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Association News

Do you have any News that may be of interest to other members? If so please let Keith know at

04 Sep 2020

50 Years of Helis

Even in these uncertain times, celebrating the Helis 50th was too important an anniversary simply to be cancelled or postponed….

It was certainly not what anyone had in mind originally, but Helis are used to improvising and it converted instead to a ‘virtual’ Curry Lunch, held - on schedule - on 5th September.  A fuller account will appear in the Journal, but – under ingenious direction of a ZoomMeister – it became a light-hearted gathering of around 25 including sign-ons from USA, Tenerife, Cyprus and Oman itself.  There were even a few soldiers, otherwise known as the ‘talking freight’, who added to the banter – and were very generous in their tributes.

Recipes had been circulated for curries and Um Ali, and the outline plan was:

1230 Charge glasses/Toast – Welcome

1240 Ground rules 

1245 Heart Starter – Bloody Mary (a la Watson)

1300 Main Course – Curry (each course in smaller groups - break out rooms)

1330 Building the Hornbeam Line 

1350 Dessert – Um Ali

1420 Toasts 

1450 Speech

1500 SOAF Quiz (in teams)

1530 SOAF Song Sheet 


CRAFO, Air Vice Marshal Matar bin Ali Al Obaidani, had sent a very generous message of greetings which included:

“In August 1970, an AB 206 Jet Ranger arrived at the Bait Al Falaj Airport as the first helicopter to join the Sultans Armed Forces and was flown to Salalah.  That was the beginning of the establishment of No.3 Squadron within SOAF.

The introduction was incredibly challenging due to all-around difficulties facing the country during that period.

 I was not present then, but I am informed that it was a lot of fun and the best time someone can imagine to be at, with the enthusiasm, teamwork, and a lot of hard work.  But there were sad moments too and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those we lost. I also take this opportunity to remember the founder of the helicopter force, Wing Commander Neville Baker, who worked tirelessly and played a very big part in the success of the formation of No.3 sqn and the end success about the Dhofar rebellion.

In turn, No.3 Sqn’s formation led to the birth of No.14 Sqn at Seeb, followed by a VIP Flight at Seeb, SAR at Masirah and Khasab detachment flight. Today RAFO is a more modernized force and continues all round with a firm confidence.

I wish you and your families all the very best and your contribution to the setting up of the Helicopter Sqns in RAFO is most appreciated, and is part of history which we all have to be proud of.”

This led us perfectly into a concluding toast to ‘The Helis’. 

12 Aug 2020

Philip Horniblow OBE

Philip Horniblow who served in Oman during the 1970s died on the 13th August aged 92.  He had a fascinating and varied life and his obituary was featured in the Times on Friday 21st August.  A copy of his obituary can be read by clicking on the following link

Philip Horniblow obituary

12 Aug 2020

Colonel Mahananda Medhi WKhM

Colonel Mahananda Medhi, known to all as simply Medhi, sadly passed away in Dispur Hospital in Assam India on Thursday 13th August, aged 77. He was born in Nagabera, India on 7 September 1943. He qualified as a Doctor in 1963 and joined the Indian Army Medical Corps


Doctor Medhi came to Oman in the late 1960’s, as a Captain, on Loan from the Indian Army Medical Corps and later converted to being a Contract Officer. He was initially posted to NFR as RMO. Bryan Ray, CO NFR during those early years, reports that he was well loved when he served with NFR and was often at the locations where the fighting was fiercest. He went forwards to attend wounded soldiers where they fell. All members of the regiment respected him hugely. Medhi possessed a great sense of humour and his cheerful manner boosted the morale of the soldiers when in dangerous situations. In brief he was a tremendous asset to the NFR. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (WKhM) in 1971.

He served several years in Dhofar, and established the Military Hospital in UAG in 1974, He was later appointed Senior Medical Officer Dhofar and during this time established the Dhofar Flying Doctor Service in 1975. In the early 1980’s he was posted to Muscat and tasked with forming the Casualty Clearing Station. He was later promoted to Colonel and was made CO of the Armed Forces Hospital, where his wife was also serving as a Doctor. His final post before retirement, after 25 years service, was Adviser to the Director of Medical Services.

