedaway from me disappearing into the blue mists of the sea was an unforgettable experience.
I doubt very much whether Willy Messerschmitt ever went skin diving but I have often wondered if the form of the shark influenced the design of his Me 262 jet fighter.
During the relatively short time I was stationed at Khormaksar there was always the thought at the back of my mind, 'what is out there' beyond the confines of the Aden Protectorate as it then was. On several occasions I and a friend made several unofficial and most likely illegal motorcycle trips into the hinterland to see what the real Arabia and it's people were like. On one occasion Brian Birkwood and I set off early one morning on the my TRW fully loaded with water and 'grub' to see how far we could travel and return in one day. Taking the road to Sheik Othman and beyond (when the paved road gave way to gravel and sand) there was much to see and experience, sharing the way with camels loaded down with sacks of grain, children gleefully juggling for a space in front of my camera, primitive mud brick dwellings in wind swept dusty villages and although their way of life was quite different to ours they were human beings just like us going about their daily business. It
was during these trips that seeds were planted for unforeseen future travels that in many ways deeply changed my attitude to life.
As I near the end of my screed that in many ways only touches on the many events filling the final months of my RAF service I feel I have to say the basic reason for me being stationed at Khormaksar was to help with the servicing of an engineering masterpiece designed by Roy Fedden the chief engineer of the Bristol Aero Engine Company. As far as I can  remember the operational life of the Valetta and its Hercules engines in Aden was generally less than a year due to the harsh environmental conditions of heat and dust, the sleeve valves being more susceptible to wear and tear than their 'poppet' valve counterparts. It amazes me to think that long before my time at Khormaksar Hawker Tempest's fitted with the awesome Napier Sabre sleeve valve engines were operating in the ground attack role.
The day arrived when I had to say my goodbyes to friends and colleagues, invest in a set of 'civvies,' clear out my gear and settle paperwork with the 'admin' department. On parting with my friend George Turner we vowed to keep in touch with each other which eventually led to adventures that at the time neither of us would have dreamed of. The flight home was most comfortable in an Eagle Airways Britannia but the sudden change of environment from Arabia to England was quite a
shock that required some weeks to adjust to.
The above Item from Dave Bailey must have brought memories flooding back.
 
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A 91 the flight line
 
 
A 128 crater
 
 A 170 homeward bound
Write up and 3 photos above from Dave Bailey.
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