Oman & Dhofar

Oman Background As a regional commercial power in the nineteenth century, Oman held territories on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of East Africa, in Mombasa along the coast of East Africa, and until 1958 in Gwadar (in present-day Pakistan) on the coast of the Arabian Sea. When its East African possessions were lost, Oman withdrew into isolationism in the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Another of the gulf states with long-standing ties to the British, Oman became important in the British-French rivalry at the end of the eighteenth century, when Napoleonic France challenged the British Empire for control of the trade routes to the East. Although nominally a fully independent sultanate, Oman enjoyed the protection of the empire without being, de jure, in the category of a colony or a protected state. With its external defences guaranteed and its overseas territories lost, the sultanate had no need for armed forces other than mercenaries to safeguard the personal position of the sultan.  In 1952, when the Saudis occupied Omani territory near the Al Buraymi Oasis, a British-led force from the Trucial Coast fought the incursion and retook the territory for the sultan. Later in the same decade, the sultan again called on British troops to aid in putting down a rebellion led by the former imam of Oman, who attempted to establish a separate state free of rule from Muscat. British ground and air forces dispatched to aid the Muscat and Oman Field Force succeeded in overcoming the rebels in early 1959. Nevertheless, instead of a minor intertribal affair in Oman's hinterland, the rebellion became an international incident, attracting wide sympathy and support among members of the League of Arab States (Arab League) and the UN.  An agreement between Sultan Said ibn Taimur Al Said and the British government in 1958 led to the creation of the Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF) and the promise of British assistance in military development. The agreement included the detailing of British officers and confirmed the existing rights of Britain's Royal Air Force to use facilities at Salalah in Dhofar region and at Masirah, an island off the Omani coast in the Arabian Sea.  Sultan Said ibn Taimur was ultraconservative and opposed to change of any kind. Kindled by Arab nationalism, a rebellion broke out in 1964 in Dhofar, the most backward and exploited area of Oman. Although begun as a tribal separatist movement against a reactionary ruler, the rebellion was backed by leftist elements in the PDRY. Its original aim was the overthrow of Said ibn Taimur, but, by 1967, under the name of the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf--which in 1974 was changed to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO)-- it adopted much wider goals. Supported by the Soviet Union through the PDRY, it hoped to spread revolution throughout the conservative regimes of the Arabian Peninsula.  Said ibn Taimur's reprisals against the Dhofari people tended to drive them into the rebel camp. In 1970, as the Dhofari guerrilla attacks expanded, Said ibn Taimur's son, Qabus ibn Said Al Said, replaced his father in a coup carried out with the assistance of British officers. Qabus ibn Said, a Sandhurst graduate and veteran of British army service, began a program to modernize the country and to develop the armed forces. In addition to British troops and advisers, the new sultan was assisted by troops sent by the shah of Iran. Aid also came from India, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Trucial Coast, all interested in ensuring that Oman did not become a "people's republic." An Iranian brigade, along with artillery and helicopters, arrived in Dhofar in 1973. After the arrival of the Iranians, the combined forces consolidated their positions on the coastal plain and moved against the guerrillas' mountain stronghold. By stages, the Omanis and Iranians gradually subdued the guerrilla forces, pressing their remnants closer and closer to the PDRY border. In December 1975, having driven the PFLO from Omani territory, the sultan declared that the war had been won. Total Omani, British, and Iranian casualties during the final two-and-one-half years of the conflict were about 500.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

264 SAS Signals Squadron

Cpl Peter Armour 27th May 2005


Cpl Peter Armour, 264 SAS Signals Squadron, on 27 May 2005 at Seeb, Oman. Cpl Armour collapsed on a training run on 18 May 2005 and subsequently died from heat-related injuries. In a statement his wife Hayley Armour said: "We are left empty by the sudden loss of Pete from our lives. He was a popular soldier, loving husband and dedicated father. Passionate about the Army, he embraced every opportunity and challenge that came his way, whether in work or playing rugby. His memory will live with us forever. The family would like to request that they and his friends are allowed to grieve together in peace." Cpl Armour was from Glasgow, aged 26, and married with a daughter.

