Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (13 January 2021)
Date of Auction: 13th January 2021
Sold for £5,000
Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000
General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Malaya, E.II.R. (23200134 Tpr. A. Evans, S.A.S.); General Service 1962-2007, 3 clasps, Borneo, Radfan, Northern Ireland (23200134 L./Cpl. A. E. Evans, S.A.S.) mounted court-style as worn; together with the recipient’s rare official German ‘Expert High Mountain Leader’ cloth badge, nearly extremely fine (3) £3,000-£4,000
FootnoteAlfred Ernest ‘Yanto’ Evans appears to have been born in 1934 (there are handwritten corrections entered into the printed official Register of Births) and to have begun his National Service obligation in the South Wales Borderers. He next appears in an official group photograph of HQ Squadron 22 SAS taken in January 1954 in Penang, Malaya, with the SAS cap badge on his maroon beret (which was worn by the SAS until 1958 - a copy of the photograph is included in the lot). At the beginning of the rebirth of the SAS (after its disbandment at the end of World War II), necessity forced it to recruit from many sources, including National Service conscripts. Major John Woodhouse took charge of transforming 22 SAS into a unit of highly motivated, well-trained, experienced, relatively stable volunteer soldiers and Evans was directly involved in this process.
He chose to voluntarily enlist into the Regular Army, becoming a soldier in the Parachute Regiment in April 1954. After earning his Para wings, Evans applied for SAS Selection, knowing that if he was accepted into the Regiment, it automatically meant an active service posting to fight in the Malaya Campaign. Evans passed Woodhouse’s famously ferocious Selection Course and was permanently attached to the Special Air Service in July 1955. The rest of his first regular army engagement period was spent in Malaya and came to an end in April 1957. Evans chose not to extend or renew it. His Military Conduct was assessed as Very Good.
After two years Evans re-joined the Colours in February 1959, returning to 22 SAS, which strongly suggests that the Regiment approved of what he had been doing during his ‘break’. In May 1961 he received a Commendation Certificate: “The Commander-in-Chief Middle East has awarded his commendation to Trooper A. Evans, ‘D’ Squadron, 22 S.A.S. Regiment, for distinguished conduct on 7 and 8 April 1961 whilst a passenger on board L.S.T. ‘Empire Guillemot’, which took part in the rescue operations when M.V. ‘Dara’ caught fire in the Persian Gulf. Trooper Evans attended to approximately 200 casualties whose complaints ranged from 1st degree burns to compound fractures. Some casualties had gaping wounds. Although only trained in First Aid Trooper Evans put in about 40 stitches, set broken limbs and treated serious burns. He remained on duty for 16 hours and his fine First Aid work and his unceasing attention to the injured undoubtedly prevented many deaths among the survivors. His conduct throughout the rescue operations reflects great credit on himself, his training and his unit.”
The Dara was a British owned, Dubai-based cargo and passenger liner, mostly carrying expatriate families from the Indian sub-continent who worked in or traded with the various countries around the Persian Gulf. Dara was crippled by fire, which had been initiated by an explosion, at 4.40 a.m. at night, about 12 hours after her expected time of departure from Dubai. The explosive device contained some 20 pounds of TNT and was placed just inside the engine room by an unknown anti-British saboteur. About 240 out of 820 people on board lost their lives. ‘D’ Squadron was not deployed in the Middle East at that time, but its Mountain Troop may have been present on exercise. At the inquiry into the sinking, the Captain of the Landing Craft Tank on which Evans was embarked testified that he had to keep about half a mile away from Dara as “We could not go any closer because we had certain inflammable and explosive cargo on board Empire Guillemot.” (Last Hours on Dara by P. J. Abraham refers).
Evans had been appointed Lance Corporal by the start of the Borneo Campaign in 1962. He served during three deployments which covered all the main phases of the conflict, notably the early long-range cross-border patrols with the renowned Captain André Dennison and the secret 1965 Claret offensive strikes deep inside Indonesia. Lance Corporal Evans is mentioned in the book, SAS The Jungle Frontier: 22 SAS Regiment in The Borneo Campaign 1963-1966.
