The Trucial Oman Scouts Were the British Army's Last Desert …

For most people, the United Arab Emirates conjures up images of lavish, oil-funded lifestyles, luxury cars and oddly shaped skyscrapers. But fewer than 50 years ago, the country then known as the Trucial States was a harsh, undeveloped desert outpost of the British Empire, with few roads, no telephones. It was a place where disagreements could rapidly escalate into blood feuds.

Keeping the peace in this far-flung land was the responsibility of the Trucial Oman Scouts, a paramilitary force raised by the British in 1951, initially making use of recruits from the Jordanian Arab Legion from which the Scouts adopted its trademark red and white shemaghs. The unit, headquartered at a Royal Air Force camp in Sharjah was initially staffed by 30 people, mostly British officers but also local recruits. By the time the UAE gained its independence in 1971, the force had swelled to 2,500.

The Trucial Oman Scouts was armed much like any British infantry battalion of the time was, with .303 SMLE rifles, .38 Webley revolvers, Bren LMGs and small, three-inch mortars, as well as Land Rovers, Dodge Power Wagons and Ferret armored cars. Just as important, the British core of the Scouts was armed with an adventurous spirit and a desire to be a part of one of the British Army s last opportunities for Lawrence of Arabia-type soldiering. Among these men was Hugh Nicklin a self-described Child of the Raj born in British India who volunteered for the Scouts after a sleepy stint with the British Army of the Rhine.

Germany was pretty dull, Nicklin said. I had already served in Borneo in 63, and that was active service, with a shooting war going on. I was posted to Germany, and had been there about a year, and I was thinking that the winters were pretty cold and we re just playing pretend war, that the Russians were going to come over the horizon in their tanks and blast us with tactical nuclear weapons.

It was all pretend and I thought it wasn t real soldiering, so a couple of us wondered what else we could do, Nicklin added. It would be nice to go somewhere a bit warmer, a bit more exciting. We d all seen Lawrence of Arabia , which had recently come out, and was quite romantic and very inspiring.

There was a chance in the British Army to get that kind of experience through the Trucial Oman Scouts. We volunteered, were accepted, and flew out to Sharjah, and that was the start of my TOS adventure. Hugh Nicklin photos Nicklin, a member of the Royal Corps of Signals, explained that his unit provided the only 24/7 communications system available in the Emirates at the time.

There were no telephones in the country. There were no roads. You had to cross the sand, or the rocks up in the mountains.

Traveling was fairly rugged. The only network of comms between our various outposts scattered throughout Trucial Oman were little radio sets, with which they would communicate with Sharjah, all in Morse code. Despite not speaking English, the Arab troops many of whom were trained at a boy s school operated by the TOS became extremely proficient at using signals equipment, Nicklin said.

Some of the brightest lads became signalers, he added. They really took to it. We taught them to that when they hear a certain sound, it would correspond to a symbol, the entire Morse code alphabet.

They d hear it and write down that particular symbol. It was actually beneficial, as one of the problems with writing down Morse code is that you anticipate what the word would be, and you re invariably wrong. You lose the plot.

It s an advantage not to know exactly what you re writing down. Despite being a peacetime posting, the Scouts was not without its dangers. In November 1952, two British soldiers were shot dead while investigating illegal ammunition sales to Saudi Arabia.

Three years later in October 1955, two Arab Scouts troopers were killed during an operation to expel Saudi forces from Buraimi Oasis, which the Saudis had occupied since 1952. Additionally, Scouts detachments deployed to Oman to fight local insurgencies there. For the most part, though, Nicklin said the Trucial Oman Scouts was protected by the respect it had garnered among the locals and by its well-developed intelligence network.

You had to be just a little bit aware, but generally speaking the Trucial Oman Scouts were highly respected among the locals, as we were considered above bribery, fair, and people who always tried to come up with a workable solution, Nicklin said. This was quite unlike if you were in somewhere like Aden, where you really were worried about everybody, as there was a dangerous insurrection at the time. One of the most common Scouts missions was to quickly deploy to prevent disputes over a well, for example from spilling into violence and protracted blood feuds between tribes.

We d try and get there as soon as possible once the trouble started, before shooting started. We d sit down and chat with all the people involved, spending a lot of time talking it all over. Nicklin added that the Scouts adapted the hearts and minds techniques learned by the British Army in Malaya and Borneo to the deserts of the Trucial States.

You don t go in there guns blazing. You sit down and chat. It was important for the TOS to understand what was going on.

