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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 17 April 2012
In his third book, Rowland White writes about a part of the Sultanate of Oman's history, and as in his other books, Vulcan 607 and Phoenix Squadron, what part the British military played in this period.

This well researched book, taken from interviews from the small number of people involved and previously unpublished and classified documents. He tells the story of how the repressive Sultanate of Oman was to be changed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who deposed his father Sultan Said bin Taimur, with some help of seconded British military personnel who formed the start of the Sultanate armed forces.

He describes how the enemy terrorists, called the Adoo, based in the neighbouring Yemen, being trained by and being supplied with arms by the communist Russians and Chinese, were being fought by the the Sultan of Oman's armed forces, which were mostly made-up of the British SAS, and pilots of the RAF flying modified Jet Provost training aircraft which then could deliver bombs and air to ground rockets.

The Adoo launched a major offensive against the town of Mirbat, being protected by nine SAS men, and how the SAS being nearly over-run and defeated, was saved by the aircraft of the Sultanate, the Strikemasters, helping to save the day.

A great read which gives more information of history, in this case of the early 1970's and that of the Middle East.
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on 27 May 2013
How much do you know about Oman and the roles of the SAF and SAS in the modernisation of the country?
This book gives you the history taken from first hand accounts of the men who were there and servived.
It is biased, there are no accounts taken from the communist side.
But what you do get is a jewel of a story full of true heroism, some levity and a good old history lesson to boot, right from No 10 at the top to the lowest ranks of Omani tribesmen who joined in on the side of the new Sultan.
You do not need to be an aircraft enthusiast to understand what’s going on but it helps if you are.
If any of my old history teachers had had a tenth of Roland’s talents, I may have taken up history instead of engineering.
A wonderful read.
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on 15 May 2013
Got this after I read his book Vulcan 607. Not as good but I liked it. Took me ages to read it as the pace didn't grip me. The second half of the book is better than the first half.
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on 25 March 2017
Good read
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on 8 June 2011
Two years after the appearance of Phoenix Squadron, Rowland White author of Vulcan 607 returns to the bookshop shelve with his new work Storm Front

Set during the early years of the 1970's the author takes us through the formation of the gulf state of Oman by coup d'etat, in which Her Majesties Government complicit and indeed assisted if only by turning the occasional blind eye, through to the fierce fighting between the men of the Special Air Service and the insurgent forces or Adoo, and includes the operation of Strikemaster jets flown by Royal Air Force pilots that were not officially in theatre. The story develops and reaches its climax with a graphic description of the battle for the BATT house, near the tiny fishing village of Mirbat, where 9 SAS men fought for their lives under overwhelming odds against several hundred Adoo insurgents. Their bravery under fire is aided by the RAF pilots and their Sultan of Oman's Air Force Strikemasters performing some of the RAF's first Close Air Support missions, firing 7.62mm gun pods and Rockets into the advancing terrorists to slow there advance.

The author has, as is his usual style, relied on detailed research and first hand interviews of those that were there to ensure that the chronology of the event as written is correct and that the full intimate detail of the story is gained. The book also contains names that in 1972 would have meant nothing to the man on the street but would later become household names. In early career form we meet with the likes of Sir Peter de la Billiere, later to command British forces during the first Gulf War against Iraq, Lofty Wiseman SAS Quartermaster and survival expert, Sir Jock Stirrup, a Flight Lieutenant with the Sultan Of Oman's Air force who would later be Chief of the Defence Staff, and at Mirbat itself, SAS Trooper Pete Winner who would later take part in the relief of the Iranian Embassy siege at Princes Gate in London.

For the aviation or military history aficionado Storm Front, while a veritable boys own story of daring do, is a superb work that highlights the trouble the Arab peninsula has been subjected to long before peoples interest increased with Desert Storm in the early 1990's and more recent operations further east in Afghanistan. Indeed it could be said that what is seen in Storm Front on the front of Arab armed insurgency is possibly the genesis of later, larger terrorist action to come. I can only highly recommend this book.
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on 3 November 2014
One of the best accounts of the battle of Mirbat that I've read and a good collection of photos too.
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on 2 November 2016
This book delivers its punch in the second half. The first half is slow and lacks focus; I found it hard going and soon gave up trying to grasp the geography, decipher the acronyms and remember who the characters were. For what I got from it, the first half could have been summarised in a few pages. The second half is tighter, faster-paced and altogether a better read. There is a good story there, but not enough to fill the whole book.
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on 7 June 2011
Since the end of World War II and the coming of "peace", there has only been one year in the 20th century where no British serviceman was killed in action - 1968. The British had abandoned much of their Middle East responsibilities, in particular leaving Aden and abandoning Yemen to decades of communist-backed drudgery, deterioration and latterly savagery. Next door in Oman, the situation looked to be similarly grim. This is where Storm Front starts off, chronicling the removal of Oman's Sultan Said bin Taimur and replacement with his son Qaboos bin Said. Qaboos wanted to drag Oman out of its increasingly desperate slide into the past but he was up against the same sort of communist-backed guerilla warfare that had led the British to abandon Aden.

