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Al Ain old airport

Old 1st Apr 2009, 16:00
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RAF in Oman

Thanks for clearing that up, brakedwell. I know you even took your Twin Pin down to Firq and (up to) Saiq, even deeper into Omani territory. For details of the "Buraimi incident" and the Jebel Akdhar campaign:
l.garey2 - The Buraimi and Jebel Akhdar Crises, 1952-1959 by Laurence Garey Last update: 22 March 2008

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Old 1st Apr 2009, 19:00
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Brakedwell,

You were around before my time; I lived in Al Ayn from '65 - '68 in a quasi-political role. The border was there, although open EXCEPT for, importantly, any form of military movements other than the TOS Squadron CO based in Fort Jahili, and the Oman Gendarmerie C+O based in Buraimi, and the DIO who lived in Al Ayn.

In my time there, the fort in Buraimi was used by the Wali as a seat of local government as well as his residence, and as far as I knew it always had been. The TOS used Fort Jahili, just outside Al Ayn (now absorbed into the city) and as far as I knew again, always had done so since they based a squadron in Al Ayn. Are you sure you were landing on the Buraimi strip, as opposed to the Al Ayn strip? To the RAF in Sharjah the whole area tended to be thought of as simply "Buraimi" or the "Buraimi Oasis" without differentiating much between the 9 separate villages that made up the settlement then, 3 of which were in the Sultanate, and 6 were in Abu Dhabi.

I mentioned the permission to land in Buraimi only because I used to have to go to see the Wali and ask for it when requested to do so, which was very infrequent. He would invariably leave the room to ask the Sultan on his SSB, while I sipped the usual 3 cups of coffee.

Things were very different while the fighting was going on in Jebel Akhdar, with the RAF and the TOS both involved, and this is when you were involved, I think.

Incidentally, a book called Eastern Arabian Frontiers was and remains the definitive history of the Buraimi Dispute.

BTW, the TOS would not agree that the Saudis were expelled by the forces of Abu Dhabi and Oman; it was the TOS (TOL then), formed largely for the purpose, that did it.
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 06:37
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When I was on 152 Sqn the only landing strip in the Buraimi area was 500 yards east of the Fort. In fact it was a flat, stony area about 1000 yds by 200 yds aligned NNW/SSE, where the airfied is marked on L Garey/s map. The E/W landing strip must have been graded after I left. I have attached a photo of the fort so we know which one I am talking about.

You are right about the whole area being called the Buraimi Oasis by the RAF. I first heard of Al Ayn when I served on 105 Sqn based in Aden in 1964/6. We used to drop the Paras stationed in Bahrain on the Jebel Ali Range and land at Sharjah to pick them up again. If I remember rightly a tarmac road to Al Ayn had been or was about to be built.

Buraimi Fort taken in 1959.

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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 10:29
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Brakedwell,

Your picture looks remarkably like Jahili Fort to me, taken from the roof of the Officers Mess (which was the actual fort, a circular structure). The gate seems very familiar, the flag looks very like the TOS flag, and the vehicles look like TOS ones.

It's about 1Km East of the Al Ayn date gardens, and is still there, now with some of the buildings removed and back to its original brown colour, ie restored to how it was before the TOS got hold of it. (Sh Zaid bin Sultan aal Nahayyan was born in it, incidentally).

Burami fort was in the middle of the Buraimi village, more or less, and was not painted white. I do not recall it having an open walled square like Jahili.

The Oman Gendarmerie used olive green, not sand yellow, at least when I was there. As I recall (ie I can barely remember) they lived in a compound somewhere just to the West of Buraimi very close to the border, with prefab buildings, not in a fort at all.

The strip marked on L. Garey's map as Buraimi Da'ud, which was actually Al Ayn arstrip and used mostly by the RAF and Gulf Aviation, is rather more than 500m to the East of Jahili. (Edit; actually South East, a bit further than that, and where L.Garey's coordinates are for the lead in arrow, with the centre-line markings still visible.)

But the other strip, shown as just (500m?) to the East of Buraimi and thus in Sultanate territory, was in use when I was there by SOAF and the Oman Police Air Wing.

