This is a book not to miss. This is not “Herriott on a camel” but it is an informative and entertaining account that the reader will find absorbing and enjoyable. The author provides a rare insight into the secret war being fought in support of Sandhurst-trained Sultan Qaboos of Oman by regular British Army and “contract” officers.
NAME: With The S.A.S. and other Animals, A vet’s Experiences During the Dofar War 1974
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Andrew Higgins
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: Soft back
SUBJECT: military vet, animals, hearts and minds, civil war, Cold War, Middle East, Gulf States, covert war, special forces
DESCRIPTION: During the 1960s and 1970s, the Cold War sponsored a series of Hot Wars in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The USSR concentrated on supplying arms and training, using military personnel from client states, whilst the US and its allies operated more openly, using its own military personnel directly in the areas of conflict. Britain participated strongly in the Arabian Gulf using some serving personnel and some personnel who were “seconded” or “retired”. Remarkably little has been published thus far on these activities, which are still considered very sensitive and do contain information that would be useful today to an enemy in the region. This book not only sheds light on the period of small conflicts of the Cold War, but covers an area of military activity that has received very little coverage for any war or geographic area. The Dofar War of 1974 saw USSR clients attempting to destabilize Dofar and create a communist state as part of the objective of spreading Soviet power and influence. The author provides a rare insight into the secret war being fought in support of Sandhurst-trained Sultan Qaboos of Oman by regular British Army and “contract” officers. It was a war of a type that the British had been very successful in fighting, starting with the Malayan Emergency. The SAS played a key role and the British supported the Sultan’s forces and worked on Hearts and Minds, isolating the insurgents from the local population and dealing with them. The author was one of the vets from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps who were attached to SAS Squadrons to help in the Hearts and Minds battle. Where this is a particularly valuable book is in the wide ranging coverage it provides of the conflict, the people and the society. Recent military history tends to concentrate on the battles, the technology of war, the politics and the campaigns. Through first-hand experiences and anecdotes, he has painted a picture the Jebali people, their love of animals and introduced every level of Omani society. The book is both atmospheric and amusing. The author describes the Sultan’s horses, pedigree dogs,and exotic birds and animals, the Omani society at court and through to the humblest refugees and their animals. The great success of the book is in maintaining a balance across a wide selection of topics within the framework of the Dofar War. It shows the importance of the traditional British approach to supporting an indigenous population against attempts to take of that society by aggressive forces. It contrasts with the brute force approach demonstrated by US forces during recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where recent Middle East wars have consumed vast budgets and failed to win over the population they were intended to protect and liberate, the Gulf campaigns of the 1970s were small, economic, and successful. They were also fought away from the glare of publicity and embedded journalists. Whether similar wars can be fought in the future is debatable and one serious challenge is the invasive role of journalists who send back large volumes of film and video in real time from the fighting. This is a book not to miss. This is not “Herriott on a camel” but it is an informative and entertaining account that the reader will find absorbing and enjoyable.