HC Deb 07 May 1958 vol 587 cc1198-200
15. Mr. Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the operations at present being undertaken in the Aden Protectorate.

Mr. Amery

As my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary explained on 1st May, some 500 dissidents instigated, bribed and armed by the Yemeni authorities, recently attacked a Government fort at Assarir in the Dhala area of the West Aden Province. It has been reported that some regular Yemeni troops and Yemeni tribesmen also took part in the attack but the numbers are uncertain.

A force consisting of three companies drawn from the Buffs, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and the Aden Protectorate Levies, supported by aircraft of the Royal Air Force, was sent to relieve the fort. Its attack was launched on the 30th of April and, despite strong resistance, the fort was relieved. By the next day we had regained control of the area and a large convoy passed into it without incident.

The casualty figures are not complete, but we have been notified of 23 wounded among our own forces. Enemy casualties are estimated to be between 50 and 75. Since then our troops have been engaged in mopping up dissidents in the Jebel Jihaf, and in patrolling the frontier. One of these patrols came under fire yesterday by heavy machine guns from posts which had been established illegally on the Protectorate side of the frontier. This led to the counter action which was reported in the Press today.

Mr. Wigg

Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for everyone in the House, may I express sympathy with those men who have become casualties and their relatives? Also I should like to compliment those responsible upon the efficiency with which this operation has been carried out. Having said that, may I ask the hon. Gentleman how it is that, when it was necessary to reinforce this area, the K.S.L.I., which should have been back in this country in Colchester by April, I think, has been separated from its heavy baggage and moved to Aden, while, at the same time, the Government were forced to move the York and Lanes from Britain, and is not it a fact that they now have three battalions in the Aden area one only of which has its heavy baggage? How long is this situation to continue? Is it Government policy to reinforce the area and, if so, will it be done with units posted to the area in reasonable and normal conditions, because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is not a pleasant climate in Aden? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that reasonable amenities are being provided for these men? Is their post arriving, for example?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—Have they reasonable accommodation?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's question is a little too long for a supplementary question.

Mr. Wigg

I admit that it is long, Mr. Speaker, but it happens also to be a very important subject—the welfare of British troops recently engaged in action. I should have thought that it was quite in order to question the hon. Gentleman to find out what the situation is.

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman asked me for a statement on the operations recently finished, and I gave him such information as I had available. I should want notice of the other questions before I could reply.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will my hon. friend take into consideration the possibility of making known more widely than is the case at the moment the details of the air trooping operations to the Middle East so that the world may be suitably impressed with what this country is capable of doing if pushed to it?

Mr. Amery

There is another Question on the subject on the Order Paper today. I hope to make a fuller statement in a moment or two.

Mr. G. Brown

Did I correctly hear the Under-Secretary of State? Does he really know no details about whether the troops have their heavy equipment with them or not?

Mr. Amery

Of course I am informed on all those matters, but there is no Question on the Order Paper about it.