We had district intelligence officers stationed in Fujairah another emirate and places, just to listen to the gossip. People would say when they knew if there was a bunch of people running guns near the border, or if there was a camel train coming through with some suspect stuff on it. Our information was pretty good and it was all relayed to the political agent.

Nicklin, who left the Army in 1970 after a nine-year career, has recently put together a collection of memories of the Scouts entitled Are You the Man? to preserve the memories of what he said was a special time in the history of the British Army. That was a unique time, and there will never be the like of that again.

The world has all moved on too much.

The Trucial Oman Scouts Were the British Army's Last Desert …

Gallery of a royal visit: 16 pictures showing Prince Andrew's day in …

What s up? The Duke of York sees work on high at York Minster. Photograph: Duncan Lomax / 1 York gave a sunny welcome to Prince Andrew on Wednesday (May 13) as the royal who bears our name toured city landmarks.

The Duke of York opened both the newly renovated York Army Museum on Tower Street and the new development at York Racecourse. And he met the skilled craftsmen and women restoring York Minster. Touring the Minster Rebecca Thompson, Superintendent of Works, accompanies the Duke.

Photograph: Duncan Lomax / In stylish branded headgear, Prince Andrew learns more about the Minster restoration. Photograph: Duncan Lomax / 2 3 Prince Andrew has been patron of the York Minster Fund since 1989. During his visit he saw how much of the fund s money has been spent, restoring and conserving the cathedral s East End and Great East Window.

He toured the Minster s Stoneyard and the York Glaziers Trust to speak with the stonemasons, carvers and glaziers working on the project, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. In the Minster Stoneyard, where the magic happens. Photograph: Duncan Lomax / 4 Rebecca Thompson, Superintendent of Works at York Minster, said it was an honour to meet the prince and explain what was happening at the medieval masterpiece.

York Minster is a masterpiece in stained glass and stone but its 800-year-old fabric requires constant care and attention to protect it from the elements and decay. The work undertaken as part of York Minster Revealed will help ensure this medieval masterpiece is protected for many generations to come. At the army museum The pipes of the Royal Dragoon Guards ready to welcome the Duke at the York Army Museum.

Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD Over on Tower Street, Prince Andrew officially opened the York Army Museum, the name of the newly refurbished regimental museum of The Royal Dragoon Guards, The Prince of Wales s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and The Yorkshire Regiment. After receiving a 1 million Heritage Lottery grant last year, the former Territorial Army drill hall in has been transformed. The prince is impressed by the museum s horse and rider.

Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD The Duke clearly enjoying his visit to the York Army Museum. Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD The attraction now features a 7m-long dining table with lift-up lids containing a mix of interactive activities. Visitors can also see sculptures of a cavalry horse, a Sherman tank and many military artefacts and collections.

Major (Retired) Michael Dillon with the picture of him as a younger man at the museum. Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD The Duke of York meets various individuals involved in the development of the new museum. Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD A former military man himself, the Duke listens intently.

Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD A veteran of the former Prince of Wales s Own Regiment of Yorkshire, Major (Retired) Michael Dillon, 84, was introduced to the prince. Maj Dillon, who now lives in Bispham, Lancashire, features in one of the museum photographs. It shows him aged 35, hot and dusty on operations in the mountains of Aden in 1966.

Unveiling the plaque with a flourish. Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD Prince Andrew presents the first Duke of York Medal to Major David Prew. Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD And a more unofficial moment in the presentation.

Photograph: Sgt Si Longworth / MOD In his role as Colonel in Chief of The Yorkshire Regiment, Prince Andrew presented the first Duke of York Medal. This award for an outstanding contribution to the regiment went to Major David Prew, 50, of 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. Over to the races The Duke opens the new weighing room at York Racecourse Prince Andrew joined the thousands gathered at York Racecourse for the opening day of both the Dante Meeting and the season.

He officially opened the new Weighing Room, the key part of the wider development of the northern end of the racecourse. A view of the rather splendid new weighing room at the racecourse The Prince presents the prizes to the winners of the Duke Of York Clipper Stakes Prince Andrew later presented the prize to the winners of the richest race of the afternoon, the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes. The race was won by outsider Glass Office at odds of 40/1, trained by David Simcock and ridden by Jim Crowley.

