SOME MEMORIES FROM THE ARABIAN PENINSULAR
1958 to 1961
Mainly of 1 Troop, 19 Topographic Squadron, Nizwa, Oman
By Trevor ‘Bill’ Powell
Photo of Bud Moon, Mike Layland and Mick Graham at Nizwa in 1958
N° 1 Troop arrived at Nizwa in early June of 1959. Dave ‘Streak Hobson noted some of the trials and tribulations endured by the Troop during the move from Dubai and Sharjah in the part of his diary which covers from February to November 1959.
Part of Dave Hobson’s diary
Here is a map of Muscat and Oman (now just Oman) showing the areas in which the Troop did long field trips between 1959 and 1961.
I arrived at Nizwa on 10th September 1959 via the tortuous route of Aden, Cyprus, Aden, Bahrain and Muscat, having left 89 Field Survey Squadron, Nairobi, Kenya when it disbanded in August.
We were billeted in a corner of the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces (SOAF) camp.
Colour photos during the sea voyage from Bahrain to Muscat and view of barrack block at Nizwa
1 Troop living accomodation and photo of Bill, both in colour
More photos of Nizwa camp and town (b/w)
Some b/w views from the camp and a photo of the kitchen boys (local lads)
Out and about – colour photos of local villages
The work in the Oman was mainly air photo annotation, compiling names sheets and altimeter heighting. Here are a couple of pages which describe our task in a nutshell.
Our work in a nutshell (1) (Air photo and PUC sheet of Nizwa area)
A satellite view of Nizwa area (From Google Earth)
Part of the map of Nizwa area (Finished map produced by 42 SER- 1st edition)
In September and October 1959 the Troop made a field trip lasting about five weeks to the Ash Sharqiyah area in south-east Oman.
Photos of the Ash Sharqiya field trip
Part of Dave ‘Streak’ Hobson’s diary after returning to Nizwa from the Sharqiya
From March to June 1960, I was first attached for a couple of weeks to a British civilian seismic survey field party in the south-west corner of the Oman, where I made the acquaintance of the jerboa, or desert rat, which gave the British VIIIth Army Corps its name and symbol in North Africa during World War II.
I then spent about three months in the Yemen, wandering on the southern edge of the Rub’ al Khali (Empty quarter), the largest sand desert in the world. I was with a cavalry captain (a great admirer of the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, in whose footsteps we trod), a REME driver/mechanic, two Somali general factotums brought to the Yemen by the captain, and two Land Rovers. We spent about a week in amongst those impressive dunes, looking for water holes. We finally travelled down the fantastic Wadi Hadramaut to the Indian Ocean coast, then turned west to Al Mukalla and finally on to Aden.
Colour photos of the Rub’ al Khali
Colour photos of the Hadramaut and Mukalla.
Photos of Aden town
I returned as Troop Sgt. to Nizwa in July and stayed there until I left for the UK in February 1961.
During this period, two courageous surveyors, Geoff Morris and Andy Anderson mapped the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) region on foot. After their work on sheet 038 was completed, it was sent to SHQ in Bahrain for checking and forwarding to 42 Regiment in Cyprus. Two ‘commemorative’ poems were composed, one by 1 Troop and the other in reply by SHQ. Here they are.
Ode to Oh-Three-Eight and the response On opening 038 in Bahrain
The rest of the Troop made the first Al Batinah coast field trip. Unfortunately no photos available.
Group photo of N° 1 Troop February 1961
Our work was made more difficult than it should have been because we were occasionally fired upon by dissidents (usually at night and from long range using nineteenth century Martini Henry rifles), who also planted land mines on the dirt roads. As I left, the Troop under its new O.C. Mike Layland started on the second Al Batinah coast field trip and almost immediately suffered the tragic loss of Spr. William Dougal McDougall.
Photo of the local population attending a demonstration of fire power given by the SOAF.
Various photos including leaving for home
Mined vehicles including the fatal Land Rover
Photos by Mike Layland of the Al Batinah coast
Some miscellaneous photos from Dave ‘Streak’ Hobson relating to 1961.
Colour photos of Nizwa camp in 1961, provided by Alex ‘Jock’ Johnstone.
Colour photos of the wadi and town at Nizwa in 1961, provided by Alex ‘Jock’ Johnstone.
The Oman theatre of operations, together with Aden and the Gulf States, was considered Active Service (a war zone, albeit very limited) and whoever served there between 1957 and 1960 was entitled to the GSM (General Service Medal) with clasp “Arabian Peninsular”.
Aerial views of some of the fore-mentioned places can be seen using the Internet program “GOOGLE EARTH”. Here is a list of their geographical coordinates.
If you would like to see what the Oman, and in particular Nizwa, is like today, visit the website: