Five years ago Rowland White gave us what has become a very well regarded (and best selling) account of the unlikely and extremely challenging effort to get Vulcan bombers, on the verge of retirement, into operation for what up to then was the longest bombing missions ever flown, from Ascension Island over Port Stanley runway in the Falklands and back again.
was very detailed, included all the wider contexts yet often read like a thriller.
In 2009 he returned in a similar vein with an account of how another in flight refuelled operation, this time by Royal Navy Buccaneers from the last but one HMS Ark Royal
, in the mid Atlantic, over Belize in Central America, to deter a planned invasion by the brutal military junta then ruling Guatemala, in 1972.
was about a much more obscure event, which succeeded in that no invasion and no shots happened.
Now a new book has been published, Storm Front
. (Best to search with 'Rowland White' otherwise you get links to an odious and notorious Neo Nazi site).
This time he gives an account, with all the usual detail, context and gripping writing, of an action in Oman in 1972.
In the early 70's Oman was fighting an insurgency backed by China (then latterly the USSR
), on a nation whose position in the Persian Gulf made it of vital strategic importance.
Prior to 1970, Oman was run - if you can call it that - by an elderly and reclusive Sultan, whose zero tolerance for any development to bring his nation into the 20th Century, was helping to fuel the insurgency.
In 1971, the last UK forces had left the Gulf region, however a toehold was still there, the RAF still had a base on an offshore island and in Oman itself.
But the real presence was with the British companies, contract and attached service personnel who were maintaining and largely flying the Oman AF
As well as SAS troopers who were assisting the Sultan's forces as part of BATT (British Army Training Team).
In 1970, the Sultan's son, part educated in the UK, who wanted to develop his nation, deposed his father. With more than a nod and a wink from the British. (Though the UK government were keen to downplay any UK combat role by British nationals).
However, the SAS 'trainers' increasingly found themselves in actual combat in the often desolate interior, as did pilots flying the tip of the Sultan's spear, the BAC 167 Strikemaster.
The Strikemaster was a modified Jet Provost trainer, better avionics, uprated engine, two 7.62mm machine guns with 500lb bombs and rockets carried on wing pylons. A decent export success in the 60's and 70's.
Other air assets were Italian built Bell choppers, 205 Hueys and 206 Jet Rangers, fixed wing transport was by DHC Beavers and newly delivered Short Skyvan transports.
The centrepiece of the book is the battle of Mirbat in July 1972.
An old fort housed a 9 man SAS BATT, with some Omani personnel.
The enemy, known by the Omani term for 'enemy', the Adoo
attacked this outpost in strength.
With the Omani staff largely non combatants, it was 9 SAS men against 300 Adoo. Who had safe havens in the neighbouring Yemen.
Aside from their rifles, all the SAS had was one old 25 Pounder field gun, a .50 Browning machine gun, a 7.62mm GPMG and one 81mm mortar. The Adoo also had their own mortars. As well as Chinese supplied 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
The cloudbase was very low, which would prevent any support from the Strike master if it did not lift in time.
So began a desperate and bloody defence by the SAS against overwhelming odds, which has gone down as one of the great actions by this famous regiment.
has all the features of a Rowland White book, impressive details, often funny anecdotes, a broad sweep of the larger issues around the Omani insurgency, a roll call of colourful characters including the pilots and culminating in the white knuckle ride of the Battle Of Mirbat.
As with his two previous works, this book which I've just finished, has my highest possible recommendation.
(White is the only author who I just cannot wait for the paperback edition, UK readers are advised that in major stores you can get this first hardback edition for half the jacket price, as I did).
http://www.booksattransworld.co.uk/c...b=twmain.txt&eqisbndata=0593064348[Edited 2011-08-08 11:55:47]
A not bad reconstruction of the battle (obviously 'contains spoilers')
[Edited 2011-08-08 11:57:49]