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Withdrawal from Aden

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Unit/ Formation: 42 Cdo RM

Location: Aden

Period/ Conflict: Aden Emergency (1964 - 67)

Year: 1967

Date/s: 29th November 1967

Withdrawal From Aden - 45 and 42 Royal Marine Commandos

The overall plan for the withdrawal of the British Forces was to move the majority of troops out through Khormaksar Airfield whilst the equipment went by sea. The privilege of being the last to leave was accorded to the Royal Marines. Fittingly Four-Five was the last major unit of the permanent garrison to be withdrawn. 42 Commando would hold the airfield then they would withdraw to the naval task force and their Commando Carrier HMS Albion. By September 1967 all service families had been evacuated and 45 Cdo R.M. moved into their flats after leaving Little Aden the home of the unit for the best part of seven years.

42 Cdo arrived aboard HMS Albion on October the 11th. In their distinctive olive green jungle dress they took up positions North of the airport. This was the line that had been held by British troops since September. Roadblocks and OP'S sealed off the peninsula from the North and kept the airfield out of mortar range.

The NFL was busy defeating FLOSY; the Southern Arabian Army had left the Federation and joined the NFL and in one last fling decided to mortar 42 Commando's positions at Tawahi on the 11th of November 1967. Marine Blackman had the unfortunate distinction of being the last British serviceman to be wounded in Aden during this action.

Shortly before midnight on the 28th of November 1967 the first of 13 loads of 45 Commando was airborne. Throughout the morning of the 28th the outward flights took away the remaining members of the Aden Garrison and by 1230 the last company, Yankee Company Four-Five had been relieved by elements of 42 Cdo who up until then had been holding the line between Khormakser and Sheikh Othman.

Overhead, the helicopters from HMS Albion maintained a shuttle service from the airfield to the naval task force. Following the formalities the High Commissioner Sir Humphrey Trevelyan and the Service Chiefs left and then a brief farewell took place between the commanding Officers of 45 Cdo and 42 Cdo. It was the CO of 42 Commando Lt-Col Dai Morgan who had brought the advance party of 45 to Aden, over seven years before.

Union Flag over Jabal Shamsan and Aden

At one-thirty on 29th November 1967 the last aircraft left Aden. The last to board were the Commanding Officer 45 RM Commando, Commanding Officer Royal Air Force, Khormakser, Commander Aden Brigade, Brigadier General Staff and Senior Air Staff Officer Middle East Air Force.

Often credited as being the last British serviceman to leave Aden, Lieutenant Colonel 'Dai' Morgan, Commanding Officer of 42 Royal Marine Commando, arrives on board HMS ALBION by Wasp helicopter shortly after 3pm on 29 November 1967 © IWM MH 30869

The perimeter, was still being guarded by 42 Cdo C company of the King's Own Border Regiment and 8 (Alma) Light Commando Battery R.A. 42 Commando was the last to leave in their helicopters on the 29th. The last defiant act of the 45 Commando was the appearance of the Union Flag and White Ensign on one of the peaks of Jabal Shamsan overlooking Ma'alla, placed there during the last day before departure by Recce Troop.

But I would think the last man to leave the shores of Aden was a Royal Marine landing craft crewman slipping the bow line from the bollard on the quay and stepping onto the craft as it got under way, thinking "was it worth it"?

The epitaph to all servicemen of all the British Forces in Aden who were killed in this seven year war was written by a Fleet Street journalist who described the troops in Aden as men whose steadfast patience had been tested, and found to hold firm on thousands of unrewarded, forgotten occasions.

Extracted from Britain's Small Wars

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