|I was on the Strikemaster squadron
during the period of the Mirbat crisis and I flew top cover
after the attacks had taken place.
I have compiled these notes from David
Milne-Smith and Sean Creak, Bill Stoker who unfortunately died
earlier this year and Roger Cole and Bob Bennett from the SAS
who would back up what I am saying here.
There are a couple of myths that need
to be dispelled straight away.
The strike attack consisted of two
pairs of two aircraft and that there were four aircraft
Not three as some people have recorded.
The Stikemaster Squadron at Salalah
held two fully armed aircraft and two pilots on standby 24 hours
a day and in the early morning of the 19th of July the pilots on
standby in their baits were Sean Creak and David Milne-Smith
At some time around five or six in the
morning. Timings are a bit iffy here unfortunately.
But at some time around five or six
they were awoken and made their way in the fog in Salalah to the
SOAF ops room.
When they arrived it was clear that
this Mirbat contact was no ordinary contact. There was some
extraordinary radio traffic.
Marbat was under attack again but
communications were very patchy and the size of the enemy force
The pilots were briefed by the BATT
Major Alistair Morrison that the adoo had overrun the piquet on
the Jebel Ali and we have just heard that the adoo have
installed a Sphagin HMG on top of it.
The BATT, the firquat and the SAF were
in a major contact. Little more information was available to
these guys before they took off but we did have agreed radio
frequencies that were going to be used. This was important as
you cannot have close air support without radio contact with
So as the morning wore on the fog sort
of broke up a little bit and the cloud began to lift and people
could see their way around Salalah
But it was still not high enough to
take off never mind carry around any operations and I arrived at
work (SOAF TAC) at about this time to find a hullabaloo going
Eventually the two aircraft Sean Creak
and Milne-Smith got airborne in close formation and started
flying over the sea en route to Marbat not knowing what they
were letting themselves in for.
On the way they tried to contact the
BATT force on the "Blue" SARBE but it was unsuccessful so they
had a bit of a problem here. What were they going to do ?
Fortunately Milne-Smith said "Tell you
what- try changing to "White" SARBE a different VHF frequency
and sure enough on the radio came LCpl Roger Cole of the BATT
and Roger told them that Marbat was under attack from several
directions by numerous enemy who were descending down from the
Creak was concerned of course about
"blue on blue" attacks and asked again where the enemy was and
Cole said they are 100yards away and closing on the fort.
He said it again and then Creak
arrived underneath the cloud making a hell of a racket as he saw
the enemy climbing over the wire which was just down there on
this forward slope.
Now Milne-Smith was the No 2 and he
was setting up a race track pattern over the sea and eventually
Milne-Smith followed Sean Creak in long line astern firing
rockets and guns.
Very dodgy firing rockets and guns at
low level in level flight because of the ricochet effect that
you will get as the weapons bounce off the ground the ground. So
quite a risky business doing that.
It was these first attacks that
stopped the enemy from over-running the 25pdr gun.
After this Roger Cole handed his radio
to Cpl Bob Bennett who as I understand was a qualified FAC to
direct the remaining airstrikes.
Creak's aircraft had in fact been hit
seven times and he was forced to return to Salalah.
So he went back to Salalah and
Milne-Smith remained there by himself and maintained the
racetrack getting rid of his rockets and bullets and then went
back and landed at Salalah
Now at this stage I was expecting and
hoping to get on the next wave but in comes big Bill Stoker.
He had met Milne-Smith on the pan and
was briefed on what was going on and Milne-Smith and Stoker got
airborne. I think it was Milne-Smith leading the pair of
They got airborne and came towards
Marbat for the second set of strikes. (and) they got here I
understand, I was trying to work out, at about 09.15 when the
jets arrived. But that is open to discussion.
So they set up a race track pattern
and individually did separate attacks on the enemy. Bill Stoker
had been briefed on the Sphagin Machine Gun which was obviously
a real threat to the aircraft but also a threat to the fort.
So he elected to go in and attack the
Spaghin on the top of the Jebel Aliand got hit very badly by the
Spahgin for his troubles.
He was seriously losing fuel and no
option but to return to base. He banged on full power and
climbed as high as he could in case the engine failed and he had
to glide to Salalah or a safe area to eject.
Milne-Smith was following him at this
stage as he was running out of bullets and fuel.
Bill Stoker arrived overhead Salalah
closed the throttle in case the engine failed anyway, did a
spiral approach, broke cloud at about 800 feet and stuck the
aircraft on the runway.
Several people rushed out to see the
damage that was done to his aircraft which was quite serious.
Milne-Smith on both sorties survived
with no bullet strikes at all on the aircraft. Absolute miracle.
At the end of course, once the attack
had finished, the helicopters were doing their stuff and I came
in to give some top cover and make jet engine noises. (and) to
be on standby in case we were needed again but of course we
(We have heard a little about the
documentary film. In relation to the film that was made the fort
was actually built in South Africa and they got a 25pdr gun in
S. Africa for that film).
I should say of course that at the end
Bill Stoker was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for
gallantry and indeed so was Neville Baker. (The helicopter
Both of them really deserved it.
I can't speak about the helicopter
operations Nick is going to do that.
||Was the cloud base gradually
coming up during the day?
||Yes and eventually it became
||When you, they first got here
somebody said that the cloud base was 100ft. Presumably
the top of the Jebel Ali was in cloud.
||I don't know how high it was.
It was difficult to assess with out instruments by eye.
||The Jebel Ali must be
You cannot fly along at 100ft
firing your bullets.
So I would say that they
attacked at about 200 - 300ft and the cloud base was
probably 500ft which is pretty low when you normally
have pulled up to 3000ft
So I think that some of the
cloud bases that have been quoted are a bit lower than
reality in fact.
|D.M. Grey (Nobby)
Strikemaster and Beaver Pilot
1 Squadron SOAF 1971-73