The Open Door

A Sergeant & 14 Goats: Jim Atkinson

In 1961 I was seconded as a Sharwish (Sgt) to the Trucial Oman Scouts (Persian Gulf). At one period we were putting patrols into the ‘Empty Quarter’. I was detailed to supply them by air (my Air Despatch training having been noted). They gave me a Twin Pioneer aircraft. One WO1 Master Pilot (he liked a drink) and a Navigator.

The pilot used to perform an exercise he called ‘Dune Hopping’, in which he flew at 200 feet following the contours of the dunes, one hand holding a flask of coffee (laced), and one hand on the control column! Hair raising does not cover it!!! The supplies were petrol, oil, lubricants (P.O.L.), water etc., and each time fourteen live goats. I was then asked if I could free drop this lot as finding places to land would be difficult! I duly explained that some of it I could. But free dropping live animals could pose a small problem, least of all for the goats! So the patrols were told to find suitable landing strips, or to make them.

We duly loaded P.O.L., water etc., which left fourteen goats. I put a large tarpaulin into the fuselage. The goats were delivered and myself, the pilot and the navigator proceeded to tie them up (funny doesn't cover it). We eventually took off. About one hour into a two and a half hour flight, eight of the goats broke free (those tied up by the pilot, I swear). The pilot and the navigator locked themselves in their cabin and left me to it!! I spent the next one and a half hours trying to pin these animals down. They were, of course, all peeing and crapping everywhere including all over me. The tarp resembled a small pool of the most foul mixture you can imagine, with myself and fourteen goats in the middle. The dune hopping did not help either.

We landed and the door was opened from the outside. Fourteen goats, frightened out of their wits escaped into the desert. They were followed by one badly traumatised Sergeant, smelling and looking like the goats. It took two weeks and many, many scrubs with all sorts of potions and lotions before anyone would come within 25 yards of me, not to mention the jabs the medics insisted on sticking into me, covering most diseases from beriberi to leprosy! We do serve don’t we? I think that I deserved my AD Brevet that time — NIL SINE LABORE.

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