Recollections from Geoff Bushell
Having gained experience of sorting office and mail guard duties in the “kipper factory” I was ready for further adventure. I applied for a posting to Libya and was was summoned for an OC’s interview during which Major Dunkeld informed me that my application for posting was successful but that I was going to Aden not Libya, he added “they are virtually the same”. A party of six of us under the charge of Cpl Wally Moat departed via a BOAC flight from Gatwick via Tehran to Bahrain. We then boarded an RAF Britannia aircraft and arrived in Aden on 4th June. We were met at RAF Khormaksar by our new colleagues who wasted no time in introducing us to the delights of draught Tiger beer!
I was based at the main BFPO situated in RAF Khormaksar and employed on all sorting office duties, it was extremely busy with large volumes of LC/AO and parcels. Regular duties included acting as an armed mail guard to the FPO at Steamer Point, the civil post office at Tawahi and taking sea mails to Ma’alla Wharf. On some occasions, due to volume, we borrowed a 30 foot Scammell and trailer from 10 Fd Sqn RE with 3 of us riding shotgun on top of the bags. One of the highlights of the day was the arrival of Capt Francis and the 24 Bde PCCU RE convoy from Little Aden, always a guarantee of banter. Also present were Ron Davies and Jimmy Reed of detachment 16 Bde PCCU RE who provided a service to 1 and 2 Para Regt’s.
BFPO Aden was also a busy hub for FCS material, the regular Defence Courier was usually Mr Ron Gourlay (Ex WO1 APTC) and internal air courier duties to Salalah, Masirah and Mukeiras were undertaken by a team of SNCO’s who included SSgt’s Ron Ashton and Don Doig and Sgt’s Mick Picard, Terry Hughes and Bronco Lane. A SNCO also performed a daily run to provide a service to BFPO 90 (Habilayn) by an RAF Beaver aircraft. It was sometimes necessary to perform overnight courier runs to HQ MEC with important despatches which meant a nerve racking journey through Ma’alla strait which was by then an operational hot spot.
We lived 12 to a Banda in Singapore Lines and my bunk mates included among others Tommy Compson, Fred Toker, Vince Sutherland, Ken Regler, Jimmy Tuck, Joe Norwood, Fred Wright, Dave Price, Scouse Wright and Puggy Poole. The social life was hectic revolving around the various unit bars dotted around the lines, this included seeing the last performance of Tony Hancock in a CSE show. The climate was uncomfortable, at that time of year a cloud base hung over the peninsular and it was hot and humid. Also sand storms blew in from the desert and I was unfortunate to be stuck in one on a mail guard duty, a most unpleasant experience. On a couple of occasions it rained, when this happened we stripped off and ran outside the Banda to get a hot shower!
On the 20th June I was detailed to collect the airmails from the civilian air terminal at the northern end of Khormaksar and set off in a 4 tonner with a civilian driver. When I arrived at the terminal checkpoint I heard gunfire and was informed by the RAF policeman that the airfield was under fire and to proceed with caution! I duly collected the mails and on my return was advised that the South Arabian Army had mutinied. A hectic day culminated in the unit being on standby in the evening to supplement IS patrols in Crater, Major Eric Worthington, DADAPS, eventually standing us down at the eleventh hour! The atmosphere in Aden state changed after this and there were numerous operational incidents occurring on a daily basis and all personnel were confined to barracks..
I was sent as relief to FPO Steamer Point for a month and thoroughly enjoyed my stay in decent air conditioned barracks with access to a beach in the Mermaid Club and superior RAF catering. My colleagues here were Alan Dixon, Ken Dickson, Phil Norsden and Bob Moonie and I gained experience of RLE/FCO duties. During my stay I witnessed the arrival of 42 Commando from Singapore on HMS Bulwark and Fearless, to say that they livened up the garrison would be an understatement! Alas my sojourn would not last and I returned to Khormaksar to scenes of increasing chaos. The FPO at one point was completely full of sea mail up to the ceiling, it got to the point that we had run out of bags. On one occasion an officer of the RPC company arrived with a crestfallen Pte, apparently he had taken the order to send all his kit home too literally and had packed his SMG, Captain Jack Rous instructed us to open all the bags in an effort to locate the offending parcel. After much cursing we actually found it!
The Government had announced the early withdrawal from Aden and everything was being run down. We had moved into accommodation in RAF Khormaksar where we continued to provide a service until the end and coped with the “parcels home”. The unit vehicles were parked up in a dump for local disposal and I and several others left for Bahrein on 14th November, 2 weeks before complete withdrawal. Looking back this was an interesting period in my life that included danger and comradeship and I would not have missed it for the world. I am obviously grateful to Major Dunkeld for not sending me to Libya!