Back In The Old Routine
Post War Aden And Beyond 1946 – 1971
Back To Aden
|No 8 Squadrons Home Patch
The Middle East – Post War
On 1st September 1946, No 8 Squadron’s association with Aden was renewed by a simple expediency. No 114 Squadron had moved to Aden in September 1945 when it was equipped with Bostons. Now equipped with Mosquitos its number was withdrawn on 1st September 1946 and replaced with that of No 8 Squadron. Thus 8 Squadron, which had served for over 17 years at Aden before and during WWII, again took up its traditional connection.
The new 8 Squadron possessed eight Mosquito VI’s armed with four .303 Browning machine guns and four 20mm cannons. One aircraft had dual controls for instructional duties. Six of the aircraft were fitted with full-length rocket rails and wing racks for 500lb bombs; one carried eight rocket rails only and the last carried long range tanks instead of the rails. All aircraft could carry two 500lb bombs internally in the bomb bay. The official classification of the Squadron was LB (light bomber) and it was engaged on general duties, training, photography, shipping searches and policing the Aden Protectorate.
More Air Policing.
In February 1947, The Amir of Dhala, who had a treaty with the British Government, had lost control of his territory to his son, Haidara, who opposed the British Government and incited local tribesmen to rebel. Haidara retired to his mountain stronghold, a fort on the Jebel Jehaf, and waited for events. A ground force of the APL (Aden Protectorate Levies) advanced on the fort during the night of 9th – 10th February; air cover was provided by 8 Squadron’s Mosquitos. The rebel tribesmen fled and the ground force arrived to find the fort empty and the rebellion at an end. The aircraft were ordered to attack the fort to see the effect of their rockets on the thick stone walls – rockets had not been used in theatre before – but ground forces blew up the fort before any “trial” could be carried out.
Farewell Mosquito – Hello Tempests
|An 8 Squadron Tempest Mk6
The single seat Tempest equipped 8 Sqn from April 1947 until the Brigand arrived in July 1949
In March 1947, the first Hawker Tempest single seat aircraft arrived on 8 Squadron, and by May all the Mosquitos had been replaced. The Tempest Mk VI each carried eight rockets and two 45 gallon under-wing tanks. A Harvard trainer was used for dual instruction. The Tempests first saw action when a joint force of four Mosquitos and three Tempests attacked the village of Al Hussen in April. Much damage was inflicted by rockets, and the 20mm cannon set the village on fire. The attack was in reprisal for the murder of a political officer by truculent tribesmen.
The Tempests scored another success in July when 8 Squadron completely destroyed the Al Harith Fort. This operation became necessary after a band of tribesmen rebelled against the Sherif of Beihan, fortifying this tower and making raids on surrounding villages. Four Tempests firing rockets attacked in the first wave. After firing on the first attack, “Blue 2” was seen to flick roll three times to the right and strike the ground. The aircraft broke up and the pilot was killed. The remaining three aircraft completed the attack and returned to base. Another strike was mounted, and to counter the wind, which presented serious aiming problems, each aircraft attacked downwind with each aircraft firing its first pair of rockets as a sighter and the remaining six as a salvo. Excellent results were obtained, with 18 hits recorded out of 24 rockets fired.
At the end of January 1949, a detachment of Tempests left for Mogadishu in Italian Somaliland. This was at the request of the army who anticipated trouble with the natives. However after a few demonstration flights over towns the danger passed and the detachment returned to base. There was another short detachment to Mogadishu in March, but this time the aim was to reassure local farmers. There were no operations, but there was considerable unrest as the United Nations were discussing the future of the Italian colony. On 1st April the Squadron was put on 24 hours readiness to move to Italian Somaliland. However nothing happened and 3 weeks later the standby was cancelled.
The Brigand Arrives (With a Bang!)
|No 8 Sqn’s First Brigand.|
On 23rd April 1949, Flying Officer Partridge arrived at Khormaksar with 8 Squadron’s first Bristol Brigand B1. On this historic occasion the pilot was foolishly tempted to treat Khormaksar to a spectacular flying display designed to show off the aircraft’s performance. It was, if nothing else, spectacular. During one low, fast pass, the Brigand hit a 70 ft radio mast behind the main guardroom and lost, amongst other things, its hydraulic power. After a wheels-up landing the Squadron’s first Brigand was written off, and the Squadron’s first Brigand pilot was far from popular.
The serviceability of the ancient Tempests was beginning to be very poor indeed, but in spite of this six of them were able to provide a detachment to Nairobi in June. Demonstration flights were flown over northern Kenya and from Entebbe over Southern Uganda. The Tempests were used for their final operation on 2nd September 1947 when the Squadron destroyed a newly built Yemeni customs house, which was sited on the wrong side of the border on the territory of the Sherif of Beihan. Diplomatic pressure having failed, the Yemen were given warning that it would be destroyed by aircraft. Cannon fire proved useless against the three feet thick stone walls, but rockets reduced it to a heap of rubble in short order.
Brigands Fly the Flag
On 21st September, three Brigands were sent to Italian Somaliland for a three-day detachment. They provided valuable support by flying non-firing sweeps and reconnaissance flights over the troubled area. The presence of these aircraft helped towards the restoration of order, and the Squadron was delighted to have further proof of the Brigands excellent performance in the role.
A few weeks later there was another Brigand detachment at Mogadishu. Shows of force were staged while the United Nations discussed the future of the colony. On 13th October the detachment was ordered to discontinue its activities. This was because the Somali Youth League had complained to the UN that the Squadron’s work had been calculated to deny free expression of the peoples’ will by force of arms. From then on only one flight per week was made and low flying was forbidden.
Back at Khormaksar, a dual control Buckmaster arrived on the Squadron to take over from the Harvards, but it led a rather chequered career and almost immediately became grounded for six months.
The year ended on a sad note. Shortly after the Christmas break, a Brigand failed to return from a night flying detail. It was thought that it had probably ditched in the Red Sea, but after a week of fruitless searching all that was found were three unused dinghies washed up on a reef.
A quiet period for 8 Squadron ended in May 1951. The Squadron was prepared for a move – destination unknown – and eventually on 22nd May the Brigands took off and routed through Riyan, Masirah and Bahrein. A second flight routed via Salalah and Sharjah. The final destination was Shaibah – the reason was the Abadan oil crisis when Dr Moussadek nationalised the enormous British owned oil industry in Persia. Although no operations were flown 8 Squadron remained at Shaibah for nearly four months, returning to Khormaksar in September.
In May 1952, the new Squadron Commander, Sqn Ldr JW Stephens DFC was killed while doing single engine circuits in the Buckmaster. Towards the end of July a disturbing technical fault was discovered in Brigand airframes, and the Squadron was immediately grounded. After 16 days, flying was again permitted, but limitations on handling were introduced subject to rectification of the structural problem.
More Brigand Operations
|An 8 Sqn Brigand in Better Condition!|
In August 1952 the Squadron learnt of an impending operation, so all pilots went on the range to compete for the best scores to qualify for active service. For some time, Sheik Salah Ahmed had been engaged in the looting of the trade route in the Wadi Hatib. He refused to return stolen property or appear in Mudiyah to answer charges, so it was decided to mount an operation against him. The targets were far from easy, as the Wadi was bounded by mountains, which rose to 8,000 feet. On 20th August the Squadron put “Operation Firework” into effect. Leaflets were dropped and then the first wave of five Brigands attacked the targets, firing eight rockets each. The results were not as successful as had been hoped, so attacks were carried out independently all day.