523 STRE

If you know anything about this unt, places it has been or titles it has had then please email them to me at gordon@sappers.co.ukI had a message from Dave Sparks saying he was in worldwide planning for 523 - 

It must have been 523 that I was with on planning world wide, Places included St Helena (Original Recce), Kenya Kerio Valley and Mao Masaii Safari Park, Gibraltar, N Ireland Loyalist Strike, Scotland, Norway, Camp Gagetown New Brunswick Canada,

Brian Davies kindly sent me this in July 2014 - 

523 STRE in Aden through to1967 was responsible for the improvements and maintenance of camps, airfields and military installations at Mukieras, and at Beihan in the Federation of South Arabia (FSA) (*1) employing DEL; plus main contractors engaged in the construction of permanent accommodation and associated buildings for units of the Federal Regular Army (FRA). The Clerks of Works office/bedroom and works yard were in the FRA camps.  (I had no personal involvement and therefore I refrain to comment on the works in the State of Aden, or Ataq-Shabwah in the FSA that 523 STRE was also responsible for).  I should mention the security situation that on 18 January 1963, the Colony of Aden was incorporated into the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South against the wishes of North Yemen. The city became the State of Aden and the Federation was renamed the Federation of South Arabia (FSA).  An insurgency against British administration known as the Aden Emergency began and a "state of emergency" was declared.

My unaccompanied posting to 523 STRE in Aden commenced 14 Dec 1966 - Gatwick 7hr flight - transferred to Normandy Lines in Khormaksar district on arrival.

15 Dec – Reported to 523 STRE HQ offices in Al Mualla district, the team’s office was on upper floor(s) in a multi-storied street property.  Armed British soldiers patrolled the area on foot.

16 Dec – Told that I would be replacing CW(C) John Rainey in Beihan who was completing his tour of duty, but before this I would relieve CW(C) Ken Paige in Mukieras as he had been granted home leave R&R over New Year - who I already knew from 154 DCRE Rheindahlen.

18 Dec – Flew to Mukieras with Capt(GE) Skipp RE landing on an oiled airstrip runway.

19 and 25 Dec – Night - Mortar attacks near the tented British camp. 

27 Dec – Ken Paige departed for leave.

After Ken Paige returned I flew to Beihan with Lt(GE) Broadbent RE. 

Around June of 1967 Major Cole RE visited from Chatham to include in his training film the activities of the Well Drilling Troup (TA’s from Essex I believe); and my activities.

For the record, the FRA 5th Bn in Beihan eventually reduced their British permanent liaison personnel to three: a Major; a medic: Chris Briarwood (SRN); and a Sgt administrator: Eddie Matthews.

The British army based there was the Chestnut Troop of the RHA – subsequently withdrawn on May 9th. (*2)  In the town the Church of Scotland had a doctor and nurses for medical needs of the locals.

Key 523 STRE DEL were Foreman: Ali bin Ali, and Chargehand Aworth bin Hussein, a member of the Hussein ruling family.  On my departure the responsibility for the DEL was passed to a Greek PWD man who arrived from Aden. All signs, sapper flag and such belongings of 523 STRE were taken to HQ in Aden.I remained until the building contract was completed and I returned home to the UK on 3 Sep 1967.

In conclusion: In 1964, Britain had announced its intention to grant independence to the FSA in 1968, but that the British military would remain in Aden – that did not happen after a change of government in London decided otherwise.  On 30 November 1967 British troops were evacuated.   Along with any other units in post at the time 523 STRE therefore ceased to be based in Aden. 

(*1)   Not to be confused with neighbouring country Saudi Arabia.

(*2)   Reported on May 9th 1967 in The Daily Telegraph.

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