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on 7 January 2016
An interesting first-hand account of a war in which the UK was intimately involved in the 1960s and 1970s, but which is surprisingly little-known. Future historians will be most grateful for this. The author writes well and is a serious writer, with other publications to his name, as well as a former Royal Marine.
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on 7 October 2014
This is an interesting account of the Dhofar Insurgency of the 1960s and 1970s, in which British soldiers helped Oman to fight against a Communist uprising. It’s not a particularly well known war, so Ian Gardiner – who fought in Oman – provides just the right amount of explanation and context, alongside the military history and first-hand account.
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on 10 January 2017
A focused insight and first hand account of the struggle to save Oman from the hands of communist/marxist control, their ultimate aim being to control the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. A fantastic piece of British military history, one of Britian's small wars. Great read !
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on 2 July 2015
For anyone interested in the history of the developing Oman this is compulsory reading.
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on 20 June 2016
I served with the British Army in Salaha during this period so it brought it all back to me and what we achieved.
Ken Honey
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on 27 June 2017
that's it
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on 11 September 2016
Not as well written as expected but factually correct if not a bit lacking in detail.
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on 13 January 2014
It is hard to believe how much the world has changed in the past 40 years. When I was growing up in the early 1970's I was aware of the war going on against communist insurgents in Oman, in parallel with terrorism in my own province. It was not a colonial war and neither was it a war about 'democrary'. It was a war fought in defence of the coldwar status-quo in this strategically important sultanate in the Persian/Arab Gulf. It seems anachronistic in the context of today's world order where the idea of communism as a political model in an islamic state seems incredible.

Oman was a poor medieval country in 1970 with no infrastructure or development. Oil wealth, such as it was, had not percolated down to the people. The tribes in the south rose up against the Sultan Said bin Taimur and they were supported by soviet weaponry and communist forces operating out of the now defunct South Yemen People's Democratic Republic. The Sultan's son and heir Qaboos overthrew Sultan Said in a palace coup in 1970. Just across the Gulf, Iran was still ruled by the Shah. Iran was one of the countries which sent troops to Oman to support Sultan Qaboos in the war in the southern province in Dhofar. This was a war in the Jebels (mountains) of the south. It was an Omani war but the Sultan fought with the assistance of British officers; SAS teams and air support.

Ian Gardiner was a young Royal Marine in his mid 20's when he arrived in Oman to take responsibility for a company of Omani soldiers. Each tour of duty in the Southern Jebel lasted 10 months and often he had no-one in his immediate group with whom he could speak English. He had to get his colloquial military Arabic quickly up to speed. He has written an affectionate account of the people and his comrades. There are many humorous tales and detailed acounts of engagements with the enemy, including sad reflections on the deaths of those to whom he was close. His style is understated and self deprecating, recognising human frailty and the book is all the more enjoyable for that.

I learned much about Oman and not least the surprising fact (to me) that its Ibadi brand of Islam is neither Sunni nor Shia. That sent me off to research its history and distinctiveness, an interesting exercise in itself.

Interestingly Sultan Qaboos is still on the Omani throne, 43 years after he seized power. Hw has no obvious successor. Another chapter in Omani history waits to unfold.
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on 22 August 2015
Ian Gardiner brings the war in Dhofar up to its official end in 1976.
Continuing the routine of serving British Officers experiencing active service in a supposed peaceful world, the author saw service in the Northern Frontier Regiment of the Oman Army. The NFR was one of four Oman infantry units that rotated two at a time between training in Northern Oman and active service in the southern area of Dhofar.
Not only does the author cover his personal experiences of that time but also gives the reader the bigger picture. The politics, insights into the life of the local Dhofaris and the Omani members of his own company.
Unless you had served in Dhofar many may have considered the conflict as some small bush war of little consequence. Yet this was a war fought against a tough enemy in harsh conditions. The Adoo (enemy- Arabic) was supported from the Yemen by the East Germans, Soviet Russia and the Chinese. The aim to control the whole of the South Arabian Peninsula as such having a possible control of important sea routes and pinch points.
This was no bush war, the Adoo although not having air or sea support had everything from 130mm artillery, Surface to Air Missiles the lethal 12.7mm Shpagin anti tank mines not forgetting the AK47. At the beginning the Omani forces lacked more modern equipment. But the Air Force improved with Hawker Hunters being provided by Jordan. Additional troops from Iran with their own air support including heavy lift helicopters. The Navy being upgraded from an armed Dhow to more modern small warships bought from the Dutch Navy. Perhaps the most useful piece of equipment being the military helicopters with their casualty evacuation role being a vast improvement over long uncomfortable journeys by Landover or being physically carried from the Jabil.
Officially the war ended in November 1976 unfortunately not all the Adoo complied. Expats shot whilst on a beach party, the last service man killed in action in 1979!
The author mentions an incident on Christmas Day in 1975 when Brigadier Akehurst and his wife whilst flying to various locations on the Jabil was shot down by some Adoo. Interestingly he had only just left Dhalkut, on the coast below Sarfait, where the surprise gift of a Christmas cake amongst some liquid refreshment was most welcome by certain people.
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on 18 July 2014
We are lucky to live in an age where most books are well written and published with high production values. A small number are well above average and extraordinarily well done. Then there are a rarefied few where enough good words cannot be written — In the Service of the Sultan, by Ian Gardiner, is one of these priceless books.

First hand accounts are excellent for their grit and emotion though usually limited in scope. Overview accounts are useful for understanding events in the context of their times. Gardiner, almost uniquely provides both making this book enlightening. Gardiner, as a combat team leader, has an ability to think philosophically about the events and people involved in those events — not an uncommon trait for an experienced warrior.

In the Service of the Sultan, tells Gardiner’s perspective of countering a politically inspired insurgency in the Dhofar Provence of Oman. This war occurred over a decade from 1965 to 1975 and threatened control of the Straits of Hormuz. Incredibly, most of us are not aware of it as the Vietnam War occupied the news services at the time.

Gardiner serves to reminds of us of this signal strategic event as he furthered his career in the Royal Marines (United Kingdom) — an interesting process — as well as the uncommon feat of defeating an insurgency. Having limited artillery support, and even more limited close air support, the Sultan of Oman’s forces largely prevailed the hard way with infantry patrols and actions. Initially setting a barrier for the insurgents, who were based in Yemen, these forces adapted to their theater of operation. Almost always on foot due to sole eating terrain donkeys were used when insertions were made to set ambushes as they could quietly carry heavy machine guns, mortars and ammunition. Helicopters were used to supply isolated outposts since their noise announcing traits were less dangerous as well as to evacuate casualties. A handful of Jet Provosts would provide air support with their small bomb loads and inferior machine gun armament — at least by U.S. standards — but were more than sufficient to address an enemy without adequate air defense. Along the course of In the Service of the Sultan the reader learns many priceless lessons and professional thinking, such as:

The planning of an ambush is much like complicated watch mechanism
How the adoo thought and the development of how to out think them
What it is like to fight with air support as well as without it
How helicopter pilots flew into rugged terrain in poorly lit nights using airspeed, compass and stopwatch
How taking casualties exponentially compounds the challenge of conducting a fight
The photographs are many and are outstanding. Notably those of Nicholas Knolly since they illustrate the events as they were occurring and leave readers with the grit that must have been.

The craft learned is there to be read. The thinking of the decision making is there. The emotions are there. This is a book that not only teaches history, it makes for vicariously experiencing that history. A history that is gone unsung and unnoticed though it may have been the most significant of the shooting wars occurring during the Cold War. The world would be frighteningly different from that of today should the Sultan of Oman have been overthrown.
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