Battle of Mirbat
The Battle of Mirbat took place on 19 July 1972 during the Dhofar Rebellion
Dhofar Rebellion
The Dhofar Rebellion was launched in the province of Dhofar against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, which had British support, from 1962 to 1976. It ended with the defeat of the rebels, but the state of Oman had to be radically reformed and modernised to cope with the campaign.-Background:In...

 in Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

, which was supported by Communist guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

s from South Yemen. Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 assisted the Omani government by sending elements of its Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 both to train soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

s and compete against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman
Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman was a Marxist and Arab nationalist revolutionary organisation in the Sultanate of Oman...

 (PFLOAG) guerrillas for the "hearts and minds" of the Omani people.


At 6 am on 19 July 1972 the PFLOAG attacked the British Army Training Team (BATT) house, which housed the nine SAS soldiers, based just outside the Port of Mirbat. The PFLOAG (locally known as the Adoo) attacked the SAS BATT house knowing that to be able to reach the Port of Mirbat they would first have to defeat the SAS guarding the approach to the town in Jebel Ali, a series of small desert slopes leading to the Port.

The Officer in Command, Captain Mike Kealy
Mike Kealy
Mike Kealy was the 27 year old Captain at the Battle of Mirbat in 1972. After the battle he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.He died ofhypothermia in February 1979 on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons.-References:...

 observed the waves advancing on the fort, but did not order his men to open fire because he thought it was the "Night Picket" coming back from night shift, which were a loyal group of the Omani Army
Royal Army of Oman
The Royal Army of Oman protects the sovereignty of Oman. In terms of matériel, the Army is small but well equipped to the extent that external aggression is now realistically deterred.-Field organization:*One divisional HQ...

 positioned on the slopes to warn the BATT house of Adoo troop movements. Realising that the Night Picket must have been killed, due to them not warning the SAS of the assault Mike Kealy ordered his men to open fire. Mike Kealy along with other members of the team took up positions behind the sand-bag parapet on the roof of the BATT house, firing at the Adoo with L1A1 SLR battle rifle
Battle rifle
A battle rifle is a military service rifle that fires a full power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62x51mm NATO. While the designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the H&K G3, the FN FAL or the M14, this term can also apply to older military...

s, with one man firing the Browning M2HB Heavy Machine Gun
Heavy machine gun
The heavy machine gun or HMG is a larger class of machine gun generally recognized to refer to two separate stages of machine gun development. The term was originally used to refer to the early generation of machine guns which came into widespread use in World War I...

, with a further two men on ground level operating and firing an infantry mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 surrounded by sand-bags. The Adoo were armed with AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 assault rifles, and were mortar bombing the area around the BATT house. Kealy ordered the signaller to establish communications with SAS Headquarters at Um al Quarif, to request reinforcements.

There were also a small number of Omani Intelligence Service personnel in the BATT House, a small contingent of Pakistani soldiers and a member of British Military Intelligence seconded to the OIS who joined the team on the roof and fired on the Adoo with SLRs and other small arms. Initially some of the Pakistani soldiers were reluctant to join the defense of the fort because their roles with the BATT were largely administrative, but they obeyed orders from Mike Kealy and the British Military Intelligence Corporal.
Knowing that the SLRs would not be of full use until the Adoo were closer than the weapon's range of 800 metres, and lacking more heavy firepower, Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba made a run for the 25 Pounder Artillery Piece
Ordnance QF 25 pounder
The Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before World War II, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a...

 which was positioned next to a smaller fort which stationed nine Omani Army Special Forces soldiers, who had not played a part in the battle. Talaiasi Labalaba managed to operate the weapon, which is a three-man job, himself and fire a round a minute at the approaching Adoo, directing their attention away from the BATT house. Kealy received a radio message from Talaiasi reporting that a bullet had skimmed his face, and was badly injured, and was struggling to operate the gun by himself. At the BATT house Kealy asked for a volunteer to run to Talaiasi's aid. Sergeant Sekonaia Takavesi volunteered to go.

Sekonaia Takavesi ran from the BATT house, with the remaining men providing covering fire, in an attempt to distract the Adoo. Sekonaia ran the 800 metres through heavy gunfire, and reached the gun emplacement. Sekonaia tried to give aid to his injured friend, while firing at the approaching Adoo with his personal weapon. Realising that they needed help, Sekonaia tried to raise the small number of Omani soldiers inside the smaller fort, and Walid Khamis emerged. The remaining Omani soldiers in the fort engaged the enemy with small arms fire from firing positions on the roof and through the windows of the fort. As the two men made it back to the emplacement, the Omani soldier fell dead after being shot in the stomach with a 7.62 mm bullet. Adoo continued to advance upon the BATT house, and artillery emplacement. At one point, the Adoo were so close Sekonaia and Talaiasi fired the weapon at point blank range, aiming down the barrel. Talaiasi crawled across a small space to reach a 60 mm Infantry Mortar, but fell dead after being shot in the neck. Sekonaia, also shot through the shoulder continued to fire at the approaching Adoo with his personal weapon. The squad signaller sent messages through to the main Forward Operating Base, to request air support and medical evacuation for the men in the gun emplacement.
Captain Kealy and Trooper Tobin began the run to the artillery piece. On reaching it they both dived in to avoid the heavy gunfire which had intensified, due to the Adoo fighting harder to overrun the emplacement. Sekonaia still continued to fire on the approaching Adoo, propped up against sand bags after being shot through the stomach, narrowly missing his spine. The Adoo threw several hand grenades
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