After leaving Oman he spent a period working in the UAE before returning to his roots in Assam and a tribute to him published after his death by his local newspaper can be read by clicking here

He was a popular and well respected officer in both the Force Medical Services, and the Army generally. He is survived by his wife Dr Santi Medhi and his son Gunajit.

11 Jun 2020

When did you last visit The Souq?

Hidden, perhaps too well, beneath the 'Members' menu item of the website, The Souq (click on the name to go there) is our attempt to add something a little bit more interactive and informal to the website.  You need to join the website as a member to get past the first page of The Souq but signing up is easy and you will be prompted to do so.  Once your membership has been approved, which may take a day or two depending on how on the ball the webmaster is, you will be able to not only read everything in The Souq's 4 categories and comment on what you read but also you can contribute your own items, stories, photos and videos.  Currently there is far too much stuff contributed by one Keith Ryde and not enough from others.

Membership of the website is for SAF Association members only (to keep out the riffraff!) and has to be separately applied for on the website by clicking the 'Sign Up' link at the top right corner of most pages or that appears when non-members try to enter most parts of The Souq.

So please sign up, visit The Souq and add your own comments and contributions.

07 Jun 2020

Postponement of the 2020 Association Visit to Oman

It is with regret that we announce that the Association’s visit to Oman in December this year will now not take place as scheduled.

Since early March, we have been liaising closely with COSSAF’s office and re-assessing the viability of the visit in light of the COVID-19 situation.  It has become very clear to us all that there is likely to be considerable uncertainty around international travel for an indeterminate time into the future.

Because of this, it is our joint view that the wisest course of action is to postpone the Association’s visit until next year.  It has been re-scheduled for the first half of December 2021 and exact dates will be confirmed in due course.

While there are no changes at this time to the participants, the Committee has retained the names of all those who applied.  Should there be a significant number of withdrawals over the next 12 months or so, individuals who applied previously will be approached to establish their willingness to take part.

With best wishes to all our members and hoping that you are all keeping safe.

07 Jun 2020

More Postponed Events

With regret we have now had to cancel/postpone more events due to the ongoing Covid 19 situation.  The latest casualties are our annual Curry Lunch in London and a much smaller gathering that was being arranged for members in the Midlands and Salop.  The curry Lunch will be back in 2021 and it is hoped to try again to arrange something for members in the Midlands.

There remain a few events arranged for dates in September or later which we hope may yet still go ahead and so are still displayed on our Events page.  Please keep checking back for any updates.

14 May 2020

A note on our reporting of deaths

We would like to clarify how we treat the reporting of deaths of our members and others.  Whenever possible we will report on a death, with a short obituary, in the News page of the website with details of the funeral arrangements.  Once the funeral has occurred we will shortly after transfer the death notice and obituary to the Deaths page of the site where the obituary will reside more or less in perpetuity.  It may be necessary to redesign the Deaths page shortly so that visitors will not need to scroll down interminably when seeking a specific person.

25 Mar 2020

2020 Scottish Dinner Postponed

The 2020 Scottish Dinner that was scheduled for May has become the latest casualty of Covid 19.  Current advice from Jonathan Forbes is until further notice but I suspect that we are probably talking about postponing until next year.  In the meantime, Douneside House, where the dinner is held have made an interesting offer regarding their holiday cottages and apartments that people might be interested in once the total lockdown we are currently under has been somewhat lifted.


It has been noted that those who spent many happy months at Simba/Sarfait experienced useful preparation for the current social distancing/self isolating scenario, although they did frequently have numerous 'incomers' to brighten up their day! 

