UK War Veterans Come Back to Aden [Archives:1997/45/Last Page]

November 10 1997

By: Ridhwan Al-Saqqaf, Aden Bureau, Yemen Times
A group of 86 British ex-servicemen from the Royal British Legion and War Veterans has arrived in Aden on Thursday, November 6th, 30 years since the final departure of British troops from the former colony in southern Arabia. The first group left Aden, after three days, and visited Lahej, Dhali’ and Habilain where they formerly served. On November 9th, British Remembrance Day, a service was held at the Mu’alla Cemetery and the Silent Valley Commonwealth War Graves in Little Aden. The nostalgia journey has taken British veterans to their old military barracks and old houses. They were happy with memories that have come back. The authorities of the former Socialist System have helped a lot by retaining conditions exactly as the British left them. “We are able to recognize the houses and alleys.” A cricket match at Al-Hubaishi stadium between a local team and a team from the British Royal Legion brought the two sides in direct competition, this time in a cordial manner. “The British ex-servicemen expressed their appreciation for the warm welcome they received by the authorities and people in Aden,” said Mr. Mustafa Raja Manar, the British Deputy Consul and Trade Officer at the British Consulate in Aden.
Brigadier Richard Mountford who had left Aden in 1964 while still a 25-year-old lieutenant in the Regular Federal Army, was one of those who returned last week. He has many fond memories of Aden and its surrounding areas. “I still remember the rich Arab dish of rice and meat which we used to enjoy eating,” said Richard, adding, “mada’a or hubble bubble though did not appeal to me.” Richard remembers walking on foot, carrying a heavy rifle, through the mountainous region from Dhali’ to Habilain. “The weather was very hot. I had to carry a big canteen full of water wherever I went.” He made the trek one more time last week. Haeey English, an ex-signal officer in Aden during 1964 to 1966 said, “It is so good to be back, but I could not find my old friends.”
But there are still a few old timers who were part of the history of the time. They were able to meet the British visitors and exchange gossips about the incidents here and there. Most important of all, however, was the change in mood and attitude towards the British. One young Adeni, given the hindsight in terms of the fortunes of the local population, simply asked, “What the hell were those people fighting against the British for. If the welfare of the people is the guiding factor, the British were much better than those who came after them.” That position, of course, cannot be supported. An independent Yemen, although temporarily miserable, is still better than a colony. The main thing now is to work to improve the lot of the people – politically, economically, culturally and socially. In this respect, there is still a lot to be done. Mr. and Mrs. Knight have commented on the rather slow progress of urbanization in Aden. Mrs. Knoght liked very much the Aden kids. “They have very nice white teeth,” she said.