Last edited by Capot; 2nd Apr 2009 at 11:03.
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 15:09
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Capot
You could be right. It was the only Fort we visited and we called it Buraimi. Same as the strip which if I remember rightly was only a few minuteds drive from the fort. The photo was taken fifty years ago and has faded like my memory. I have extracted some clips from an 8mm movie I took at the time and the fort looks mud coloured. There were very few solid buildings and no hard roads so we called the whole area Buraimi. We didn't differentiate between the territories of the Trucial States and Muscat and Oman.
"Buraimi" airstrip

TOS soldier


Ruins at the back of the fort.
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 16:07
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Capot and brakedwell:
Not an easy choice! Both forts have that distinct local look, with the round towers and the crenellated battlements. Both have been much restored since the 1960s. Jahili Fort is now in the centre of Al Ain, and Buraimi Fort is in the (smaller) town of Buraimi.
The key might be that Jahili Fort is about 7 km from Dau'di airfield and about 4 km from Hamasa, whereas Hamasa is just 500 m from Buraimi Fort, as brakedwell described.
Capot: I think in fact Sheikh Zayed was not born in Jahili. His birthplace was restored and opened up as a museum a couple of years ago, a bit away from Jahili. There is no lack of forts around there!

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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 18:14
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After studying GE I am now convinced "my fort" is NOT Buraimi, but the photo of the Tower at Fort Jahili does not tie up either, unless someone has restored it with too much artistic licence. Due to extensive development the area has changed beyond recognition, but I have found some more recent photos which confirm it was Fort Jahili. My clip of the ruins behind the fort is now a restored mosque.

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 05:10
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I have been asking my friends in Al Ain what they think about the fort photo posted by brakedwell. They belong to a local group who go into the desert every weekend (I used to join them, and shall be with them in a couple of weeks again) and are very knowledgable about local forts.
So far, one says probably not Buraimi, another says yes, probably Buraimi.
There was even a suggestion it was Mezyed, a few km south of Dau'di.
Both say it is not Jahili. But from the photos that brakedwell linked to on Flickr it does indeed look like it!
It just shows how difficult it is to identify these forts: they all look rather similar, as I said earlier.
From brakedwell's description of the site of his airfield, I still opt for an unrestored version of Buraimi.
I shall try to study the question closer when I get over there.

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 06:33
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Definately jahili.
Comparing these two images clinched it for me. The newer one is titled Small mosque near Fort Jahili




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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 06:56
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No, not much doubt is there?! It is Jahili. I am trying to contact the photographer who put them on Flickr. He also posted a Twin Pin. Where is it taken do you think?
So if your photo is definitely Jahili, did you operate the Twin Pin and Pembrokes into Hamasa or Dau'di? That is the question!

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 07:24
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There was definitely only one airstrip in the Buraimi area - near Jahili Fort. I first heard of Hamasa and Dau'di on PPrune. The Twin Pioneer might be at Al Khatt, which is on the western edge of the Musandan Penninsular close to Muscat border. The red day-glow paint scheme is post 1961.

I took this photo of a 152 sqn Twin Pioneer with red dayglo at Sharjah when I was there with an Argosy in 1965.

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:06
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That is an evocative picture brakedwell. Nice.

So it looks as if you did use the same airfield as the Argosies: ie "Buraimi Dau'di", and the fort you went to was Jahili. Maybe the thought of the cold beer waiting for you made you think the 7 km was only 500 yards!

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:35
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I am more than certain that the fort in post #23 is Jahili. I lived in it for a short while in '65 before moving into my own - un-airconditioned - house in Al Ayn village, and visited 2 -3 times a week thereafter (A/C, beer and cooling pool) ....... I have David Shepherds painting of Jahili (not original, more's the pity; limited edition print) on my wall.

The fort tower was/is capped by a single circular room, with a wide walkway round it reached by stairs on the outside of the next level down. The picture was taken from there, and the wall of the top room can be seen to the left.

The A Squadron sign was TOS A Squadron, and that's a TOS soldier beside it.

The TOS excuse for painting the whole thing white was that it made it easy to spot recent damage to the mud walls; ie when a piece fell off it as immediately obvious. That may be so, but then again the Army always paints immobile things white, which could be the real reason. Upkeep was the responsibility of the Min. of Works in Bahrain, who would appear from time to time in suits and porkpie hats.

There was no strip "near" to Jahili in my day; there was Al Ayn strip ("Bureimi Da'udi" to the RAF), the strip close to Bureimi itself, and, possibly a disused strip well to the South-West, and West-Southwest (ish) from Jebel Hafit on the route to Umm Az-Zammul which I recall hearing about but not seeing used.

