The Armed Forces of Aden 1839-1967

The Armed Forces of Aden 1839-1967

by Cliff Lord and David Birtles

Helion & Company (26 Willow Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 1UE), 2000. Pp. 112. Illus. Appendices. Maps. Glossary. Index. Bibliog. Hb. £29.95. ISBN 1 874622 40 x

At first sight the price seems somewhat daunting for what is a very slim volume of little over 100 pages of A5. But there is an immense amount of information tucked away between the covers. Every single unit to have been raised in the former Aden Protectorates from 1839 until independence is listed and described. From the First Yemen Infantry used to keep the Turks at bay during the first World War to the Zeylah Field Force used in Somaliland in 1884, they are all here. Sensibly, most coverage is given to the major units familiar to anyone who served in South Arabia from the 1950s onwards: the Aden Protectorate Levies (APL — later the Federal Regular Army and, finally, the South Arabian Army); the Government Guards —later the Federal National Guard (FNG 1), and the Tribal Guard — later to become FNG 2. Then in the former Eastern Aden Protectorate, the Kathiri Armed Constabulary, the Mukalla Regular Army, and the better known Hadlirami Bedouin Legion (inspired by the Jordan Arab Legion); and in Aden colony, the Aden Police and the paramilitary Armed Police. State police forces are also listed, and some oddities such as the Imad Levy raised in 1915 to fight in the hinterland which at that time was mostly dominated by the Turks and their allies. British units, whether stationed for long periods in Aden, or rotated for shorter terms of duty such as the 1964/5 Radfan campaign, are also mentioned.

Extensive appendices supplement the main text, describing insignia (cap badges and shoulder flashes), campaign service medals and other decorations, and ranks (my favourite always being the ‘Bash Shawoosh’ or Staff Sergeant in the pre-1957 APL!). There are also good maps and a comprehensive bibliography Almost the best feature of this well turned out volume are the excellent photographs, many from the late Jim Ellis’s collection, scattered throughout the book. Jim Ellis wrote the Foreword and obviously gave much assistance to the two authors; it is fitting that the book is dedicated to his memory.

This book is a valuable addition to any Aden archive. ‘A supplement volume’ is apparently in preparation and the co-authors are asking for relevant inaterial.There are stirring tales yet to be recounted about the exploits of some of these tiny forces, so less well known to the general public than their more illustrious counterparts elsewhere in the former British Empire. Aden may have been a colonial disaster, but that does not detract from the work of so many officers and men who served a distant King and Queen with loyalty and fortitude.

Peter Hinchcliffe

Author: 
Cliff Lord and David Birtles