Roy Hammett

I was a Sergeant on the fire section at Gan and had a small hand in precautions to prevent the Invasion of Gan. The local population of Addu Atoll, most of whom worked on the base were paid in £ sterling. I think I was told it was Afif Didi, who being an educated man (educated at Cairo University I believe) realized that the local people were living a better life than they had previously and that he could take advantage of this situation. For sometime we were aware that trouble was brewing and this was borne out by the arrival of a detachment of RAF Regiment personnel from Singapore. A few days after the announcement by Afif Didi six members of the Maldivian government were flown to Gan at the same time the Duke of Devonshire arrived from the UK. There were rumours that the islanders of the next atoll to the north of Addu Atoll had sympathy with Afif but this had been put down very quickly through action taken by the Maldivian government. My first knowledge of trouble at Gan was being called from the Sgt's Mess to the Fire section and instructed to take a party of firemen with a fire vehicle and set up a line of hoses on the shore adjacent to the Parliament building (this is the name by which we knew it) near to the jetty. On arrival I was amazed to see dozens of native boats loaded with men waving heavy sticks and iron bars and all shouting loudly, they had obviously got to know that the government officials were meeting in the parliament building, I think with the Duke. The whole building was surrounded by the Regiment fully armed. We set our hoses up and received instructions to use them should the rioters try and come ashore, suddenly to my utter astonishment a RAF Police warrant officer complete with white belt and hat waded into the water up to his waist shouting, "get back~ get back!" as you can imagine very little notice was taken of his actions other than providing us with a little light relief He soon left the water soaking wet and looking very sheepish. I was asked to report to the Station Commander who was standing nearby with the Duke, on arrival he informed me that a number of women from the neighbouring island were wading across to Gan near the old causeway.
I was ordered to set up some hoses there and use them if they come ashore. I said I did not think using the hose on women was such a good idea and he relented, the women were eventually stopped by the sight of RAF Police dogs. After a few hours the rioters dispersed and thank goodness the Maldivian officials left the island later that night and calm was restored. We never saw Afif Didi again but we were told he owned a cabin cruiser and that the RAF had fuelled it and he was ordered to leave to where I do not now. And that was the end of the Peoples Republic.

Now to the Italian freighter grounding. The first I knew of it was being called to take the Zodiac (Inshore Rescue Craft) to the beach on the far side of the island. When we arrived there was a large freighter stuck fast on the reef having hit the island dead centre. There were a lot of rumours as to how it happened, but as I do not know the truth I will pass that by. It was a difficult rescue operation as the Air Sea Rescue Launch could not get in close to the reef. To cut a long story short we eventually managed to get a line aboard from the Zodiac and rescued all the crew, with excellent help and advice by the marine craft section. The funny part of the whole episode was the next day the Maldivians had somehow got all of the cargo off the ship and in front of the Parliament building was a rainbow mad from enormous lengths of coloured material used for native sarongs spread out on the ground to dry, I suppose the lengths of material were close to fifty yards long, unwound and there was dozens of them, also laid out to dry were hundreds of shiny new brass Primus' stoves, it really was quite a sight. The crew were on the island for about 10 days. There was a loud speaker on the control tower used to warn the locals that an aircraft was landing and not to cross the runway, this was spoken in Maldivian, Ceylonese and Pakistani, obviously nobody in the tower could speak Italian and we spent days chasing Italian seamen off the runway as a Shackleton etc. was landing.

The ship was eventually pulled off the reef by HMS Lincoln.

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