Arabian Days - The Memoirs of Two Trucial Oman Scouts, Antony Cawston and Michael Curtis

Arabian Days - The Memoirs of Two Trucial Oman Scouts, Antony Cawston and Michael Curtis

The Trucial Oman Scouts was founded in 1951 (as the Levies) to provide a defence force for the area that was later to become the United Arab Emirates. Britain had treaty obligations to provide for the defence of the area, and the Scouts performed that role. It had locally enlisted soldiers with British officers, and was officially part of the British Army. It survived until 1971, when it became part of the Union Defence Force, the newly formed army of the UAE.

Our two authors had very different routes into the Scouts. Antony Cawston was actively seeking out an alternative to peacetime soldiering with the mainstream British Army, while Michael Curtis was an unwilling student of Arabic, posted to the Middle East after earlier promises about his career were ignored. Both men clearly enjoyed their time with the Scouts, and paint a picture of an exciting and rather varied way of life, in a part of the world that was on the brink of rapid change. The super collection of colour photos show a vanished world (compare the aerial photo of Dubai in 1960 on p40 with the modern city, or pictures of Fort Jahili, then standing alone, now in the middle of a large town, to see the amazing pace of change). The Scouts played a part in the early days of that change, helping establish stability and playing a part in a bloodless coup within the royal family of Abu Dhabi in 1966.

One minor criticism is that it isn't that clear which author wrote each part - the list of contents doesn't say, the front page for each part doesn't say and the authors refer to themselves as 'I' without saying which 'I' is which! I had to work out who was who for myself, using clues in the introduction, the dates given in the chapter headings and the list of officers in Appendix B of part one to confirm that Antony Cawston is the author of Part One and Michael Curtis of Part Two! 

These are two very interesting memoirs, supported by a useful selection of appendices that help explain the wider context of events (including the foundation of the Levies, the formation of the UAE and the absorption of the Scouts into the new army). Both of the authors paint a sympathetic view of the Arab world, and both spent much of their post-army careers working in the area, which rather backs up that impression! In addition the two memoirs are valuable accounts of just about the last period in which British army officers could find themselves serving in these interesting units around the world.

Part One (Antony Cawston)
1 - The Lure of the East - Britain and the Gulf
2 - The Last Days of the Raj - The Indian Army
3 - The Levant and the Gulf - Arabic in Lebanon
4 - The Trucial Oman Scouts - 1959-1961
5 - The Trucial Oman Scouts - Some lighter moments
6 - The British Embassy Amman - The Kuwait Liaison Team
7 - Defence Attache - Lebanon and Syria
8 - The Defence Industry - British Aerospace
9 - Looking Back
Appendix A - Rulers and Senior Sheikhs in the Trucial States and Oman in 1959-61
Appendix B - Officers who served in the Trucial Oman Scouts in 1959-61

Part Two (Michael Curtis)
1 - Introduction - How it all began. Posting to Aden and the Trucial Oman Scouts
2 - Arrival at Aden - CALSAP - the course and arrival at Sharjah
3 - Joining the Trucial Oman Scouts, indoctrination, the headquarters and move to Mirfa and first roundabout
4 - Back to Sharjah, some sort of comfort as resident squadron
5 - Life in Sharjah, the proximity of Dubai, currency changes, the removal of Sheikh Shakhbut, ruler of Abu Ahabi
6 - Scout roundabout, A Squadron move to Fort Jahili at Al Ain
7 - The Buraimi Hunt Ball & Point to Point
8 - Our stay at the Oasis and mid-tour leave
9 - Third roundabout, the move to Masafi, now in command of A Squadron
10 - Fourth roundabout to Manama and nearing the end, the last trip to Sharjah and going home
11 - The Final Chapter
Appendix A - TOS Order of Battle 1966-67
Appendix B - Salem Said
Appendix C - Characters along the way
Appendix D - A look at what is was like 20 years later
Appendix E - The Formation of the Trucial Oman Scouts
Appendix F - The Foundation of the Emirates
Appendix G - The Defence Forces

Author: Antony Cawston and Michael Curtis
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 188
Publisher: MC
Year: 2010

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