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Keith Bell


MY TEN YEARS IN ADEN - 1952 TO 1962

In March, 1952 I was sent to Aden as a Supernumerary on m.v. "British Tradition" with a cargo of Fuel Oil from Swansea to gain experience as a Bunkering Officer on the BP Installation. At this time Aden was one of the busiest bunkering ports in the world. On arrival at Aden the tanker had to wait for a berth and our Agent picked me up by launch in the Outer Harbour. On reaching the shore we had to drive around for some time trying to find someone to give me a medical clearance and permission to land. It happened to be one of the nineteen public holidays which the Colony observed at this time to cover Christian and Muslim religious festivals.
This was my first experience of the laid-back type of life that existed in a Aden in 1952. During the next ten years Aden was to change a great deal with the construction of the refinery and the influx of British military personnel following the withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone.
My work as a Bunkering Officer allowed me to see and board all type of ships, including naval vessels as BP managed the Admiralty Installation. We worked on a 36 hour shift cycle, with 6 hours on and 12 hours off. I lived in accommodation above the bunkering installation office. Most of my spare time was spent at the
Gold Mohur Bathing Club. At this time there were only about four air conditioning units in the Colony and for relief from the heat people had to rely on fans and high ceilings.
At the end of 1952 the construction of the refinery and oil harbour at Little Aden was begun. To provide accommodation for some of the workers the veteran liner "Dorsetshire" was used as a floating hotel at the end of the harbour. The workers were taken over to Little Aden by launch each morning.
At the end of 1952 I returned to London Office, but in July 1953 I was to return to Aden as a junior member of the BP skeleton staff supervising the building of the refinery. I was stationed in Aden and was in charge of a A.P.R.L. office in the Hedjuff Construction Office. My main responsibilities were to handle the Company cable traffic and meet visitors and incoming staff for the refinery at Khormaksar Airport.. The big event in the Colony in 1954 was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. I joined the crowds to watch the Queen take the salute of troops at Steamer Point and make awards, which included one to Mr. Green from BP Aden.
In July 1954 when the refinery was commissioned, I moved to Little Aden and was confirmed in a permanent position as an Operator in Installations Department. I worked in Installations Department for the rest of my time in Little Aden apart for one year when I was seconded to BP Aden in charge of the Company Shipping Agency in Little Aden.
I was married in Little Aden in 1955 and my two sons, Anthony-1958 and David-1960 were born at the Refinery Hospital. I was very active in the Little Aden sporting activities, being secretary of the squash club and tennis club for several years and played rugby for the refinery team.
At the end of 1962 I was transferred back to London Office. I left BP in 1967 when we migrated to Australia, where I spent another 25 years in the Oil Industry.
We have kept in touch with several of our Aden friends and since being in Australia have met up with Phil Turtle and
Russ Haworth.

Keith Bell 

Pictures from Keith's collection can be found at this link  Keith Bell