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Gallery of a royal visit: 16 pictures showing Prince Andrew's day in …

Hundreds welcome Irish Guards to town

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29/08/15 Belfast 5-day weather forecast Close X 3 Saturday 29 Aug Heavy showers Temp High 19 c Low 10 c Wind From South west Speed 10 mph Sunday 30 Aug Sunny spells Temp High 17 c Low 10 c Wind From South west Speed 6 mph Monday 31 Aug Light showers Temp High 15 c Low 9 c Wind From North Speed 8 mph Tuesday 1 Sep Sunny spells Temp High 15 c Low 9 c Wind From North west Speed 10 mph Wednesday 2 Sep Cloudy Temp High 14 c Low 8 c Wind From North Speed 8 mph Like us 4 Follow us 5 Place your Ad 6 Subscribe 7 Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland – 8th October 2011 Mandatory Credit – Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. rish Guards take part in a Church Service, Parade and Civic Reception hosted by Ards Borough Council after returning from serving in Afghanistan. Soldiers from the Irish Guards take the salute during the parade in Newtownards town centre.

08:32 Monday 10 October 2011 HUNDREDS of well-wishers packed Newtownards town centre on Saturday morning in a show of appreciation for troops returning from Afghanistan. Around 150 members of the Irish Guards and the band of the 1st Battalion took part in the homecoming parade following a service in St Mark s Church. The soldiers received a rousing ovation as they took the salute from the Lord Lieutenant of Co Down in front of Conway Square.

Every vantage point around High Street and Conway Square was filled with cheering supporters by the time the parade passed by shortly before mid-day. The day of reflection and celebration began with a poignant tribute to the sacrifice of the Irish Guards since 1900. As the opening processional hymn ended at St Mark s, Guardsman J Davies lit a candle of remembrance to the sound of a lament played on the bagpipes by Pipe Major GWH Loe.

Many members of the regiment including commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika played an active role in the service, reading from the Scriptures and reciting prayers dedicated to the work of the Irish Guards in Afghanistan. Dundonald-born Regimental Sergeant Major Steve McMichael concluded the service by reading the regimental collect of the Irish Guards. Among those in Newtownards to support the troops was Strangford MP Jim Shannon.

Mr Shannon said the historic garrison town has a particular affinity with the Irish Guards. There s a saying around here that these soldiers are the Guards from the Ards . You can see how much the people here love the regiment and many here will have close connections with the Irish Guards.

The DUP MP added: I know the proud aunt of RSM Steve McMichael, who lives in Ballywalter, and there are so many more connections with the borough. This has been a homecoming parade in every sense of the word and we couldn t be happier that the last year of planning for this event has paid off with a great day. Ards mayor Mervyn Oswald joined Lord Lieutenant David Lindsay on the podium, flanked by two flag bearers from the Irish Guards, for the march past which included members of the Irish Guards Association and their colour party.

Looking on was Ards man Joseph Boyd. Mr Boyd said it was an absolute privilege to have the troops in his home town and described the march past as a wonderful spectacle for the supporters. It s very important for the troops out in places like Afghanistan to know that we re behind them every step of the way.

That s why we re here today and just look at the turnout the whole thing couldn t be better, he said. The Irish Guards have done this country proud out in Afghanistan, but I think Ards has done them proud today too, added Mr Boyd. Three Irish Guards lost their lives as a result of enemy action during the latest tour of Afghanistan.

Major Matthew Collins, Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan and Guardsman Christopher Davies were all killed in action before the regiment returned to the UK in the spring. While on their last tour of the war- torn region the Irish Guards played a crucial role in mentoring the Afghan National Army, instilling discipline and professionalism in its soldiers in preparation for the eventual handover of security to the Afghan armed forces. Another local man cheering on the troops parading in Newtownards was John Wilson.

Mr Wilson said he it was very moving and a great honour to have the regiment on parade in his home town. The people of Northern Ireland can t thank these soldiers enough for what they do, he said. They are some of the best soldiers in the world and it s something we should all be very proud of that they are basically an Ulster regiment.

Personally I wish they weren t fighting a war in Afghanistan as historically it s a bit of a nightmare trying to do anything constructive over there and has been for centuries but when these lads are told to go they go and they always give a great account of themselves. I would have been disgusted if there was a poor turnout this morning but thankfully the people have come out in their hundreds, and rightly so. They deserve it.

Immediately following the parade through the Co Down town a civic reception was held in their honour at the Queen s Hall. A gala dinner was also held at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast on Friday to raise funds for the regiment s benevolent fund. Regimental Sergeant Major Steve McMichael spoke to the News Letter yesterday as the weekend of celebrations drew to a close.

RSM McMichael said he was overwhelmed by the reception his men had received during the trip home. Although the majority of those who came across are from Northern Ireland, there are quite a few from other places visiting here for the first time. I honestly don t think people could have given us a warmer welcome, he said.

It has been fantastic to see how much the public support both ourselves and the Royal Irish, RSM McMichael added.

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Hundreds welcome Irish Guards to town



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