55 Field Surgical Team RAMC

Peter Isaacs

“Immediately following the 1976 monsoon the Regiment took part in the hastily mounted anti-incursion operation as part of an attempt to stop a PLFO special force reaching the Eastern Area.  FF were deployed in blocking positions west of the Hornbeam Line and it was during this period NQB Mohd Ali and Raa’id Peter Isaacs were sadly injured on old adoo mines.This operation was succeeded by the 1976 post-monsoon operation Op”Hashish Mahrouk” which we mounted in the Eastern Area in conjunction with KJ.There were no contacts with the adoo during the period and we established three positions in the area of the Jebel Hashib feature”
SAF Newsletter No 20 1977

Peter Isaacs came upon this website in November 2008 and has been good enough to give his permission for the following e-mails to be published. I have taken the liberty of inserting some hyperlinks into the body of his text.  Adobe Reader is required for some links.  

Dear Bill,

I have just spent the past couple of hours reading the 55  FST website.

I am case 4 of John Soul’s contribution on “War Casualties”

I met him a a party given by a RM officer near  Chichester in the early 1980s. Until he introduced himself, I didn’t know he was the person who,  together with his team had saved my life. If you are in touch with any of them, I would be grateful if you would pass on my very best wishes and thanks for the past thirty two years of active life.

The incident occurred on 16 October 1976 and was of course, life changing. What might have become of me had I been rather more careful on that fateful day, of course I don’t know, but the team re-assembled me sufficiently well  to be able to  enjoy an active and interesting life thereafter.

After evacuation from Salalah together with case no 3 on John’s list, I spent four months in the Limb Unit of Queen Mary’s Hospital Roehampton, then about two moths at Headley Court. I returned to my Regiment in Oman in June 1977 but in October of that year was asked if I would take up a new job in the Oman Embassy in London. I had another short stint at Queen Marys in November for plastic surgery but took up the job in early 1978 and continued in post for the following nine years. .Since then I have worked in the international security industry and also spent about ten years managing land mine clearance programmes in Angola, Bosnia Herzegovina and Tajikistan.

 I retired from full time work a year ago in Central Asia where I was managing the European Union’s border management and drug action programmes.  A large dose of boredom coupled by the current economic hiccup has nudged me back to work and I have just returned from a short visit to Afghanistan – working for ***********; the subject of document 18 in your web site archive – “Bullet wound to the skull”. He too is hale and hearty. I suppose the point I am making is that “every cloud has a silver lining” it has been a interesting 32 years and all thanks to John Soul and his team.

I note that Brian Spice was a member of the 55 FST team during your time in Oman. It was my sad duty to arrange his funeral in Croydon in the mid 1980s. After leaving the RAF, Brian stayed on in SAF on contract. He was the acting MO of the Frontier Force for two years in 1973 – 4. He then transferred to KJ on its formation in 1975 and remained with that Regiment until about 1976 as assistant MO to the succession of Indian Army doctors.Brian remained with the SAF Medical Service until shortly before he died. Brian was a fearless and dedicated individual. In March 1975, he arrived by resupply helicopter at my position west of the Hornbeam Line in response to a call for medical assistance. He asked me where to go, I pointed west and said “towards the firing”. Without a word, Brian walked off towards our C and B companies with just his medical pack and a water bottle. He arrived at B Company who were engaged in a fierce fire fight, and just got in with treating the casualties. It was a strange funeral – the officiating priest had no idea who Brian was nor whom the six pallbearers were. We all knew him well and gave him an appropriate send off. Brian had no known relatives.

Best regards, Peter Isaacs
Dear Bill

I’m not sure that I understand the medical jargon, but the procedure  obvoiusly worked for me!

I remained conscious from the time the mine exploded until I arrived at the FST pad about 90 minutes later. I was married with two small boys at the time and thought that if I didn’t stay conscious, I would probably die. I was aware that I had lost my right leg quite high as before I was bound up, I could feel blood spurting onto my left thigh. I also knew that my right forearm was hanging off as I held it up and saw it with my relatively undamaged right eye.  (I am blind in in the left eye) The other factor that kept me awake was that I was  O negative blood group  and was determined that I should tell someone on arrival at the FST. I remember saying this as I was carried into the shade of the FST.  Mission accomplished, I drifted off and into the capable hands of  John Soul and his team. I was of course fortunate that there were no other casualties. Staff Sergeant Ali Mohammed whom I had gone to recover after he had trodden on a mine about nine  hours earlier, had been dealt with by the time that I turned up. But the FST team must have been tired. I know our Indian Army  RMO Capt Dipu Ganguli was as he had accompanied me on the recovery mission the night before. He stayed with  Ali Mohammed on the casevac helicopter and assisted the FST team with both Ali Mohammed and later, me.

