The Royal Engineers

Traditionally the RASC were linked with the RAMC who regarded them as their particular friends no doubt because they kept the supplies coming forward and the casualties going backwards. They of course had been amalgamated with elements of the RE by the time that the “Johnston” FST was in Dhofar in 1972.

The FST was, by chance, in great need of useful friends at that time especially those with the skills and the services provided by the RE.

The early FSTs had erected or had erected for them several tents for their exclusive use. The “operating theatre” was an “F Assembly” that was ventilated with a blower that had been used on aircraft. Opening the chest, abdomens and heads of wounded servicemen in the heat and dust of that tent and hoping to achieve a favourable outcome was both unrealistic and an abuse of any promise that the injured would be treated in reasonably adequate circumstances.

Somehow, the stories vary how, a Twynham hut was reassigned from its intended use for use by the FST. For one reason or another its transformation from a collection of parcelled girders and aluminium sheets to a habitable and functioning operating theatre had to be done in haste. The FST needed some “new best friends” and the RE stood up to the plate.

A multidisiplinary squad of sappers laid not only the concrete plinth for the operating theatre but plinths for the X-ray tent and the Path lab as well. For good measure they connected them with concrete pathways; try pushing a trolley over Omani gravel. Running water, electricity and simple air conditioning completed the package.

A huge “Thank You” to the Royal Engineers from the RAMC.

The successful outcomes following the attack which wounded so many in the officers’ mess and the casualties from the battle at Mirbat were in no small way achieved on account of the improved working conditions provided when the sappers erected and furnished the new FST operating theatre.

Forty five years down the line Sid Pass, a former sapper, has come up with a series of photographs that he took of the work that the sappers undertook in Dhofar and has generously made them available for the website.

A great number of the photographs centre around the construction of the Hornbeam line with many photographs of the Wessex helicopters and the Augusta-Bell Hueys which were used to transport the men and materiel up on to the jebel.

There are also a fair few photographs of the daily living conditions on the jebel, living conditions which appear to have been extremely harsh.

There was also a small number of RE in Salalah who inarguably were vital to morale on the base – The “Posties”. An incoming plane with the post was anticipated with anxiety by each and everyone. I have included many comments and photographs provided by John Jackett who was one of the RAF Salalah RE “Posties”.

Most of the photographs were provided by Sid Pass and some of his R.E. colleagues in the spring of 2017. Once processed and uploaded no changes have been made to them. The webpage was completed by Easter and no further photographs or comment has been added. Should anybody wish to attach any comments to any of the photographs please contact the webmaster.