RAF Salalah

RAF Salalah, was a staging post in the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and lay in the fertile coastal plain of Dhofar, 650 miles from Aden. The airfield was constructed in 1928 and had been in constant use ever since as a military and civilian staging post. In the 1950s it was a refuelling staging post for the duty Valetta flights from Khormaksar to Mauripur until the latter closed in mid-1956. Throughout the 1960s, Salalah provided refuelling and replenishment facilities for Valetta, Beverley, Argosy, Dakota and other aircraft operating on the Aden-Masirah-Sharjah-Bahrain route, and could accommodate limited numbers of personnel for overnight stops.

The climate could be said to have been generally good with the possible exception of the May-September period. During this time, the normally arid Arabian Waste was affected by the South-West monsoon and a strip of 100 miles either side of Salalah was subjected to periods of continual although light rain and complete cloud cover for the whole five-month period. This was accompanied by low visibility and periods of high humidity, causing considerable amounts of mildew on clothing and equipment not in regular use. The rest of the year Salalah enjoyed temperatures around the eighties with clear skies.

In addition to the normal station messes and clubs, the Unit operated a library and reading room, containing newspapers, magazines, and periodicals of generally one week’s vintage and a good selection of reading material both light and more serious. A limited supply of text books for specialised study was readily available but others could be obtained on an own-request basis from the parent station, RAF Khormaksar. There was also a photographic club of considerable popularity, a well equipped darkroom which was in constant use, complemented by a small but well stocked photographic store.

Two views looking towards the accommodation area at Salalah .....

..... captured from the top of the station water tower in 1962 (Keith Webster)

There was an excellent rediffusion system and this is without doubt the piece de resistance of Salalah leisure-time enterprise providing up to nine hours daily of entertainment from 14:30-23:30 hours. As local radio reception was poor, the Overseas Service of the BBC was re-transmitted over the rediffusion service, backed up with programmes ranging from ‘Classical Hour’ through the Goon Show and other BBC transcripted show records to a locally produced ‘Top Twenty’ programme. A favourite venue was the Station Cinema which ran to packed houses four times a week.

Outdoor sports centred mainly on football fixtures between the various sections on the station and matches against the Sultan’s local Army unit, the Dhofar Force. The Sultan, who lived in Salalah, was particularly keen on fostering a spirit of sporting competition between this Unit and the RAF and contributed trophies for the various sporting activities between the two Units. Volleyball was another popular sport as were basketball and occasional games of softball.

During the non-monsoon period, sailing and swimming became available at a small cove some ten miles from the Station (the Unit had three Enterprise dinghies) and fishing was very popular throughout the year. During the monsoon period, due to high seas swimming was confined to an inland lake 25 miles from camp.