Britain had no appetite - or money - to fight a war for Oman, but the Sultanate was of truly stategic importance so, as on so many other occasions, the British did what they did best - muddled through. With grudging dribbles of funding and minimal manpower and support, the British propped up the Sultanate of Oman's Armed Forces against a rising tide of rebellion from Dhofar. Storm Front concentrates on the SAS troopers sent in to support civil development, and the RAF officers on detachment flying Strikemasters, Hueys and Skyvans for the SAF. As you can expect by now from Rowland White the book rattles along at quite a pace, taking in incidents of horrific savagery but also plenty of humour and the occasional truly bizarre incident (exploding camels, anybody?). The background to the conflict is explained very well, so that by the time you get to the climactic battle for Mirbat that so few people have ever heard of you feel you know every character involved and exactly the sort of hopeless situation they are facing.

The heroism of the 9 SAS troopers involved in that battle against 300 enemy soldiers, and the importance of the air support they received in weather that would ground most air forces makes for a stunning story and Rowland pulls no punches with every detail of the battle meticulously recorded. This is not, however, a dry history book and as with his previous books Rowland brings events to life more in the style of a novel than a documentary. This is a book absolutely begging for a movie deal, and unlike, say, Vulcan 607, this one wouldn't be quite so impossibly expensive to film. We can but hope. Men like Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba deserve wider recognition for their incredible heroism on that day - single-handedly manning a 25 pounder gun that would normally need a crew of 4, 'Laba' held back the initial enemy thrust and fought until cut down, while his friend Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi reached him in time to take over and fight on despite being badly wounded himself. The bare bones of this story are incredible enough but the way it is told here will hopefully bring it to a whole new audience. Backing up the text is a selection of rare photos and maps giving an idea of the areas of the country involved.

Oman, of course, prevailed with eventual backing from other Arab countries (notably Iran - that's "good" Iran, not the "bad" Iran we have now) and dragged itself out of the dust to become a successful modern state, and British forces have gone on ever since fighting the same sort of battles even while their political masters fail to heed the lessons of the past. I hope Storm Front reminds just a few of them. To finish off with, just one criticism - no mention that the 25 pounder gun involved in the action is now to be found in Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich!
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on 8 August 2011
I had this book on the day of release and due to a move abroad have only just had the time to read it - damn! It was a very good, very addictive read. In particular, the build up to the finale had me missing Metro stations as I travelled to work in an attempt to get through to the end.

Rowland's previous offerings in Vulcan 607 and Phoenix Squadron impressed not only for the exciting story telling but the richness of the story due to the detail and personal seam running throughout each of the characters. This story was, I think, stronger than the previous 2 for exactly that and my goodness, what a story. I am somewhat pink cheeked to have known little of the escapades in the Oman and Yemen in the 1970's but I am much the wiser for it now having read this recollection. There really is something in there for everyone; land, sea and air operations - one might almost say the way 'joint operations' should be executed - combined with the more detailed flavour of the special forces of the era and the amazing patchwork of pilots and engineers flying for and with Omani forces.

The escapades of the SAS throughout the story is, as I know, stuff of legend in the Service and to get such a detailed insight into their daily lives almost makes them human. Almost. And the flying? Anyone who has an experience flying the venerable Jet Provost might just have imagined themselves wallowing around the sky in a Strikemaster rocketing under the covering fire of your own guns. Nice.

The story, like his previous 2 offerings, has given me another data point for parts of our military history I just wasn't fully aware of but in such a way, (unlike several books I've read,) I'll read it again just for the fun of it.
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on 8 August 2011
I appreciate that the work of the SAS means that the covert nature of what they do generates less in the way of medals than `normal soldiers', but, The Battle of Mirbat and the war in Oman is no longer a secret. It has been written about before but not in such well researched detail ... Now it is firmly in the public domain, surely Laba can have his VC now!

This book really puts you there: In the BATT house, next to the .50 Browning, the GPMG firing to your right and with a relentless line of adoo attacking from the front. You can imagine the 25 pounder, manned by Laba blasting off rounds. Then the book takes you to the artillery gun pit, the cockpits of the Strikemaster jets as if you were there yourself. It really is brilliant.

The build up in the book to the decisive Battle of Mirbat consists of intricate detail on the war in Oman and the background to its origins. Also included, are the backgrounds of the key players at the Battle of Mirbat, soldiers and pilots as well as all the key decision makers. This makes you feel as if you have almost `got to know' the men involved in the drama. By the time you get to The Battle, you also have a really good idea of the whole tactical and political situation.

I expected a lot from this book as I really enjoyed Rowland White's previous books. Also, having read other accounts of The Battle of Mirbat, this book had a lot to live up to and it did! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

For those involved who are still alive, I know you have heard this before but I'll say it again ... Well done! You make me proud to be British, and proud that we have such brilliant and brave soldiers serving in the British Army from Fiji. To the author, thank you for writing the book. I look forward to your next ...
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