Steve Turtle's father Phil, arrived in Aden in 1953 to work for the Anglo Iranian Oil Company Ltd. Phil passed away recently. At the time he was writing his memoires sadly they will never be finished . Below is an article Phil wrote for the BP magazine.
Philip John Turtle
1923 - 2009
It is with profound sadness, but great sense of pride at being his children, that we tell you of the passing of Phil Turtle, on Sunday 13th December at 6:30am (Australian Time).
Phil leaves behind a great legacy on the sands and barren rocks. Some of the monuments that he created or had a significant role in creating being the General Manager's house on the hill top, the ornate curved ceilings and interior of the Community Centre, the beach shelters and quaint little round kiosk and the seawater swimming pool. He was also responsible, along with Vic Sutton, one of the industrial chemists, of creating the original Golf Course along with its dyed green "greens" and fairways. As well as all of this he was a truly wonderful and loving husband and father and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
He recently wrote a brief article for the BP magazine in response to the omission by the publishers of the BP 100 book to include any mention of both the Isle of Grain and the Aden operations. As yet they have not published this article.
Having noted the 'letter to the editor' by both Bob Summers and June Bennett regarding the omissions in the BP 100 book, the writer feels he should put pen to paper and provide a precis of his life with BP.
I would have considered that both the Isle of Grain and the Aden refinery should have had a mention together with the busiest bunkering port in the world, BP Steamer Point. (7500 ships per year fuelled - the majority by BP)
Commencing as a member of the initial survey party of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company Ltd at Grain, our team comprised - as Resident Engineer, the colourful character Eustace Pulbrook, Betty Harman (Secretary), Jess Cook (Driver/Handyman), Bill Gitsham (Surveyor), and myself Phil Turtle (Civil Draftsman).
The 'wooden hut' on the MOSCO site mentioned by Diana Barker on page 4 of 'Keeping in Touch' was our site office from which Bill and I surveyed practically the complete island and produced the maps required by London office design staff. At the same time I carried out ground bearing and soil strata tests.
BP arrived and Bill and I marked out, for the benefit of the signwriter, the first, I believe, 8 foot high BP shield insignia on a prepared existing fuel tank.
As refinery construction proceeded I was placed as building inspector under Bill Miller. During my spare time in this capacity I was invited to produce designs and working drawings of housing for ex-Abadan personnel.
Graduating as a Mechanical Engineer I was invited to join the mechanical section as the refinery got under way.
Learning of the construction of the Aden refinery my ' wunderlust buds' cracked open and I applied and was accepted on the team. Unfortunately my passage to Aden was delayed by the action of a 'scything' flame cut steel sheet trying to slice my legs off. St. Marys medicos held me back for a few months.
Arriving in Aden in 1953, my work took on an architectural and municipal engineering nature in that I had to finalise the design of the General Managers residence and supervise the construction of both the Chief Engineers and GM's housing at the same time providing sewerage, drainage, reticulation systems and landscaping.
On completion of the refinery, placed as Service Engineer (Mechanical), I was 'troubleshooting' both refinery and domestic plant and equipment whilst spare time was spent in the design and construction of items such as a community hall, cinema, mosques, swimming pool etc. together with BP Steamer Points own power station.
Thence to be posted to Steamer Point with instructions to raise the standard of maintenance of pumping plant, tankage and marine works, housing etc. of both BP and the Admiralty depots. The mostly unknown story of the 'Barren Rocks of Aden' was revealed to me
. A planned maintenance system was running smoothly in one year, my being ably assisted by my great friend and second in command George Irving.
Soon we were to experience local troubles by Yemeni fanatics characteristic of those led by communist agitators, ie street shootings (Police Chief and Mr Figg the Baker) in Crater, cafe bombings in Steamer Point and attempts to blow BP installations etc. 'Nasser Tamaan' was the cry, and we know what happened in 1967.
Suddenly I was informed by management that I must leave Aden by the earliest flight. No reason was given although many requests were made - the order 'pack and go' remained, and report to London.
On hearing of my impending departure my loyal tradesman, Arabs, Yemenis, Goans etc. gave me a grand farewell party with cake and gifts. No such farewell came from management. I learned later that never before in the history of Aden as a British Colony, had the local lads farewelled an Englishman in such a way, I was honoured.
London office was anathema to me, the only life one could see from the window was the occasional counter- marching of a military band 'traipsing' over the most expensive cricket pitch in the world.
I enjoyed producing a diorama of Tobruk harbour for King Idris of Libya and was dismayed when Colonel Gaddafi ousted the King and undoubtedly destroyed my artistic effort. To give myself light and air I felt I should resign after a wonderful 15 years. My life with a wife and 5 children (Stephen and Kathryn born in Little Aden Hospital) carried through to Mt. Isa Mines in Australia, thence to Power Station design and construction and finally as a consultant for Caltex Oil.
One could say an all round career upon which a book could be compiled.
Philip J Turtle
Sadly, that book will now not be written. Phil had begun to write his memoirs and had made it to about age 9 but, as fascinating as his early life was, that falls a long way short of the 86 years he achieved.
Eileen, Joanna, Marian, Stephen and Kathryn Turtle.