Sgt Kevin Andrew BUTTERTON Aged 32 S.A.S. Died while on duty 29th July 2002

[ Sgt Kevin Andrew BUTTERTON  ]

[ Sgt Kevin Andrew BUTTERTON ]


Why not visit our cemetery (Special Air Service) which is a living tribute to the memory of those members who gave their lives in the finest of traditions. MAY THEIR SACRIFICES  NEVER BE FORGOTTEN Please click here

Sgt Leslie BARKER Aged 34 S.A.S. Died while on duty 21st November 1981

[ Sgt Leslie BARKER ]

L/Cpl Anthony KENT Aged 26 S.A.S.  Died while on duty 13th March 1974

L/Cpl David Ronald RAMSDEN Aged 26 S.A.S.  Died while on duty 9th March 1972

The attached photographs were taken with the patrol’s (C (Special Patrol) Company, 2 Para) 16mm still camera after a joint exercise with Guards (Independent) Parachute Company in Cyprus in 1970. L/Cpl “Ronnie” Ramsden was my patrol commander and is on the left in the first photograph and second from the left in the second.

Tpr Walter CARTER Aged 30 S.A.S. Died while on duty 27th January 1959

Cpl Kevin Alexander COLLUM Aged 29  Royal Logistic Corps Died while on duty 2nd November 2001

Signalman Robert Thomas GRATTAN Aged 18 Royal Signals Died while on duty 23rd October 2001

Sgt Alfred Ernest GALLAGHER Aged 25 Royal Signals. Died while on duty 6th November 1975

Thanks to John Robertson ...

Special Forces Roll of Honour

Captain David Fowler MOIR Aged 26 Royal Signals. Died while off duty 25th July 1972

Signalman Michael David McNIFF Aged 20 Royal Signals. Died while on duty 12th April 1958

Lt/Colonel Jeremy Whincup Robert BLOTT Aged 53 Royal Dragoon Guards. Died while off duty 11th September 2000

WO1 (MG) Philip JONES Aged 36 Royal Artillery. Died while on duty 9th August 1990

Sgt Michael Anthony OATES Aged 37 Royal Artillery. Died while on duty 3rd May 1981

Gnr Herbert UPTON Aged 24 Royal Artillery. Died while on duty 19th April 1962

L/Bomb Philip GRANGER Aged 27 Royal Artillery. Died while on duty 19th April 1962

Tpr Alexander George BEMBRIDGE Aged 34 Royal Artillery / SAS. Died while on duty 27th January 1959

Captain David Martin AGNEW Aged 25 The Royal Highland Fusiliers. Died while on duty 06th June 1984

Sgt Roger LONGLAND Aged 30 The Royal Army Ordnance Corps Died while off duty 19th August 1977

The RAOC Cipher

Tpr Christopher HENNESSY PARA / SASDied while on duty 30th September 1975

L/Cpl Kenneth SMALL Aged 32 9 PARA Sqn RE / SAS Died while on duty 19th September 1975

Captain Simon GARTHWAITE Aged 26 Royal Irish Rangers / SAS Died while on duty 12th April 1974

Tpr Thomas Patrick Andrew TOBIN (DCM Post) Aged 25 A.C.C. / S.A.S. Died while on duty 5th October 1972

Tpr Thomas Patrick Andrew TOBIN

Sgt Talaiyasi LABALABA BEM (MID post) Aged 30  Royal Irish / S.A.S.

At 6am on 19 July 1972 the PFLOAG retaliated against the British, sending 250 well-armed men against the isolated British Army Training Team (BATT) house near Mirbat (commanded by Captain Mike Kealy). Against overwhelming odds, the nine SAS soldiers stationed there resisted fiercely, holding the PFLOAG back for several hours until reinforcements could arrive. Defeated, the PFLOAG withdrew at about 12:30pm. Sgt Labalaba was killed in action. He displayed notable bravery by continuing to fire the 25 pound (Mirbat Machine Gun) in spite of being seriously wounded. Labalaba's actions helped to keep the insurgents pinned down until a relief force arrived. Labalaba was awarded a posthumous Mention in Dispatches for his actions in the Battle of Mirbat, although some of his former comrades have campaigned for him to be award a posthumous Victoria Cross. This man saved not only his friends but died because of his bravery. Sgt Labalaba's grave lays unattended in St Martins Church Hereford without as much as a Rose for this past HEROICS. We should not forget our fallen hero and should celebrate this mans life.

