1950-1959 | Bombing villages | Collective punishments | Punitive operations | Yemen

Minister admits RAF bombed Yemeni villages for non-payment of fines

13 July 1955

On 13 July 1955, Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, admitted in the House of Commons that R.A.F. aircraft had bombed five Yemeni villages in the western region of Aden merely because they had not payed fines. He added that such air raids would continue in future if any further fines were not paid. Lennox-Boyd was challenged by Peter Freeman, Labour MP for Newport, who remarked that ‘this method is contrary to all sense of British justice – this indiscriminate bombing of innocent people who have done no harm and no wrong.’  The Colonial Secretary, taken aback by such sentimental concerns, struggled vainly to mitigate the political damage, reassuring the House that ‘every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of tribesmen’ and that ‘only’ their property was bombed.1

Lennox Boyd’s explanation was met, according to the Daily Herald, with ‘uproar’ and ‘cries of “shame” and “disgusting.”‘ Richard Stokes, the Labour MP for Ipswich, promptly declared that ‘most people will consider this as an absolute outrage.’ The minister, having now recovered from his initial surprise at the extent of the outrage, responded calmly, reminding the opposition benches that it was a Labour government which had earlier implemented a similar policy against Malayan villages, whenever they had failed to cooperate with sufficient enthusiasm in rounding up trade union activists and communists opposed to British rule.2 A week later, he continued to refute accusations that the RAF bombing had been either disproportionate or unethical, reminding MPs that there had been no reports of fatalities and that these villages were merely ‘small collections of mud huts.’

FOOTNOTES

  1. Aden Protectorate ( Collective Punishment ) Hansard HC Deb 13 July 1955 vol 543 cc1930-6 accessed online at url https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1955/jul/13/aden-protectorate-collective-punishment
  2. ‘Row over Tribal Punishment but – RAF village raids go on,’ The Daily Herald, 14 July 1955, p. 2.
  3. ‘None killed in Aden Bombing,’ The Daily Herald, 21 July 1955, p. 2

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