23 Mar 2020

SAF Association Events 2020

Clearly we are far from immune to the effects of Covid 19 and the extraordinary measures that we are all having to take to mitigate the spread of the virus and to protect the high risk people, many of whom are among our members.  We have already formally postponed for 12 months the SON/RNO event that was scheduled for the 5th of July and we are most likely to have to postpone or cancel many, if not all, other planned events.  We are following a wait and see policy where it is possible to do so, but please keep checking back to the Events page of the website for updates and news of cancellations.

In this most difficult of times it is our heartfelt wish that all our members stay safe and healthy.

14 Feb 2020

Speaker for the June Curry Lunch

We are pleased to announce that Lt Gen Sir Simon Mayall KBE CB has agreed to speak at the Curry Lunch on 11th June 2020 (see Events). Simon will also sign copies of his book, Soldier in the Sand, which will have been recently published shortly before the lunch.

Simon is an enthusiastic member of the Association and regularly attends our London events. He served in Oman in the Armoured Regiment 1985-87 and then went on to a very distinguished career in the British Army with a number of appointments in and related to the Middle East as well as in Kosovo and other locations.

He was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff in January 2007 and, in 2009, became Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Operations). He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 2010 New Year Honours and made Defence Senior Advisor Middle East at the Ministry of Defence in May 2011. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2014 Birthday Honours


11 Feb 2020

PR/Advertising Manager for the Journal

The Association is seeking a new volunteer member to be PR/Advertising Manager for the Journal taking over from Chrissie Heslop who has given us such splendid support for the past 20 years in this role.

The task is primarily to seek high quality advertising from Omani companies or British companies with business interests in Oman. It is a full service role involving everything from targeting potential advertisers, through marketing and selling, to detailing adverts to meet publishing specs, invoicing and chasing payments. There will be a full handover from Chrissie.

Would interested members please contact Tim Jones at

15 Jan 2020

His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik bin Taimur al Said

His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik bin Taimur bin Said succeeded to the throne on 11th January on the death of his cousin His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur Al Said.


The 65-year old ruler served as a special envoy to the late Sultan on different occasions and held various positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He served as the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs from 1986 to 1994 and was later appointed as the Secretary General for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1994–2002).


This extensive experience in foreign relations and policies formed the focus of his first speech as Sultan, in which he expressed the intent to continue the policies of the late Sultan, saying:  “In terms of foreign policy, we will follow the path he followed: embracing principles based on the peaceful coexistence among nations and people.”


HM Sultan Haitham bin Tarik was the Sultanate’s Minister of Heritage and Culture and the driving force behind the restoration of many historical monuments in Oman.  He is the Chairman of the Committee for the future vision of "Oman 2040″, a roadmap for social and economic reform for the country.  In 1979 he was a graduate of the Foreign Service Programme from Pembroke College, Oxford University.


He is the honorary president of the Oman Association for the Disabled and the honorary president of the "Omani-Japanese Friendship Association."  He was also the first head of the Oman Football Association in the early 1980s and is known as a sports enthusiast.


The Association looks forward to supporting the Sultan in the continuing pursuit of peace and prosperity in the Sultanate.

15 Jan 2020

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur al Said

It is with great sadness that the Sultan's Armed Forces Association mourns the death of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.  His wise guidance over many years has supported his people in enabling the whole country to develop steadily and prosper greatly – earning a recognition and respect that reaches widely into other nations.

The memories of the Association’s members stretch back to the early and more challenging times after His Majesty’s accession and the start of Renaissance. It is with great pride that we have shared parts of that journey and been able to witness Oman’s many subsequent achievements.  We have been particularly grateful for the interest that His Majesty had continued to show in the Association, and the warmth of the enduring friendships.

Sultan Qaboos graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1962. He then served in the Cameronians from where he retained a passion for pipe bands.  He succeeded his father on 23 July 1970 and over the next fifty years implemented significant socio-economic reforms to bring Oman into the 21st century creating a stable country in an unstable region.

