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With the SAS and Other Animals: A Vet's Experiences During the Dhofar War 1974 [Hardcover]

Andrew Higgins
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 19.99
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Book Description

21 July 2011
In 1970 at the height of the Cold War, the young Sandhurst-trained Sultan Qaboos of Oman, with secret British military backing, took on the communist rebels in a fierce but little known war. Along with regular British Army and 'contract' officers, the SAS played a key role in this bitterly fought but ultimately successful campaign.The value of winning the 'Hearts and Minds' of the local population was quickly recognised and this is where a select band of Royal Army Veterinary Corps officers came in. The local economy was a primitive one based on agriculture and the author, freshly qualified and, by his own admission, somewhat naive particularly in military matters, found himself solely responsible for the veterinary care of a territory the size of Hungary.Attached to A Squadron, 22 SAS, Andrew Higgins learnt how to respond to the Jebali people's love and concern for their animals who provided their livelihood - goats, camels, sheep and cattle. Then there were the Sultan's horses, dogs, birds and even bears.His first-hand experiences and anecdotes of life dealing with every level of Omani society from rulers to black slaves and their varied livestock make for wonderfully atmospheric and often amusing reading. In short, With the SAS and Other Animals is an unusual and potent mix of Special Forces action and veterinary experiences. Readers may well conclude that it really shouldn't have happened to a vet even in a desert war!

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848844867
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848844865
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 441,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just another Vet story. 7 Sep 2011
In 1970, the very young Sultan of Oman - who had been trained as an officer at Sandhurst, confronted the Communist rebels in his country and received some very secretive support from the British government. That support largely involved the SAS and other elite forces. I was a corporal serving with 22 SAS at that time and, whilst I knew nothing of the intimate details of operations so far away, I do recall wondering why a Veterinary Surgeon was attached to one of the operational squadrons. Well now I know!

At a time when British Forces were failing to realise the importance of "winning the hearts and minds" of the local populace in Northern Ireland, that very concept of British troops not being hated by the people of Dhofar was instantly recognised and put into practise. Part of that recognition was an acceptance that the local people were poor and that their wealth was measured by how much cattle they owned. So important were those animals that a succession of officers from the RAVC (Royal Army Veterinary Corps) were attached to A Squadron 22 SAS as part of the overall military programme.

After so many years, one of those young officers - Andrew Higgins, has finally put pen to paper to tell his incredible story from those days of an overlooked war. In an economy where animals were (and still are!) vitally important, he recounts his encounters with the camels, sheep and goats on the one side of the social scale before also including the pedigree horses, dogs, exotic birds and even bears and Hyenas which belonged to the Sultan.

In this work, Higgins relives his first-hand experiences with every level of Omani society from the royal palace to the poorest people with their livestock alongside a potent mix of special forces military action.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book 27 Oct 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book. The author takes you into a very different world of the Middle East and especially Oman where he served as a vet in a hearts and minds exercise ran by the UK. A great story to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a vet's perspective 23 Dec 2013
"With the S.A.S. and other animals" is a really great book. It tells the story of a young vet, Andrew Higgins, who serves in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and is sent from a rather depressing job in Northern Ireland looking after army dogs to the Dhofar region in Oman on a secret attachment to the Special Air Service. It is 1974, the Vietnam war is about to come to an end with a communist victory, but in Oman the S.A.S. is getting more and more success in their low-profile campaign helping the newly installed Sultan Qaboos to fight off the communist rebels invading from neigbouring Yemen. Apart from the military expertise brought in by the S.A.S. an important factor in the final success was the "hearts and minds" campaign that accompanied and in fact was part of the military intervention. For the jebali or hill tribes in Southern Oman their animals (cattle, goats, sheep, camels)were their most important assets and providing optimal healthcare would be much appreciated and secure their support for the Sultan's case. For this reason, an RAVC vet (who gave this care)was attached to the S.A.S. (who did the fighting). Andrew Higgins was the last military vet during the campaign; as things had worked out well and the region became pacified, his successor could be a civil vet.
The book is fascinating. From a political-military perspective, as pointed out by other reviewers, who stressed the importance of the "hearts and minds" approach and signalled that this approach had not always been followed in more recent, not too successful interventions. However, it is also a great read from a veterinary perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read especially if you know the region 27 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting to read about life in Dhofar at that time and the struggle for hearts and minds. It doesn't take much (in our eyes) to gain the trust of the locals - a trust that was vital to winning them over. Well worth reading to understand the lengths that UK went.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vet in a hot country 26 Nov 2011
By CowMan
This is a well written book that takes a reader back to a place and time far removed from today. The author has blended his experiences of treating animals into the context of working in a complex and sometimes hostile environment. The challenges of working in this different culture in strained conditions come through clearly as he confronts "immutable and non-negotiable priorities". This book sits well along side Rory Stewart's "Occupational Hazards" as today UK forces are still operating in the Gulf. In contrast to now, the Iranians are amongst the good guys in this book. And now pirates and not communists are the bad guys. Throughout the political and military backdrop, the author retains a clear compassion for the animals he deals with.
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