 The other heros of that day were my Baluch soldiers who left the safety of a pile of rocks and bound me up with their shemaghs. We had used all our shell dressings on Ali Mohammed. After I was evacuated, a sapper mine clearance team arrived and found nine other PMN mines around the pile of rocks. One had been trodden on but failed to detonate. Those soldiers knew there were likely to be other mines in the vicinity (that’s why we had moved to the rocks during the night after Ali Mohammed’s evacuation) but they ignored the risk to help me. In the following years, I met several people who said I had their blood in me. The call had gone out and SOAF had flown some blood from the North as well as local collection in Salalah.

 Nowadays I suppose the complication of blood “on the hoof” is HIV infection. In 2006 I was running a mine clearance operation in Angola. A Pakistani and a Uruguayan Captain were both badly injured on a PMN mine and evacuated to the nearest  hospital. They were both given blood transfusions whilst being stabilised and before eventual casevac to South Africa. I have often wondered if they were infected by HIV as it was prevalent in Angola and no blood was screened at that time.

On adoo medical arrangements, we know very little although there are many ex adoo  retired and “living quietly” in Salalah who could no doubt explain; and a few are still serving as elderly members of the Firqat.  I was in Oman in June this year  with a party of SAF Association “vets”. Surprisingly, given the high birth rate and lower infant mortality, there are fewer people living on the Jebal now than there were in the 1970s. I suppose the reason is that like most people, the jebalis like an easier life. Another interesting fact is that SAF launched an anit illegal immigrant operation late last year and rounded up 8,000 Somalis who were working for Jebalis and looking after their cattle! Somalis look just like Jebalis. A bit like prosperous Brits employing illegal Filipino domestic staff  I suppose.

In December 1975, my company searched a cave overlooking the Wadi Saiq not far from the Sherishitti complex  We found dressings, a few IV drips and various pills plus some packs of sanitary towels and some Iranian literature. The latter  appeared to confirm the presence of at least two Iranian female nurses that the intelligence branch had reported. They must have retreated back across the border as no other evidence of their presence was found. There were no medical supplies in the Sherishitti cave complex or in the larger stores caves in the wadi Shinzahat nearby – just ammunition!

I mid 1976, I accompanied a recently surrendered adoo into the Wadi Ashoq (passing the same area where I was soon to tread on a mine). He insisted that I leave the two platoons with us behind,  and accompany him up a side wadi. I thought  there was probably a party of adoo nearby who were considering surrendering. By that time the Hornbeam line had been abandoned and my company had been activated from Raysut following intelligence information and the appearance of this particular individual at Raysut during a Jumma party!

He left me for about half an hour and then returned alone. Perhaps as a “consolation prize” he then led me to a quite large cache of medical supplies hidden under a large rock overhang. There were many IV drips in quite new packaging (I can’t remember the country of origin), shell dressings, and various boxes of pills – again I cannot remember country of origin. 

When FF were maning the Hornbeam line in early 75, I had found the remains of two addoo in separate locations who had activated SAF laid mines. The bodies  had been “walled up” under rock overhangs. My conclusion is that any addoo who activated a mine died whatever the state of their injuries. I doubt  many would have  survived gun shot wounds let alone air delivered bomb, rocket, artillery or mortar blast. I can’t remember meeting any surrendered adoo who had survived serious wounds. The adoo were always very determined to recover their dead and wounded. If they were injured within a few kms of the PDRY border, they may have received reasonable medical treatment in Hauf before being evacuated to Mukullah and thence to Aden. I doubt if there were any successful evacuations to the PDRY from the central or eastern areas, but this is pure speculation on my part.

Now that Alastair  Darling has stopped burbling away, I suppose I shall have to return to today and see if I can survive economically this time!

