Unit History: RAF Riyan

RAF Riyan
RAF Riyan, was the smallest of the Arabian route stations and was situated some 273 miles north-east along the coast from Aden in the Quaiti State, which was part of the Eastern Aden Protectorate. In the 1960s, the local ruler was the Sultan of Quaiti and he lived in the nearby city of Mukalla.
The Station itself was a collection of white, flat-topped buildings, and a sandy airstrip in the centre of a shallow scrub-covered desert, surrounded on three sides by high mountains. The station was built in 1945 and most of the buildings are those erected in that year. They were, however, in good condition and were airy and cool. Personnel numbers in barrack rooms varied between eight and twelve with SNCOs occupying individual rooms. There were three messes and an airmen’s club run by NAAFI.
The climate at Riyan was relatively good and generally more pleasant than it was in Aden. Cool sea breezes prevented excessive humidity and kept temperatures down even though brilliant sunshine was enjoyed for twelve hours every day. During the hot season, from May to September, the wind blew from the south-west. Sometimes it could be quite strong, inducing heavy afternoon dust storms. During the cool season, the weather was very pleasant and nights were cool enough for personnel to need blankets on their beds and for sweaters to be worn out of doors.
As a route station, Riyan was primarily concerned with the refuelling of RAF aircraft that operated along the South Arabian route, although much of the traffic handled was civilian. Aden Airways DC3 aircraft flew in and out almost every day, maintaining the civilian airline link between Aden and the Eastern Aden Protectorate, particularly the Wadi Hadhramout region. Because of the volume of civilian schedule traffic, Riyan was a very busy airfield for its size.

Memories of RAF Riyan

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

RAF Riyan, in 1962

Written by Ian Cheal

Early in 1962 we went on an expedition up to Seiyun in the Hadramaut which was an interesting trip, we had a 3-ton Bedford & a Landrover which the CO John Pugh drove, Mick Collier drove the 3-tonner. I had checked the two vehicles over before the journey & took spare parts for use if we had problems. The first day saw us leaving the coast and heading inland on the west road, if you call a dirt track a road, and climbing steadily up through the mountains until we reached the plateau at about 4500 feet above sea level, crossing the plateau until we arrived at a government rest house in the late afternoon. We had a meal prepared by our cook Norman?? and a few beers to ensure a good sleep, it was very cold at that altitude and the Arab guards all had duffel coats which were certainly needed and a big fire to keep warm.Where they got the firewood from was a mystery as we had hardly seen any vegetation all day!!
The next morning we loaded up after breakfast and continued across the plateau until we reached the edge of the Wadi Hadramaut and started to descend into the wadi.The road was a series of tight bends and Mick had to back up with the 3 tonner on a lot of them, we all abandoned the truck and walked down for safety, finally reaching the bottom. Then followed a drive along the wadi among the palm trees, we stopped at an oasis with clear water pool containing small fish( once again how did they get there?) before continuing our journey, arriving in Seiyun late afternoon. We were staying in another government rest house in the town so got unloaded before going to the house of Don Guthrie where we had a communal bath and changed into clean clothes prior to having our evening meal. Don had laid on a typical Arab meal for us, I think we all avoided the goats eyes offered to us!! After a few beers we all had a good nights sleep & spent an easy next day looking around the town, the focal point being the Sultans palace which was very impressive. After a second night at the rest house we loaded up and headed out for home, this time taking the west road which followed the wadi and was virtually level going all the way back to Riyan but it was extremely dusty and we were filthy by the time we arrived home early evening. It had been an interesting and enjoyable trip which I shall remember for the rest of my life.

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