Edit

The point about the white paint is that although I visited many forts in the Trucial Oman and the Sultanate, while living in the region from '65 - '80, I cannot remember a single one being painted white unless the British had been involved with it, eg the fort on the old Sharjah airfield. Forts were built essentially from what in Devon is called cob ie mud reinforced by vegetation, and were not painted; to the builders and occupiers this would have seemed rightly to be a pointless exercise.

Hmmm, afterthought;. the Ruler's Palace in Abu Dhabi, somewhat outside the town as I remember it, was a white fort, wasn't it, but if so that was an exception. Perhaps Sh. Shakhbout got the idea from the Min of Works.

I expect that there are more "exceptions" to shoot me down! Standing by......

Last edited by Capot; 3rd Apr 2009 at 08:54.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:53
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I'm sure the strip we used in 59/61 was close to the fort. It's infrastructure consisted of a windsock (BP) and a few white painted stones. The cold beer arrived in one of the Landrovers and the fort couldn't have been far away as I never managed to finish the can before we reached it!

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We used to fly the Works and Bricks bods from Bahrain to Buraimi on a regular basis. Their inspection usually consisted of a long curry lunch, a few cold beers and a quick walk around the fort.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:54
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Capot: the big Jahili Fort tower has become a sort of symbol for Al Ain itself. It was even built (in replica) on one of the town's many roundabouts about 5 years ago, but has since been demolished.

You speak of an airfield to the SW of Al Ain. I wonder if you are referring to a mystery field at exactly 23N 55E that I posted about some time ago.

http://www.pprune.org/aviation-histo...-uae-oman.html

It is about 180 km SSW of Jebel Hafit and is clearly visible on GE, with two big runways in a T layout. We visited it a few years ago, and there is evidence of a post with the usual coded inscriptions which point to it being an oil exploratory site.
Maybe JW411 knows it?

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 09:00
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Brakedwell,

I really believe that Laurence is right....the thought of those beers made the drive from the strip to Jahili seem very short! Sorry, cold drinks, of course.

I could do it in 5-6 minutes from a standing start in the Mess when the Twin Pin or GF Heron flew overhead Jahili. Out of the gate, round the date gardens along the main (sand) street of Al Ayn, past the Muraba'a, 50 mph in a straight line across the scrub, and meet the aircraft taxying in to the parking stand.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 09:16
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L Garey

I can see the strip you refer to. Yes, it could have been the one I heard about. However I did drive to Umm Az Zammul a couple of times (2-day trip each way then) on business, so to speak, and did not see it. But then, unless you happened to choose that particular salt-flat as a route, you would miss it.

I have no recollection of any exploration in that area in the late 60s or 1970s, but that's not to say there wasn't any, especially before that time. In my time the activity was all in or South of the Liwa, and in a variety of places to the North and West of the Liwa up to the Saudi and Qatari borders on land, and the coastline to the North.

But if there was, there are still lots of ex-GF pilots around - probably retired - who would have flown there in F27, DC3, DH Heron, DH Dove, B80, F27, BN2A or Skyvans on charters for ADPC or an ADPC contractor such as Schlumberger.

Alternatively the strip may have been created in the 1970's or later - fairly secretly until Google Earth - by and for the ADDF as an advance base, which seems more likely to me. It might also have been intended for Shaikhly hunting trips, but that area is not famous for bustard as far as I know; the hunting usually took place much further South, in the Sultanate.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 09:23
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Capot: our posts seem to have crossed. Did you see the link I added about the mystery airfield? It gives much more detail. The so-called VP post shows it was an oil related site. It is a big airfield, ready to use today!

http://www.pprune.org/aviation-histo...-uae-oman.html

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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 09:24
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Crossed again!
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 10:07
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LIWA OASIS - There was a small landing strip called Humar south of the Liwa Oasis. It was a flat area of grey sand inside a bowl of high sand dunes and was very tricky to find! I landed at Humar, which was very near the Saudi border, about ten times. We usually flew from Sharjah via the IPC airfield at Tarif where we picked up additional TOS passengers. Somehow a distance of 144 n.m from Tarif sticks in my mind. I can't remember the heading, but it must have around 200 degrees. Humar does not appear in my log book after December 1959, so I assume the TOS must have withdrawn to Liwa, which did not have a strip at that time. I always remained with the aircraft while the Signaller or Navigator went off with the passengers for a few hours at their camp. After the engines cooled down and stopped crackling the silence was magic! I first experienced the "desert bells" at Humar, when it was almost dark and you felt you could reach up and touch the stars. Being alone in the desert surrounded by those high dunes was an experience I will never forget.

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