1960-1969 | Backing terror operations | MI6 crimes | Yemen

Our man in Aden authorises terror for terror policy

British troops searching for hidden land mines.
© IWM (ADN 65-355-2)

21 January 1964

On 21 January 1964, Robin Young, a British political officer in the newly created Federation of South Arabia, noted in his diary  the latest rules of engagement for covert terror operations inside neighbouring North Yemen, as laid down by Sir Kennedy Trevaskis, the British High Commissioner. London was determined that Egyptian forces, who were deployed there, should be taught a lesson. The Egyptians had already come under attack from Royalist rebels supplied by the U.K., but now they were suspected of retaliating by supplying weapons to insurgents opposed to continued British rule within South Arabia.

Trevaskis decided that, if Britain’s control over its military base in Aden was to be maintained, it was vital to win the terror war. He explained to Young that future covert actions should be designed so as ‘to inflict twice as much damage as inflicted on us but on similar targets to those attacked by the Yemenis.’   So when on 9 February a mine exploded under a civilian lorry in Wadi Hardaba, Young notified London of the intended retaliatory action, two mines on roads in North Yemen.  MI6 promptly delivered two explosive devices to Young, which were collected three days later by a Major in the Royal Engineers and on 17 February a Yemeni lorry travelling on the Dhala Qataba road was blown up. Young consoled himself with a reflection in his diary that ‘if people play with fire I suppose they are almost certain to get their fingers burnt.’1


  1. Peter Hinchcliffe, ‘Robin Young’s Diaries,’ in Peter Hinchcliffe, John T. Ducker and Maria Holt, Without Glory in Arabia: The British Retreat from Aden, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2013 pp. 167-8.

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