Best regards, 


Dear Bill,

But back to Dhofar………I was told subsequently that my anaesthetist was the team dentist. Didn’t he do well!

Your explanation makes me wonder how anyone survives blast injuries.For a couple of years I kept in touch with the team that treated both Ali Mohammad and me at Queen Marys . Brian Andrews (now long retired) was the Orthopaedic surgeon. He told me that infection was initially their major concern but emphasised that the FST team had done an outstanding job.

 Brian removed some pieces of plastic from my left leg in about 1988,  and I had a similar procedure six months ago, this time it was a bone splinter. In both instances, cellulitis developed quite suddenly. In 1988, I was hustled off to see Brian Andrews very quickly and he operated the following day. In the most recent instance, my GP arranged immediate hospitalisation and I spent a week in an NHS hospital being fed large quantities of antibiotics. The inflammation subsided and I was discharged but it didn’t go away, so my GP arranged for me to see  an orthopod. He took an x ray (not done in the NHS hospital despite my request and suggestion as to the cause of the infection), and operated 48 hours later. Splinter removed, infection ceased! 

Please  make whatever use you wish of  my observations and of course, please include my thanks to the many people involved in saving my life.

 The Soviet / Chinese PMN mine which is still the most common type of anti personnel mine encountered worldwide, very often kills its victims because of the amount of explosive it contains. . That makes it  less effective in causing disruption as it is easy to leave a dead body behind, whereas  recovering and treating a victim is far more costly in terms of resources required  For that reason, more recently developed AP mines have less explosive content and are designed to disable, not kill – evil really, but realistic.

 I have already mentioned my Baluch soldiers who provided immediate care but I must also thank Majors Mike Smith and Clive Ward who arrived on the casevac helicopter, walked across the mined area and then carried  me back to the helicopter, the pilots Steve Watson and Paul Braithwaite, John Soul’s FST team, the donors who gave blood, the SOAF C130 crew who flew Ali Mohammad and me to Masirah, the SOAF staff who arranged for an RAF VC10 to be diverted to Masirah, the RAF medical team who quite by chance happened to be aboard, the  VC10 flight crew  that waited 24 hours for us at Masirah (with a load of families bound from Singapore to UK).  the Customs staff at RAF Brize Norton who failed to find the bottles of booze the medical team hid under my blankets, the RAF ambulance crew who got lost en-route to Queen Marys Roehampton and to whom I offered some cash to pay for petrol in the event they needed to fill up. The Metropolitan Police car crew which found us and then escorted us with flashing blue lights and siren to Queen Marys. Registrar John Belsted who had been called from his bed to receive “two  blokes the RAF are  delivering in about an hour”. My wife and brother in law were there in the reception area having been warned by telephone call from my CO Jonathon Salusbury-Trelawny. How he had managed to get a connection from Salalah I do not know.

And then of course, Brian Andrews and the other specialists (eyes / hands / urinary)  whose hands I passed through during the following months, the volunteer crew of the Isle of Wight ambulance who collected me from Queen Marys and took me home for Christmas where I met my two sons again.

Finally to the Commandant and staff at RAF Headley Court, particularly the Commandant who was tempted to throw me out after I hit the fire alarm during a rowdy dining in night in February 1977.  He said I could be prosecuted for wasting the fire brigade’s time, I knew its members would be more interested in a couple of cases of beer.

The staff at Headley Court taught me that I could do a useful job and I was then able to persuade others too. I am eternally grateful to Colonel Malcolm Ward the then Director of Medical Services in Oman  who decided that I was fit for duty and permitted me to rejoin the Frontier Force in Dhofar

Whilst in Oman earlier this year, I was talking to an American helicopter pilot who was en route to an oil field in Yemen. He asked me a question no one had asked before “Do you consider yourself lucky to have survived, or unlucky to have trodden on the mine?”After a moment, I replied, “Lucky to have survived”. Thanks to all those people mentioned above, I have subsequently lived  an interesting life, and thanks to the Omani Government in the late 70s to mid 80s, was able to afford to educate my two sons. I  now enjoy the company of seven grandchildren.

I hope I have given something of my life to the less fortunate, in return for the skill and kindness  so many others have given me.

Best regards,


There are further bits of information on mines in the Royal Engineers section of this website.