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[ Mirbat Castle ]

Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi’s gallantry and service medals, including (far left) his DCM for the Battle of Mirbat

Fought in the Gulf state of Oman, Mirbat was the turning point of a secret war, and none of the details of what took place were made public at the time. British Special Forces were stationed in Oman to protect the pro-British Sultan and the Arabian oil fields from the threat of Communist guerrillas. The SAS’s tactics hinged on trying to capture the indigenous people’s “hearts and minds”. “We set up a lot of medical aid, for instance,” says Staff Sergeant Pete Winner, “and a lot of Adoo (Arabic for enemy forces) guerrrillas [switched allegiances to the] ‘Firqat’, the local fighters who were on our side.” At dawn on July 18, 1972, the nine SAS soldiers defending a fort just outside the town of Mirbat heard a series of explosions. “I remember saying, ‘Those are mortars’,” Hussey recalls. “Then Labalaba said, ‘It’s just a token bid to throw something at us.’ But minutes later we came under serious attack.” However, the 23-year-old Captain in charge, Mike Kealy, was wary of returning fire because the hundreds of men he could now see advancing could have been Firqat. “Shooting at them would have set [our relationship with the locals] back years,” says Winner. “And nobody ever thought hundreds of Communist shock troops would jump out of a trailer and advance in an extended line like something out of the First World War.”  When the SAS realised they had to return fire, the Adoo split into groups, concealing themselves in the desert landscape as they edged closer to the fort and its barbed-wire fence. Sgt Labalaba was single-handedly manning the SAS’s 25-pound gun, a job that usually requires at least four men. He radioed to say he’d been hit in the jaw. But despite terrible injuries, he courageously fought on to repel the guerillas until he was shot again and killed. Sgt Sekonaia Takavesi ran under a hail of gunfire to him, but was shot himself. With much of his back and shoulder damaged, “Tak” propped himself up against a wall and continued to return fire. Cpt Kealy and medic Trooper Tommy Tobin ran over to help – by now the Adoo were five metres away.  “We’d been calling for air support and two Omani jets appeared, but one was hit by the Adoo machine gun,” says Winner. “The planes banked round and left, and we had another hour of really ‘kill or be killed’ fighting.” But for Hussey the battle seemed almost timeless. “It’s robotic,” he says. “You’re only experiencing the 30 seconds you’re in. There is no end to that battle – there’s only the moment.”  Realising that the fort at Mirbat was in imminent danger of falling to the guerrillas, the Omani jets returned to drop a 500lb bomb. Then, when a rescue squadron of SAS troops was helicoptered in, the guerrillas were finally defeated. Like Labalaba, Tobin died as a result of the fire-fight. For many years, the heroes of Mirbat were reluctant to discuss what happened. “I joined in 1964 and you just didn’t talk about the Regiment,” Hussey says. “It’s embarrassing because people only pick out these good things and make heroes out of you. Even now, I look back on it as just one bad day – it’s not a thing you make into a reunion; it’s your own personal little hell.” Cpt Kealy was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his conduct, and two of his men received the Military Cross. Sgt Labalaba was merely mentioned in dispatches. And that, says Winner, remains an insult to his memory. “The real heroes of Mirbat,” he says, “are the dead guys.”  "SGT. Talaiasi Labalaba should be awarded a Posthumous VC Medal". To see more details and confirm this group invitation, follow the link below: 

