Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mountain Armour

We left British operations in Radfan with the failure of an SAS patrol to secure a landing zone, that would allow a company of Para's to land behind an objective. With the failure to secure the drop zone the parachute drop was cancelled, and the Para's were to re-join 45 Commando, and take a ground route to Cap Badge and attack it from the rear.

As it turned out Cap Badge was unoccupied, the fortified positions on the Cap Badge which 45 Commando stormed were empty. They consisted of caves with crude concrete breastworks. As 3 Para moved through Wadi Taym they found progress harder than expected. At daybreak they were still in the low ground, and immediately came under concentrated fire from the small settlement of Al Naqil, which was adjacent to Cap Badge. The thirty odd rebels in the large village were the force stationed on Cap Badge. They had decided not to spend the night in their sangers and had retired to the Al Naqil to sleep.

Now they had a company of Paras in front of them. Due to the sheer nature of the sides of Cap Badge the commandos couldn't bring any fire to bear on the settlement as they couldn't see it. Thus, a day long battle begun, with thrusts to capture a house, and then a counter thrust to flank the captured position. They received support from the Hawker Hunters, who in one daring strike managed to get a salvo of rockets into a cave hidden at the base of Cap Badge, which had been screened by the settlement. This cave contained an ammo dump.

The Hunters also helped deal with the houses that had been fortified. Initially HE rockets were tried but failed to work as the rockets would not arm on the mud walls. Back at base a suggestion was made to use the concrete filled practice rockets. These worked much better at demolishing the fortified houses. A company of commandos was brought forward by Belvedere to Cap Badge in the afternoon, this force then began to press upon the rebels from the other side.
Eventually after eleven hours of fighting the settlement was captured. The Paras had lost two men killed, and nine wounded. The Paras re-named the village Pegasus Village.

Road building in the Radfan
At the same time as this operation had been going on, the local troops had been advancing up Wadi Rawba towards a feature called Gibraltar. As they cleared the last hold outs the road was found to be almost utterly destroyed. With Gibraltar seized the British forces had a good toehold in the Radfan and had pushed the rebels back. The rebels were still confident of winning and were well organized and still well equipped with small arms. They also still in some strength in the northern and southern ends of the Wadi Taym.

The rebels also had a much more secure logistics system. The British were at the end of a long supply line, which was being maintained by the use of helicopters. Camels were being used to bring in more supplies, and some primitive airstrips were constructed. Even so the number of troops deployed forward had to be reduced.

About the 11th of May when the Kings Own began to arrive one of the objectives given was to get the logistics under control, because before that supplies arrived and were just moved out of the way and piled up without order or thought. Equally the Kings Own was given the task of imposing 'military control'. This latter was a kind of scorched earth policy, which was apparently common throughout the region. Leaflets would be dropped on a misbehaving settlement, warning them to leave. After a time, to give the residents time to evacuate the army would move in and remove foodstuffs and livestock, and otherwise do damage that was non-permanent. For example, structures and items were to be left undamaged. This wasn't often carried out as the British soldiers disliked carrying out these orders.

Another operation that was carried out was the deployment of an entire squadron of SAS into an area east of Wadi Bana. This was suspected of being the main route of supply for the rebels. For five days the SAS operated in the area, by the end of it they had killed or wounded every rebel in the area and cut off a major route of supply for them.
4th RTR ready for the opperation's start. At the time, in Aden 4th RTR was equipped with Ferret and Saladin.
Finally, an armoured spearhead was planned. It was to be thrown up the Wadi Mirsa. 4th RTR provided a squadron, supported by 16/5th Lancers. The armoured column advanced as best it could through the broken ground. Every time they encountered a position that looked like it might hold an enemy the locale was shelled. This kept enemy action to a minimum, but there were some terrain issues which slowed the column down. Eventually, just short of the end of the Wadi where it turned into an uncrossable obstacle, the tanks got into a serious firefight with the rebels. Here bad luck struck, a sudden and heavy rain storm occurred higher up the hills. A Wadi is a dried-out river bed, and it began to flood. This forced the tanks to retreat in the face of the rebels, who took heart from the action, as it appeared they had seen off the enemy’s tanks and that the British lacked the heart for a fight.

On the 16th of May the rest of 3 Para, and a section of medium artillery arrived to support the Kings Own, there was still plenty of fighting to be done before the end of the operation, however this article is beginning to get a bit long, so we will wrap it up there.

Image credits:
iwm.org.uk and www.4and7royaltankregiment.com