Oman: The Jebel Akhdar

Oman 1 – The Jebel Akhdar

The Desert State of Oman lies on the Southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula; its position gave it extremely strategic importance with regard to the flow of oil through the Gulf.  In 1958 the Feudal autocracy ruled by Sultan Sibin Timor was engaged in a guerrilla campaign with disaffected rebel tribesmen, the destabilising affect was untenable and the Sultan called upon a treaty obligation with Britain and asked for Military assistance.

However if news of this secret war the whole thing would be called off, the 6000 rebels operated from the almost inaccessible base 8000feet in the Jebel Akhdar.  It was decided to approach the problem head on, scale the mountain at night and hit the rebels where they least expected it. Reinforced by a second squadron under Major Johnny Cooper Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Deane-Drummond planned the assault, “we went from jungle with a visibility of 20 yards to a mountain with visibility almost unlimited where by instead of moving by day and sleeping at night, at the Jebel we had to move by day, get our selves up into observation posts, see where the rebels were and then launch as large an attack as we could on those rebel caves.  And it was during this time that we had to climb to see the pickets on the mountain to work out which way we were actually going to go and I thought up the idea that we could brief the donkey handler and we asked them to find out what the facilities were for watering up the WALLYTURNUFF”

As expected, within 24hrs this information got back to the Rebels, ‘A’ squadron led an assault on the north face of the Jebel known as Sabrina, the battle was a rolling battle, one side rolling down rapid fire the other side attacking and so on.  Four men were left to hold the mountain top as the rest of the squadron marched to Tanuf whilst there another squadron launched a solitary raid to consolidate the misinformation.  ‘A’ squadron were then trucked 15 miles to Kamah to join ‘B’ squadron, simultaneously the two SAS squadrons comprised of 80 men each carrying 60 pound packs, made their ambitious night march up the Jebel.  The route up was an old disused goat path, it was sheer and hazardous and took a tremendous toll on the men, as dawn approached the men were ordered to down their packs and move quickly to the summit. The browning gunner thought he saw some movement in some rocks and four men jumped up, the SAS quickly opened fire, one was hit and fell down the side of the mountain, another was killed and the other two disappeared. The SAS made it to the top just before 6:30AM (dawn) and the surprise was total, re-supplied by planned drops the SAS overwhelmed the enemy and the survivors scattered in all directions “We were able to show to the army at large that the professionalism of the SAS soldier can be applied anywhere, world-wide.”

The Information that follows is quoted or para-phrased from:
The Story of the SAS

Oman 2 – War of the Tribes

The initial dissatisfaction that bought about the first Oman conflict never really went away, Sibin Timor was an old fashioned despot who sought to keep his people trapped in feudalism.  The pro Soviet Yemenis to the north began to actively support the communist inspired Oman rebels, the situation again degenerated and the Sultan asked for British help.  Johnny Watts, now Lieutenant Colonel, was immediately sent to ascertain the problem, the Sultan refused the suggestions put to him and was soon overthrown by his Sandhurst trained Sun, Quabus.  Immediately 22 SAS were sent to assist and an elaborate 5 front hearts and minds campaign, conceived by Watts, was rapidly instigated.  The essence of the strategy was to eliminate Omanie dissatisfaction; Quabus began a large works programme that would propel Oman into the twentieth Century. The problem now was how to get this message across to the rebels and to get them to understand the truth that there was no longer any need to fight.  The commander felt that the original rebels did have right on their side because they simply wanted a better way of life.  Part of Watt’s plan was psychological; he made certain that the Sultan’s far-reaching policies became common knowledge, along with the offer of amnesty to any surrendering rebels. From these defectors it was hoped that levies would be raised to fight the defectors, Watt’s strategy was spot on and within month’s defectors started to cross the lines.  These men (Firqat) trained and later became the backbone of fighting in Oman; by mid 1971 support from the local tribes was gradually being won.  Around 80 SAS men were in the country augmented by 20 Firqat units totalling 1600 irregulars, by 1972 Operation Storm was in full swing and groups of up to 800 men, backed by fighter support were harassing the rebels across a broad front.  However the rebels were far from defeated and still had the capacity to attack at dawn on the 19th July 1972 250 heavily armed rebels attacked the isolated outpost of Murbat, nine SAS advisers and 25 JONDARMARI commanded by 23 year old Cpt. Mike Heely were taken completely by surprise.  Within minutes they were under mortar fire a giant Fijian SAS trooper ran to a solitary s5 pounder and laid down covering fire, the enemy penetrated the wire; two SAS men were killed and they reached the gunpit Cpt. Heely won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) surrounded and exhausted it was all but over, at that pivotal moment Strike Master aircraft streaked out of the sky and strafing the rebels, what saved the day was that unbeknown to the enemy it was time for exchange of the SAS squadrons and there was a second SAS squadron in the area.  By another stroke of luck the second SAS squadron had set up and were ready to zero their general-purpose machineguns, so with the machineguns and the equipment they normally carried they were very quickly flown to the aid of the other SAS troops.  And also by this time the Firqats had made their way up to assist the SAS, and together they turned back the rebels, however it was very close, despite this it broke the enemy’s will. If they had succeeded it would have set the campaign back years but with the rebels will to fight gone the campaign was effectively won.