Pete Scholey, a former SAS man and author of SAS Heroes: Remarkable Soldiers provides an account of what happened next.  ‘Tak called to Captain Kealy for more ammunition and the two men began to battle for their lives. An adoo popped up at the edge of the gun emplacement, ready to shoot Tak, and Kealy blasted him with his SLR. ‘Another appeared from a ditch close to their position and Kealy cut him down, too. ‘Kealy took out adoo gunmen as they slunk round the walls of the fort and Tak concentrated on those coming from the direction of the perimeter wire. ‘The adoo were close enough to sling grenades, which were bouncing and exploding close to the walls of the gun pit. Kealy froze for an instant as a grenade landed inside the bunker right in front of him. Mercifully, it failed to explode.’ Just as the situation appeared hopeless, the two men and their comrades had two strokes of luck. First, the low cloud lifted high enough for two jets from the Sultan of Oman’s air force to fly over the scene, strafing the adoo with cannon fire and, at one point, dropping a 500lb bomb on the by now retreating rebels. Takavesi, who was later involved in the storming of the Iranian Embassy, would later describe the scream of those jets as ‘the best sound I ever heard’. Kealy was unaware of the second stroke of luck, which resulted from his early radio message to SAS headquarters that Mirbat was under attack. His men, B Squadron, had been due to go home on the very day of the attack. This meant their replacements from G Squadron were at Um al Quarif, just 65km west of Mirbat. G Squadron was ordered into action. Twenty-two men, along with their equipment, were taken by trucks to the airstrip at Salalah. Once the mist had lifted, they were airlifted in helicopters to the beach on the edge of Mirbat.  As Kealy used a lull in the fighting to tend to his men, G Squadron, led by Captain Alastair Morrison - another SAS hero who would go on to play a vital role in the successful storming of a hijacked Lufthansa jet at Mogadishu airport in 1977 - fought its way through the town. The adoo were in full retreat, leaving 40 dead and ten wounded. It had been an incredibly close run thing, but thanks to the bravery of men such as Takavesi, Labalaba and Kealy, it proved to be a decisive turning point in the sultan’s battle with the rebels. The Battle of Mirbat is an extraordinary story and I share the sense of anger among SAS men that the bravery of the solders involved has never been properly recognised. As a result, I have sponsored the Battle of Mirbat Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Tpr Christopher LOID Aged 24 Life Guards. Died while on duty 17th November 1971

Captain Ian Edward JONES Aged 30 Royal Army Medical Corp. Died while off duty 28th May 1971

Royal Army Medical Corp

L/Cpl Paul REDDY Aged 24


Coldstream Guards. G Sqn 22 SAS ...  Killed in a Parachuting accident Died while on duty 22nd December 1970

Sgt J S M. Moores G. Sqn 22 SAS


Died of His Wounds 8th October 1971 Parent Regiment Coldstream Guards

Pte Christer John BILEWICZ Aged 19 Kings Own Royal Border Regiment. Died while on duty 29th April 1967

Cpl Douglas SWINDELLS Aged 31 Middlesex Regiment Died while on duty 26th November 1958

Cpl Roberet William LLOYD Aged 21  R.E.M.E. Died while on Duty 22nd July 1958

Major Paul Stefan WRIGHT Aged 28 Royal Engineers Died while on duty 7th February 1973

Major Sidney Gordon MERCHANT Aged 44 Royal Engineers Died while on duty 15th July 1959

Captain Peter Brassey CHAMBERS Aged 34 Royal Hampshire Regiment. Died while on duty 30th March 1958

Major Henry Otho Daniel THWAITES Aged 33 The Queen's Royal Lancers Died while on duty 7th November 1953

Major Anthony Lewis SWIFT Aged 31 Small Arms School Corps. Died while on duty 4th June1994

Regimental Secretary,

Trooper Lee Tandy (Aged 27). 22 SAS Parent Unit 1st Battalion The Royal Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Regiment. Died from injuries sustained in a parachuting accident on the 17th July 2002 in Oman

This archive is dedicated to history and the British Officers and NCO's who gave their lives in the Sultanate of Oman.

          Photographs of The Sultanate of Oman & The Sultan's Armed Forces 1974 - 76         

Capt Nigel Loring, WB seconded from the Light Infantry was killed at Shershitti Caves during 1975

(The WB is an Omani bravery award which has HM Queen's recognition). The Sultan's Bravery Medal

Royal Marines 16 Apr 58, Act Sgt Alan Frederick Hedges (attached to the Northern Frontier Regt from HMS Loch Ruthven) 17 Jun 58, C/Sgt Jack Lovell Halford BEM (attached to the Northern Frontier Regt from 45 Cdo RM) 13 Mar 66, Capt Alan William Woodman Northern Frontier Regt (late Sgt RM) 24 May 66, Capt Hamish Brian Emslie MC Northern Frontier Regt (late Capt RM) 12 Jun 71, Loc Capt Stuart James Rae  (seconded to the Northern Frontier Regt)

8th March 1975. Loc Capt William Nigel Marshall (seconded to the Jebel Regt) Sultan's of Oman's Armed Forces Read more Up-dated information from  Mark Bailey

Capt Philip A Mann, WB of the Queens Dragoon Guards Killed in action during 1975

(The WB is an Omani bravery award which has HM Queen's recognition). The Sultan's Bravery Medal.

Captain Michael Shipley

Royal Anglian killed in action March 1975

Capt Shipley, Seconded to the Sultan's Armed Forces