Back Row: Chris Granville Wright, John Swain, John Grant, Kiwi Westrop, Dick Dicken, Ant Mumford, The Boss Gordon Lewis, Trevor Copleston, Mike Gibson, Len Dawson, Robin Scott (Eng O) Front Row: Keith Blatchford, Dave Pack, Frank Mitchell, Tim Webb, Sandy Aitken, Jerry Lee, Ron Slade and Tony Wilcocks
Operation Nutcracker commenced in April 1964. The terrain of the Radfan area was inhospitable to all (15). It covered an area 20 miles by 15, was largely unexplored and certainly without any form of administration; it was rocky and mountainous with peaks and plateaus of 7000 ft split by deep wadis. Rainfall is very heavy during the hot season and travel in the wadis became dangerous since flash flooding often occurred. The 12 tribes occupying the area were lawless and fiercely independent and with the assistance of Yemeni dissidents had closed the main trade road. The Federal Authorities had failed in their attempts to restore some form of order and called on Britain for assistance. A headquarters with a brigade air support cell was established at Thumeir on the Dhala Road and the prime aim was to use aircraft as much as possible to reopen the trade route. Thumeir was re-supplied by air with the Twin Pioneers and Beverley’s (16) flying throughout daylight hours restocking the Brigade. The Hunter squadrons kept a constant crew room standby in case close air support was needed. An ex 208 Sqn member Roy Bowey, deputy to the OC Tactical Wing and I were up in Thumeir very early on. I had broken my hand playing rugby for the Middle East Combined Services on their tour of Kenya – and was deemed ‘disposable’ so went up into this somewhat inhospitable terrain with my right arm in plaster from the knuckles to above the elbow!
It was on just such an occasion when support was requested that a 208 Squadron Flight Commander gave a demonstration of air to ground gunnery of the very highest order. On 30th April the SAS had sent out a scouting party that had been spotted and surrounded by a large number of the enemy.