08 January 2016

George in Aden

Interactions between cultures, in war and peace, have long been part of the experiences of military personnel.  Most other people do not travel far, unless to work and/or seek riches and/or to find love and/or satisfy curiosity and/or to escape violence, boredom, poverty, natural disasters and/or unpleasant weather.

Before the First World War, my paternal grandmother had an uncle who served with his regiment in India and/or Burma.  He died during the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915.

Before the Second World War, my maternal grandmother had a brother who served with his regiment in India.  He died in Normandy shortly after D-Day in 1944.

During much of the Second World War, my paternal grandfather served with British Forces Aden.  He had a long career in the Royal Air Force, from the time he left school in the 1920s until his retirement from the forces many years later.

My grandfather spent his earliest years in Belfast in Northern Ireland.  His family lived in Emerson Street, a poor, working class area just off the Shankill Road.  He was orphaned at around the age of six and was then sent off to Devon during World War I to be brought up by an older brother there. 

My grandfather helped to build and maintain military aircraft.  The BBC has the recollections of someone who was in Aden during the war.

The port of Aden, now in Yemen, had long been a strategic link to India for the British.  Britain still had an empire until it gradually transformed into the Commonwealth of Nations.

In fact, Aden was considered to be a province of British India for almost a hundred years, from 1839 to 1937.  Like many colonial territories, Aden had been occupied by force.

The hinterland behind the port was known as the Aden Protectorate until the 1960s.  During the Second World War, British Forces Aden was under the command of H.Q. British Forces, Aden, so my grandfather may have been based at RAF Khormaksar.   No. 8 Squadron was based in Aden during World War II.

When reflecting upon current hostilities, have you identified your family connections with the Middle East?  What are the shadows of your inheritance?  Were any of your family members ever in the Colony of Aden?

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I especially appreciate historical insights.