, but all failed to detonate, except one which exploded behind the emplacement causing no injury. Trooper Tobin reached over the body of Talaiasi, but while doing so was hit in the face by a bullet and fell mortally wounded. By this time, BAC Strikemaster light-attack jets of the Royal Air Force of Oman
Royal Air Force of Oman
The Royal Air Force of Oman is the air arm of the Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces-History:...

 had arrived, and began strafing the Adoo in the Jebel Ali, due to extremely poor weather conditions only machine-guns and rockets could be used. Reinforcements arrived from G Squadron and, defeated, the PFLOAG withdrew at about 12:30 pm. All wounded SAS soldiers were evacuated, and given medical treatment.


The 25-pounder gun, now known as the "Mirbat gun" which was used by Fijian Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba during the siege is now housed in the Firepower museum
Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum is a military museum in Woolwich in south-east London, England, which tells the story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and of the Royal Arsenal.-History:...

 of the Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery
The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery , is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.-History:...

 at the former Royal Arsenal
Royal Arsenal
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich in south-east London, England.-Early history:The Warren...

, Woolwich
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...

. Sgt Labalaba was killed in action. He displayed notable bravery by continuing to fire the 25-pounder (which normally required a crew of four to six men) although seriously wounded. Labalaba's actions helped to keep the insurgents pinned down until a relief force arrived. Labalaba was awarded a posthumous Mention in Dispatches for his actions in the Battle of Mirbat, although some of his former comrades have campaigned for him to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....


The following SAS soldiers were present at Mirbat on 19 July 1972:
  • Captain Mike Kealy
    Mike Kealy
    Mike Kealy was the 27 year old Captain at the Battle of Mirbat in 1972. After the battle he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.He died ofhypothermia in February 1979 on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons.-References:...

  • Staff Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba
  • Sergeant Bob Bennett
  • Corporal Roger Cole
  • Lance Corporal P. Warne (Also known as Pete Wignall, Pete Winner & Soldier I, nickname Snapper)
  • Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi
  • Trooper Tommy Tobin
  • Austin "Fuzz" Hussey
  • Corporal L. M. Taylor (Believed to be an alias)

Kealy received the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

, Takavesi the Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was an extremely high level award for bravery. It was a second level military decoration awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries.The medal was instituted in 1854, during the Crimean...

, and Bennett the Military Medal
Military Medal
The Military Medal was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Army and other services, and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land....

. These were announced three years after the event. An Omani from the fort, Walid Khamis, was injured during the battle and received the Sultan's Gallantry Medal - Oman's highest award.

The battle was under-reported and many considered the SAS team deserving of further individual awards for gallantry. However, many in Oman at that time perceived a desire by HM Government and the MoD to downplay incidents of direct involvement of British service personnel in military action. The British Military Intelligence Corporal received a medal for gallantry from the Sultan (for this action and others) but was threatened with disciplinary action by the British Army for being directly involved in the action at Mirbat.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Ranulph Fiennes
Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE , better known as Ranulph Fiennes, is a British adventurer and holder of several endurance records. He is also a prolific writer. Fiennes served in the British Army for eight years including a period on counter-insurgency service while...

 alleged in his book The Feather Men
The Feather Men
The Feather Men is a 1991 novel by the British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.-Plot introduction:The book tells the story of four British Army soldiers, including two members of the Special Air Service, who are assassinated by a hit squad known as "The Clinic"...

that Mike Kealy was murdered years later in the Brecon Beacons
Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in South Wales. In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of popular peaks south of Brecon, including South Wales' highest mountain, Pen y Fan, and which together form the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park...

by an Arab militant cell. However, the circumstances of Mike Kealy's death suggest that this is somewhat fanciful as he was seen by other service personnel undergoing the same SAS endurance exercise only a few hours beforehand in deteriorating weather conditions, was in fact found alive (but in poor condition) by a two-man search party - one of whom stayed with him and attempted to keep him warm. It was later acknowledged by the Coroner that one of the major contributory factors in his death was the delay in retrieving him from the hillside - a delay of some 19 hours.

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