The grand plan for the British Armed
Forces Medical Services in Salalah was a joint move by
the FST and the medical unit at Um-al-Guarif into a
military wing in the new Qaboos Hospital in Salalah
town. The FST would be staffed by a contract team and
the few British troops remaining would be cared for by
The move was to take place on 1st
July 1977 and so the March – June FST had started to run
down supplies in anticipation. Circumstances changed,
the life of 55 FST was extended and we inherited a
The two month gap between request and
delivery for stores was a fact of life in RAF Salalah,
aided by the Hercules C130 supplies run being only
fortnightly. Here is a list of some of the problems
The autoclave broke, irreparably,
and we became completely reliant on the Qaboos
Hospital CSSD (shades of the NHS ‘centralisation of
services’ shambles that some of us now enjoy?).
REME technicians from Cyprus
visited us for two weeks to assess and mend, where
possible, our technical equipment. On leaving, they
considered only 32 of 96 inventory items to be
serviceable. U/s items included not only the
autoclave, but the operating table and the portable
Nitrous oxide rapidly ran out and
supplies of iv fluids became perilously diminished.
Atropine and opiates ran out just as we received a
consignment of pentazocine and ketamine. The
promised Hercules load of nitrous oxide did not
materialise until the end of the tour, though we did
get several hundred rolls of paper towels instead.
We loaned the Qaboos Hospital our
East Radcliffe ventilator (they had none) in order
to treat a patient with tetanus. Their patient died
and as they were unable to sterilise the machine, it
was lost to us. Fortunately (for us) we had only two
weeks left, and were able to cope.
There was no orthopaedic drill so
we borrowed an industrial Wolf from 3 Engineer
Squadron. Airworks manufactured a range of screws to
1/8th inch sizes from a box of 3inch
screws that we found.
Even before they left the UK, the
army element of 55 FST had all been issued with
size 5 Khaki Drill of a style which had been withdrawn
from service some 6 years earlier. Thanks to the
generosity of 11 Field Squadron and the Sultan’s Land
forces, we were kitted out with olive greens and did not have to work in mufti. Despite all these challenges,
55 FST worked hard and successfully.
The surgical case mix provided huge
clinical interest and included 13 patients with
explosion and gun shot injuries (none hostile). Of
these, 7 were children under 14.
We saw and treated cancer, cirrhosis,
mycetoma, ischaemic heart disease, filariasis,
haemorrhoids (leading to profound anaemia), urinary
tract infection, status epilepticus………….the list goes
Our dentist and surgeon both made
clinical forays outside the base to provide ‘community
care’ to the local population.
VIPs were very interested in 55 FST.
|Col Rosser MBE
|Maj Gen Omana
Director Medical Services SAF
Medical quartermaster SAF
Gen Sir Jack Harmann KCB OBE
Brig H Brown OBE
Chief Engineer UKLF
And our very own hero, WO1 J Tinkham
REME who came to our rescue when the main Xray unit
failed. He flew in from Cyprus, worked all night to
repair the machine and returned to Cyprus the next day.
Socially, the tour was also
successful. Despite the loss of the ‘Wobbly Wheel’, now stockaded and heavily padlocked, we made good friends
with expats, SAF members and especially the staff of UAG
hospital, led by Col Medhi. Joint ward rounds at UAG
improved our minds and a shared liking for barbecues and
alcohol improved our morale.
We were beaten at most sports
(cricket, sevens, volleyball, football) by just about
everyone, including the Airworks ladies. This made us
The final weeks were less
satisfactory as our departure date slipped back into
November. Many signals were generated to next of kin and
the Pay Section to change arrangements and continue LOA,
but as with all things, the waiting came to an end and
we eventually escaped on 9th November.
Looking back after 30 years, little
seems to have changed in the world. Decisions are made
with insufficient preparation and reference to
those on the ground. Supplies are inadequate. The
quality of British Troops remains excellent, coping with
support failures and making do with available resources.
Plus ca change…………….
correct names which should appear under the photograph
of the last FST is as follows: