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Venom crash in Oman 50 years ago

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Venom crash in Oman 50 years ago

Old 18th Jun 2008, 14:38
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Venom crash in Oman 50 years ago

On 30 August 1958 Flt Lt Owen Watkinson of 8 Sqd RAF based at RAF Sharjah lost his life in the crash of his Venom on the plateau of Jebel Akhdar in Oman. The remains of his aircraft and his grave are still up there at 2000m (see my record at http://l.garey2.googlepages.com/home and http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=319277).

As I shall be in Oman on the 50th anniversary, 30 August 2008, I am hoping to lead a small group back up to the crash site, and I wonder if anyone on this forum has any memories of or insight into this sad event.
I should especially like to hear from any former colleagues or more recent members of 8 Sqd, or indeed from Omani colleagues.
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Old 23rd Jun 2008, 10:52
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See my response on AH&N
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Old 23rd Jun 2008, 19:51
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It's been a while since I was last up there, but I understand the road up to Saiq Plateau has now been tarmaced. You no longer need a military permit to go up there and the police control the entrance instead of the military, but it is still restricted to 4x4 vehicles because of the steepness of the road. Like I say, this is hearsay as I haven't been up there personally for a few years.
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Old 18th Jul 2008, 11:34
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That brought back memories! I was lucky enough to visit the site back in '71 whilst on a 'Firq/Saiq' run with 78 Sqn Wessex, based in Sharjah. As I remember, the grave is a simple concrete plaque with a cross on it, just off the end of one of the runways at Saiq Intnl, (well it was a 3 dirt runway airfield in those days)
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 09:35
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Hello Motley.
Yes Owen's grave is in a rockface alongside his Venom. The wreckage is still there and we shall say hello to him on August 30, 50 years since he made his last low pass over the mountain.
(see my record at l.garey2 - The Buraimi and Jebel Akhdar Crises, 1952-1959 by Laurence Garey Last update: 22 March 2008 and Crashed Venom on Jebel Akhdar, Oman).
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 12:14
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What a fascinating website, thanks Mr Garey
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 13:55
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It is a pleasure, GG. Glad you enjoyed it.

Laurence
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 14:10
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It is said that the pilot was strafing goats, and it is thought that he was not shot down, but misjudged the pull out from his attacking dive.
Further afield, their operations in Aden, for instance, at one stage accounted for “600 goats, 8 camels, 2 cows and one man”.
I probably missed something but I would appreciate if somebody could elaborate about hunting goats with fighters ?
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 14:24
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It was to stop the pilots being the butt of Jokes
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 14:43
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Why strafe goats?

The villages on the Saiq plateau are still rather isolated, at 2000 m above sea level. It is a hard drive to get there. 50 years ago, they were essentially cut off from the Nizwa valley below, and the road that exists today was a mere track. And they did not have 4WD trucks. So the villagers were dependent on their meagre stocks of sheep and goats for meat and milk. Thus the RAF deemed that goats were a strategic, or at least tactical, target. Also having Shackletons dropping 1000 pounders and Venoms whistling overhead at rooftop level (and in Owen's case, unfortunately even lower) was thought to be demoralising.
So the RAF strafed goats while the SAS tackled the "rebel" soldiers.

Laurence
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 15:48
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the villagers were dependent on their meagre stocks of sheep and goats for meat and milk. Thus the RAF deemed that goats were a strategic, or at least tactical, target.
Thank you for the information despite it doesn't sound very glorious...
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 15:56
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War is rarely glorious!
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 16:07
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8/208

I seem to remember seeing a gun camera sequence from a Hunter on 8/208 crewroom wall which consisted of ever increasing piccies of the rear of a camel hightailing it (literally) up a wadi with finale being a disintegrating camel's bum.

As you observed,sispanys ria, not exactly glorious.

I also remember a certain P1 on a Shack crew sneaking up on a line of camels (a LONG line of camels) at about 50ft and warp factor not a lot as they plodded their way through the shallow surf of the Arabian Sea south of Muscat with their owner/driver leading the first on on a halter. As we passed over and climbed steeply and rolled to look back, there were camels scarpering in all directions, most headed towards th Empty Quarter. Not exactly the way to win hearts and minds, what? But then he (the P1) was French.
The Ancient Mariner
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Old 27th Jul 2008, 17:03
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Magnificant part of the country....

