Up Country

Mapping FAC Habilayn

The Aden hinterland was one of the most inhospitable and inaccessible regions in the Middle East Command area and was rarely seen by the majority of RAF personnel, the exceptions being mainly the rescue services and pilots and crews of Transport and Tactical Wing aircraft.

Mac McLauchlans images

8 Squadron Hunter pilot ‘Mac’ McLauchlan’s tour at Khormaksar began in 1961 and he flew both the FGA.9 and FR.10 on operations. In addition to using the aircraft’s nose cameras on business sorties, he often took his own camera and a selection depicting the extensive network of Wadis and dried-up river beds in the Hadramaut area of the Eastern Aden Protectorate are displayed in the gallery below. Perhaps the most striking aspects of these images is the extent of vegetation when compared to Aden, the precariously positioned villages and variety of colour in the rock formations.

Roger Wilkins images

As coloured photographs of the landscape from that period are quite rare, we have 43 Squadron Hunter pilot, Roger Wilkins, to thank for contributing the selection below which he took while flying his Hunter in an arc with a radius of some 280 nms, from roughly due north of Khormaksar round to the coast north east of Aden Colony. They cover a broad range of landscapes from flat desert plain to stunning 7,000 ft high mountain peaks and several villages are in evidence. Although rain was an unusual occurrence in the Aden peninsular, it was quite common in the mountains as can be seen in a couple of images which were taken after a heavy downpour, the normally dry river beds being full to over flowing. When asked how he managed to take the sequence, Roger quipped, “When trimmed properly the Hunter could fly straight and level with no input from the pilot.”

If anyone can identify the locations of any of the images with a good deal of certainty, please use the Contact button on the Contents menu to your left to let the author know and the information will be added.


Keith Websters images

Keith spent his two-year tour flying Valettas with 233 Squadron on general transport and re-supply missions to RAF and Army bases in the Aden hinterland. Most of these were unsurfaced and found in dangerous locations requiring an exceptional degree of flying skill.

This view of the area around Ataq in 1962 illustrates the degree of cultivation possible in such an inhospitable regions

Looking north towards the Aden hinterland, this rare overhead view of Sheikh Othmann was taken from the cockpit of a 233 Sqn Valetta in 1962

The Arab town of Sheikh Othmann was situated some 5 miles north-west of Khormaksar.

Another subject captured from Keith's Valetta and a familiar view to those using the Khormaksar circuit, the Sheikh Othman salt pans

The salt pans were roughly half-way between Khormaksar Airfield and the town.

Charlie Donaldsons images

Charlie was an Airframe Fitter working on 21 and 78 Squadron Twin Pioneers at Khormaksar from February 1964 to February 1966 and his contribution to the website comprises a variation on working up country. First, a sequence of eight photographs depicting fitters performing an engine change on 21 Squadron Twin Pioneer CC.1, XM958, at Mukalla in 1965.

Engine change team

Engine hoist

Lifting the Leonides engine

Positioning the Leonides towards the aircraft

Not exactly the Ritz - the teams accommodation

As the silhouette of a Hunter appears in the distance, the distinctive roar of an Avon at full throttle grows ever louder until .....

..... a few seconds later, it zooms overhead at high speed

The second of Charlie’s sequences was taken in 1964 and portrays 84 Squadron Beverley C.1, XL149, after landing at Mukeiras with stores for the various Army units located in the area.

Looking ahead from XL149's cockpit as it keeps low on the approach to Mukeiras

The side view gives a clearer perspective of the rugged terrain in that area

Having come to a halt, the clamshell doors are opened .....

..... and a queue of 3-tonners line up to collect the supplies

Not quite what it seems - the Mukeiras fire tender!

Arab troops mill around waiting for the unloading to finish

The flight crew in discussion before climbing aboard .....

..... while all the time, local militia keep an eye on proceedings