Returning to Sandhurst in 1983, Sultan Qaboos took the salute at the Sovereign’s Parade.  Recalling his own military training, he declared,  "The values I absorbed have remained with me for ever afterwards. … I learnt that discipline is not just something one imposes on others, it is something that one has to, above all, apply to oneself, if one is to be a worthy leader of men. I also learnt the true meaning of service, that is, to give and not to expect to receive, and that it is the team, and not oneself, that matters. I learnt that with responsibility comes obligation."

Click here to read the obituary published in The Times 13 January 2020

Click here to read the obituary published in the Daily Telegraph 11 January 2020

06 Sep 2019

Proposed 2020 Association Visit to Oman

It is probable that a minimum of twenty members of the Association will be invited to visit Oman between 2 and 12 December 2020.  The programme, which will coincide with Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day, is likely to be split between Dhofar and the North, with a good deal of internal travel and the usual jebel walking!


COSSAF has indicated that applications would be particularly welcome from those who have not taken part in an Association visit previously and from recently joined members.  None of that, however, should prevent any member from applying.  Assuming sufficient applications, the group will comprise a balance of members from all three Services.


You are asked to note that the programme will be quite demanding physically and that personal travel insurance must be taken out by individuals to cover the visit.  Members are expected to pay for their own travel costs to Oman and return (probably through centralised arrangements).  In-country subsistence and travel costs have traditionally very generously been met by COSSAF.


In order to assist the Committee’s outline planning and response to COSSAF, would any member interested in taking part in the visit please advise Neil Fawcett by email by 31 October 2019 if they would like to be considered.  Email address:


Following a further reminder in the 2020 Journal, which should also contain more details of the programme, confirmation of those selected to visit should be finalised by 30 June 2020.  As in previous years, a Reserve List will be compiled as a contingency.

09 Jul 2019

News of Tim Finneron

The following newsy message received from 3 Sqn USA rep Tim Finneron.  Should anyone wish to contact Tim please let me know, through the website or my email, and I will put you in touch.

"How nice it is for those of us who live abroad to receive news of the UK events and the personalities whose company we enjoyed from the bars of Salalah to the dust of Sarfait. I am moving from LA to Seattle for semi-retirement and tax reasons. But not giving up flying just yet. I will be flying a new aircraft type, a Falcon 900EX EASy (tri jet) with next gen avionics and operating out of San Diego. A decent commute but probably only once a month or so. If anyone should happen to pass through Seattle then I would be delighted to meet up with them. It’s a beautiful spot and wine a plenty. Stories will be confined to 3 Sqn exploits and the Salalah hooligans. I suppose we will therefore (begrudgingly) have to include 1 Sqn. Salaams to all my readers. We shared experiences that most people will never know in several lifetimes. When we solve the final conundrum, we can rest easy."

Tim ‘Octopus’ Finneron, 3 Sqn Social Secretary and general raconteur.

08 Apr 2019

New Editor for The Journal

We are pleased to announce that Tim Jones has joined the committee as Editor ­(designate) of the SAF Journal. He will take over from Nigel Knocker wef 1 June 2019. Tim was one of the first RAF Regiment officers to serve on loan with SAF. He commanded 3 Company JR, 1972-74 and also flew with SOAF as a forward air controller.

He retired from the RAF Regiment in 1985 to join Rolls Royce (Aero Engines) as Middle East Director including support to RAFO. During Gulf War 1 he led RR support to the Allied Forces from Riyadh. Later, as Military Marketing Director, he was responsible for all RR engine programmes in RAFO.

Tim is delighted to continue his long and close association with Oman and we welcome him on board as Editor (designate).

24 Oct 2018

Statue of Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba Unveiled in Fiji

Sgt Labalaba, who was born in 1942 in Fiji, was recruited into the British army in 1961 and quickly made his way into the SAS.  Known to his colleagues as a "gentle giant", he was part of a team of nine SAS soldiers based outside Mirbat.

On 19 July, 1972, a day before they were due to go home, they were attacked.