I visited the crash site a few years ago with a mate of mine. Here are some snaps of the wreckage and surrounding area.

The wreckage







Think we may have missed this sign on the way in!!



A nearby village....still angry about the goats!





The campsite used during a royal visit of Prince Charlie and Lady Di...

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Old 22nd Oct 2008, 20:18
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The memorial stones have been taken over the years by the locals to use as building material is my understanding. They are not being disrespectful as they cannot read what is on it and, if you see where they live, many of the homeless tramps in the UK would reject their homes as unsuitable compared to a cardboard box. People in that area still live in slightly glorified caves For the locals, it is their way of life. An Omani graveyard is marked by ordinary stones stuck in the ground with no inscriptions. The only way you know it is a graveyard is it is unnatural to have so many stones stuck in the ground. When I first went up the mountains, I tried to ask by sign language, pigeon Arabic etc, when it got dark. I was told once a day! Nobody in the village had a watch or clock, no electricity, and when it got dark they went to bed. I wondered at the time who had it wrong. I have to admit to not going up there for a couple of years and, the last time I was there, there was a cross painted to mark his last resting place, which seemed the best idea. I would be interested to know what was found on the recent visit.
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Old 23rd Oct 2008, 06:51
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Headstone

In reply to Farrell, an "early morning run" would certainly NOT be the thing to do. There was a marble plaque on the grave, as can be seen by a broken edge today. I was told there was even a cross on it. It does not surprise me that this was removed at some stage. The British authorities wanted to remove Owen's body to Muscat some time ago, but the local people wanted to keep him. They actually respected him as a fallen soldier. There is no sign of dispect to Owen. On the contrary.
We must let the local people decide on this one, or our interference may have a negative effect. After all, the intention of the RAF's visits to that area in 1958 was to kill local people and destroy their livelihood. So I suggest that the grave and crash site be left alone. A year or so ago a memorial plaque to Owen was put up at the British cemetery in Muscat. We certainly do not need another at the crash site.
Since the new 3 lane road was built to the top of the Saiq plateau a couple of years ago there are many tourists who go there, and there are signs that the wreck of the Venom is being degraded. I am in fact in touch with the local authorities about that.

As to Ali Barber's post, I am very surprised to read about the local people that "many of the homeless tramps in the UK would reject their homes as unsuitable compared to a cardboard box. People in that area still live in slightly glorified caves". That really is not true. When did you last visit, I wonder? The living conditions on the plateau were "primitive" by Western standards 50 years ago, but now, especially since the new road arrived, conditions are very, very different. On my last visit at the end of August 2008 there were new houses springing up all over and even new hotels. In the villages, people live in good conditions, so your descriptions make me think you might not have been there recently. You say there was no electricity or even clocks! Not correct. The people are hard-working, very friendly, and courteous. Your description of their graveyards looking "unnatural" because of plain stones stuck in the ground and the general tone of your post puts the people of the plateau in a negative light, and does not reflect reality.
I note that live you live in Muscat, where things are different again from the conditions on the Jebel, and I imagine that the Saiq villagers would, for the most, prefer their land to that of the coastal towns. Interesting that so many people from Muscat are now building on the beautiful fertile highland for their weekend retreats!

Laurence Garey

Last edited by l.garey; 23rd Oct 2008 at 07:01.
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Old 23rd Oct 2008, 09:08
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Didn't mean to show the locals in any bad light and agree that Saiq has changed beyond all recognition with the new road. But there are still people living in what we would call primitive conditions if you go to some of the more obscure and hard to find locations. Having said that, the government is putting new roads in all over the country at a furious rate and the lot of locals is improving at the same rate. I have huge respect for these people managing to survive and prosper in some fairly harsh environments.
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Old 27th May 2009, 15:55
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We visited this site a few days ago, and the wreckage seems to be in much the same condition as the photo's above show.

I couldn't think of a better final resting place, rugged, beautiful terrain and the heat's not likely to be a problem.
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Old 27th May 2009, 16:09
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Matt:
I am pleased to hear that the site is still in reasonable shape. I just came back from the UAE, where it was 43C, but did not have time to get up to Saiq.
Yes, Owen is certainly in a cool and beautiful place!

Laurence
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