The following is continuation of an excerpt published last week from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid Al Kalbani.
One of my good memories of that period was a famous cook by the name of Bijjar. We would drink tea early in the morning with a type of bread known as puri. (We used to put bread in an aluminium pot, known as des). At nine we would eat dahl with Chapatis. At one o’clock for lunch we would have either salted or fresh fish or mutton with rice. I should mention that it was something of a natural scene for us in that period to see flies hovering on our plate of dahl, a staple meal in all the army camps.
We would always be on standby when the copper whistle blew. In the evening we would have tea once again. After evening exercises, we would, if we had a chance, head towards a hot spring in Ghala where we swam and washed our clothes . (The spring is still there).
The Arabic curriculum, Palestinian in origin as I was later told, was named "moruj" . It was open to those military men who wanted to pursue their studies. I was, thank God, one of them. I also remember Major Sheridan and all the other English supervisors. In the field of accounting, I remember Maqbool bin Homaid Al Lawati. Amongst the platoon soldiers I remember Mohammed bin Said Al Busadi, Soleman bin Salim Al Hosni, Saif bin Homud Al Qayyidhi (Major) Salim bin Khalifa al Kalbani, Marhoon bin Soleman Al Kalbani, Salim bin Homed Al Kalbani and Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khamisi. The latter competed with me in shooting practice. While he outdid me in machine gun firing, I beat him in rifle firing.
After completing all the primary and shooting exercises, we moved to tactical exercises held at the end of each course in Wadi Ansab. We would attack a mock enemy in all sorts of envisaged scenarios. The trainers were Omanis, but the supervisor was English. The number of our squad was 61. It was the oldest squad, and it represented the army in facing our mock enemy, platoon no 62. In a day long training, we would be engaged in skirmishes with our "enemy".
We would go by a compass and a map till we reached the highlands of Boshar in the evening. We would stay up two nights on the hill where Sultani Hospital is now located. Our fighting with the mock enemy continued in night skirmishes. We also patrolled the area and set ambushes, so the “enemy” wouldn’t be able to find us. Half of the squad would be engaged in carrying out patrols and ambushes, while the other half would guard the camp. They would exchange roles for efficiency.
Night exercises would be held in the tree covered areas of Azeba and Ghobra. Our guide was the Northern Polar Star. In daylight we had our exercises in the Boshar hills and the sands of Qurum Beach. We learnt how to use a compass and maps. Once we were attacked at dawn, at 2 o' clock, by the other platoon (Platoon 62). But we were alert and managed to repel the “enemy”, using hand grenades. I remember that the squad leader broke into our trench and seized my rifle. After fighting for a long time, I hit his knee with a stone and released myself from him; he then backed away with his squad.
This incident was a source of both pride and joy for me. It enhanced my feeling that I was on the right track. Whenever I meet the squad leader, we cherish the memories of those days.