Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Much Adoo...

In the early 70's in the strategically vital country of Oman a group of Communist guerrillas started waging a war.  With support from neighbouring Yemen and Russia these guerillas attempted to overthrow the Sultans of Oman.   The guerrillas were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf. Locally they were called the Adoo.
Oman asked for British help, and units were dispatched to help train local forces. Scattered about the country these advisors ran a successful hearts and minds campaign. Local forces with a limited British support (including Sir Peter de la Billiere) conducted operation Jaguar,  a vicious slogging match, that ended with the Adoo being sent reeling with heavy casualties. In an attempt to save face, break the local forces and regain the initiative the Adoo launched an attack at a small coastal town. The plan was simple, overrun the town, kill all the British troops and kill the families of the Omani forces they could find. Above the town is a large plateau. At 0500 on the morning of 19th July 1972 the Adoo wiped out the picket of Omani Army soldiers who were on the plateau. Below the plateau was the British Army Training Team (BATT) house, with nine British soldiers and to one side of the town was an old fort. A much smaller fort manned by a section of Dhofar Gendarmerie was between the two positions.
The BATT house
Several hundred Adoo began to sweep down from the plateau towards the town of Mirbat, however there was one small problem. The nine British soldiers were SAS advisors and were in the fortified BATT house, right in their path. The monsoon season fog and cloud grounded the Omani air force preventing strikes, and the Adoo were well armed with support weapons such as mortars, rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.
Through the fog and darkness Capitan Mike Kealy, the senior officer at the BATT house, could make out movement of the Adoo, and having heard the exchange of gunfire earlier mistakenly thought they were the Omani picket returning after being attacked. Because of this the SAS men held their fire, apart from their one 81mm mortar that began shooting a covering barrage on the top of the plateau. One SAS man, the vastly experienced Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, a Fijian who had served in most of the SAS's previous wars such as Aden and Borneo, raced to the fort. Outside the fort was a gun pit with an antique 25 pounder gun, behind it there was a small trench holding the gun's ammo.
Capitan Mike Kealy
As dawn ended and the light levels raised the BATT house came under a withering storm of fire from close range. Three SAS troopers replied with their SLRs, while another manned a .50 calibre machine gun. The 81mm mortar began to add its rounds to the bombardment, the initial wave of 40 Adoo was stopped dead. Further waves began to attack. As they closed the Adoo began to envelope the town and flanked round towards the fort. Later in the battle the Adoo were so close the mortar wouldn't elevate far enough to hit the targets, one of the two SAS men hugged the red hot mortar barrel to his chest to bring the rounds closer to the fort, while the other soldier dropped the rounds down the barrel.
Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba
At the fort Sgt Labalaba had been manning the 25 lbr on his own. When he arrived he'd found one of the gunners who had been on guard duty had been killed. Acting as a full gun crew of six men alone, he had managed to keep up a sustained rate of fire of just under one round per minute. Then suddenly he was hit in the chin, he reported the fact by radio to Capt Kealy. Despite the injury Sgt Labalaba continued to man the gun, although its rate of fire dropped significantly.
Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi and the two Omani Gunners
At the BATT house Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi, another Fijian, volunteered to take medical supplies to the injured Sgt Labalaba. Trooper Takavesi grabbed the bag and started to run. Not through the cover of Mirbat, but a direct line across flat open ground in plain sight of the Adoo. The run was 700 meters, with hundreds of Adoo able to see him and shoot at him.
With bullets whistling about him he dived into the gun pit, unscathed. Looking around he saw Sgt Labalaba, bleeding heavily from the hit to the chin. Trooper Takavesi gave what first aid he could, occasionally pausing to fire at the approaching Adoo. The position was becoming desperate without some help.  Trooper Takavesi leaped up and rushed to the door of the Dhofar Gendarmerie fort some distance away, it was opened by the other Omani gunner. The two of them made a dash back for the gun pit, while covered by the section of Dhofar Gendarmerie with their .303 Lee Enfields. Again Trooper Takavesi dived into the gun pit, the Omani Walid Khamis, was hit.
Walid Khamis
The two carried on firing the gun. They crawled to the ammo trench and back, due to the sheer volume of fire being aimed at them. When the gun fired it was point blank into the Adoo attack. Needing extra fire power Trooper Takavesi spotted a 60mm mortar and crawled over to it, but was hit in the neck and killed as he bent to load the first round.
Sgt Labalaba was hit a second time and then a  third time. Unable to continue to feed the 25 lbr, he propped himself up in a sitting position and started to fire at the Adoo with his SLR.

With no communication with the gun pit, Capt Kealy and Trooper Tommy Tobin made a break for the gun pit. Unlike Trooper Takavesi's mad dash they took a more covered route. But the last few meters were in the open. As they finished their dash they tumbled into the ammo trench. Upon reaching the gun pit they found Sgt Labalaba still in position steadily pumping bullets from his SLR into targets. Trooper Tobin started giving the wounded Oman gunner first aid.
The Adoo by now were at the walls of the fort, and a flurry of grenades rained on them. One landed in the ammo trench between Capt Kealy and Tpr Tobin, luckily it was a dud. One bounced off the lip of the gun pit's sandbagged walls and exploded harmlessly. Then one of the Adoo appeared at the lip of the gun pit, Capt Kealy quickly shot him.
Tropper Tommy Tolbin
Tpr Tolbin crawled over to Trooper Takavesi to see what could be done, but as he reached across his body to turn him over he was hit in the face, the round shattering his lower jaw. A thunderous roar split the sky, Omani Strikemaster jets appeared overhead. Because of the weather conditions, in a display of daring and skill they were flying just 30 meters off the ground. With these planes making strafing runs and launching rockets the Adoo fell back.
Meanwhile when the attack had begun 23 SAS men had been about to go onto the firing range and were fully armed. They'd quickly been gathered up and flown by helicopter to the beach near Mirbat. After a skirmish with an Adoo patrol they began to close on the battered town. Between them and some additional local forces they forced the Adoo to break off the attack at about 1230.
All the wounded were airlifted out, although Trooper Tolbin later died from an infection caused by a shattered tooth he'd swallowed when hit. Incredibly despite the situation the SAS at the BATT house had managed to take three Adoo prisoner! After two successive defeats at the hands of the Omani and British forces the Adoo never recovered and were left on the back foot until the war ended in 1976.
Mirbat Fort
The Mirbat gun now resides at the Firepower Museum of the Royal Artillery in Woolwich, London.