Knowing the unit was hopelessly outnumbered, Sgt Labalaba ran hundreds of yards to reach a 25-pounder artillery gun which is usually operated by four to six men.

He held out for two and a half hours against at least 250 fighters, repelling wave after wave of attacks. He was shot in the jaw and eventually died when a bullet passed through his neck.

Click on the image to read the full BBC News story

26 Jun 2018

Did someone say it was hot?

A city in Oman just posted the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded: 109 degrees.’s-hottest-low-temperature-ever-recorded-109-degrees/ar-AAzgocB?ocid=spartandhp

And for those who haven't seen it yet, click on the image for a link to a Youtube clip of the Wadi Darbat and some of the devastation following the recent Cyclone Mekunu, which hit Dhofar on 25th May 2018

27 May 2018

News of some Late Great members

Clicking the Oldie image should take you to an article published in 'The Oldie' magazine that mentions two of our late great members, Roddy Jones and Peter (Scrubber) Stewart-Richardson.  As many of us aren't getting any younger, enjoy!

16 Apr 2018

Nigel Knocker medal presentation

Colonel Nigel Knocker received his greatly deserved Order of Oman award at a ceremony in Bait al Falaj today.  The medal, awarded in appreciation of his efforts as Chairman of the SAF Association for many years, was presented by Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al Busaidi, Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs.  Fareeq Rukn Ahmed bin Harith bin Nasser al Nabhani, Chief of Staff Sultan's Armed Forces among others attended the ceremony.

31 Jan 2018

Colonel Nigel Knocker awarded Order of Oman

Colonel Nigel Knocker has been awarded the Order of Oman Military medal (WO) in a message from the Chief of Staff, Sultan's Armed Forces, which informed him that the award has received Royal consent.  The award is in recognition of his service in Oman, his many years as chairman of the SAF Association and his continuing links to the Sultanate through the Association and the Anglo Omani Society.

01 Jan 2018

RAFO Historical Archive

RAFO are very keen to identify and preserve heritage items that will help to tell the story of how the Service has developed into the highly respected force that it is today.  A Historical Archive is steadily being built up in Oman, and this is an appeal to members of the Association to consider contributing material from their own sources, eg:

  • Photographs and films

  • Records, orders, official papers

  • Old maps, wall charts, posters

  • Badges, items of uniform or personal equipment


… in other words anything that has a historical value attached to it

There are two potential routes for forwarding material:

  • Items over the internet: direct to Raaid Khalid Al-Kharusi, the RAFO Archivist, at

  • ‘Hard’ items: through the good offices of the RAF Museum, who have generously offered to collate material and filter for duplicates.  Send to:  RAFO Archive – Offer of Materia, Mr Peter Elliott, Head of Archives, Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London, NW9 5LL

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Mike Lobb

1 November 2020

A message from our Chairman

For the first time in our 52 years, we’ve now had to cancel the Association’s Annual Dinner – not a milestone that any of us would have wished for but yet another marker of the extraordinary times that we’re all living through.


I don’t want just to leave it as a simple notice on the website.  We certainly tried hard to keep options open as we aimed off for the ever-changing shape of things – looking in turn at smaller numbers, a less formal format, and even a lunchtime gathering instead.  However, the latest restrictions have effectively closed the market, and ultimately we had to advise our President that we’d run out of road.


As the Journal reminds us, we’d certainly started the year with plenty to mark down for the diary – the Association’s own Curry Lunch and the Dinner itself; a growing band of regional and unit events, plus a link into the Anglo-Omani Society; and the headline prospect of another visit back to Oman for December.  Yes, it’s been a different story since then.  But credit to the two that did still get something through, in September – the New Forest Lunch, and the Heli 50th that was successfully converted into a virtual event!


“Maintaining the spirit of mutual friendship” – and all that can flow from it – is what we’re about.    Your Committee is still very much on the case: open-minded and ambitious for whatever and whenever future conditions may allow. 


In the meantime, stay safe – in this country, in Oman or wherever you may be… 


With best wishes to you all,


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