In April 1964 Evans was flown out from Britain to Aden to participate in the British Army’s first-ever major offensive in Southern Arabia. It was intended to subdue local tribesmen in the harsh, arid mountains of Radfan close to the border with Yemen. The Qutaibi tribes had been causing great trouble for travellers on the main route between Aden and Sana’a, attacking caravans, convoys and demanding ‘protection money’. They received modern weapons and much encouragement from the Egyptian forces who had moved into Yemen in 1962-63 and were trying to start a full-blown insurgency throughout Aden. The 22 SAS contingent was led by ‘A’ Squadron. Evans’s presence does not necessarily mean that he had transferred to ‘A’ Squadron (though he may have done so), as he had built up a considerable recognition in the Regiment for his mountain warfare skills. Radfan was all about fighting in the mountains, so he may have been ‘drafted in’ to the operation due to his specialist skills.
British offensives in tribal areas had mostly only been successful when they included a locally-raised force of indigenous troops to provide expert knowledge of both the ground and tribal tactics, such as the legendary Frontier Scouts of India, the Surrendered Enemy Personnel and Senoi Praaq of Malaya or (later on) the firqats of Dhofar. The British had persuaded the multitude of emirs, sheikhs and rulers in Aden’s hinterlands to support the creation and training of the British-led Federal Regular Army, but it was far from being generally considered an effective fighting force and was included in the offensive for political rather than operational reasons. The SAS had been bought in to act as pathfinders for the Radfan offensive, but they had scant opportunity to acclimatise, understand the terrain and the operating environment before being committed to battle. The offensive was carefully planned to showcase the prowess of the new, all-volunteer and professional British Armed Forces; units from all the British elite forces were utilised as its spearhead.
Evans arrived in Aden on 23 April 1964. The Radfan operation was set to kick off on 30 April. The first task was to penetrate Radfan and seize a 3,700 feet high peak, to be known as ‘Cap-Badge’, in the middle of the region, which dominated its principal village and tribal stronghold, Danaba. The ‘Cap-Badge’ mountain feature divided Wadi Taym from the Danaba basin, two fertile and well-populated areas which the tribesmen would be sure to defend. Another feature lay to the north of the Danaba basin, a long mountain ridge code-named 'Rice-Bowl'. The key was to take all the high ground and hold it before the tribesmen could occupy it. To ensure surprise, the SAS would infiltrate Wadi Taym during the night of 29/30 April, find, mark and provide local security for a Drop Zone on a plateau above Danaba. ‘B’ Company 3 Para would jump in and establish defensive positions to block the access to ‘Cap-Badge’ from Danaba until the main force arrived to seize and defend the entire ‘Cap-Badge’ feature.
The 10-man SAS patrol whose mission was to seize the Drop Zone for the Paras was forced by circumstances to lay up in a defensive position short of the intended Drop Zone but were discovered by a shepherd early on the morning of the 30th. They were soon surrounded by swarms of well-armed tribesmen storming up from Danaba, who knew every inch of the ground like the backs of their hands. To avoid annihilation, the patrol commander, Captain Edwards, called in air-strikes. The RAF Hawker Hunter ground attack aircraft responded magnificently, making repeated ‘Danger Close’ runs to take on tribesmen who were just yards away from the beleaguered SAS soldiers. After a long day, the patrol made a fighting night retreat, but Captain Edwards and his radio-operator had been shot and had to be left behind. They were decapitated by the tribesmen and their heads sent to Yemen, where they were publicly displayed on stakes in the city of Taiz.
The parachute drop was called off, but 45 Commando was already on its way and had to contend with a now thoroughly prepared enemy. After a month of hard fighting, during which the SAS sent patrols high into the mountains for intelligence-gathering and target acquisition purposes, ‘Cap-Badge’ was finally captured. Evans flew home on 21 May 1964.
After the Borneo Campaign died down in early 1966, Evans made an increasing number of short trips to Germany (and sometimes Norway). Widely known as ‘Evans the Rope’, he became one of a single handful of S.A.S. soldiers to qualify for the “Heeresbergfuhrer” Mountain Guide badge after completing all stages of the German Military Alpine Course.
Evans’s engagement expired in September 1968. This time his Military Conduct was rated ‘Exemplary’. Back in ‘Civvie Street’, he obviously missed military life and joined the Territorial Army in 1970. By this time, he was in his mid-30s and his age disqualified him from re-joining 22 SAS. Evans was however able to re-enlist in the Royal Anglian Regiment of the Regular Army in September 1970, where he was quickly promoted to Corporal. He subsequently completed a tour in Northern Ireland with the Royal Anglians from August to November 1972. Evans left the army for the third time in January 1975. Once again, his Military Conduct was rated ‘Exemplary’.
Sold with a copy of the book Last Hours on Dara by P. J. Abraham refers; and copied research, including an annotated group photographic image of the recipient as part of H.Q. Squadron, 22 S.A.S., Penang, January 1954.