The Port of Aden


Once one of the busiest bunkering ports in the world and our home ('Ons Tuis') in the period from 1961 - 1965, Aden was strategically placed to service ships passing through the Suez Canal and Red Sea. Vessels of all nationalities and classes including both cargo, passenger and naval with their auxiliary support ships were frequent callers.

The BP Refinery at Little Aden served to process crude oil brought into Little Aden from the oil producing Gulf States for onward shipping in refined form to their final destination and for use in bunkering ships calling at the Port of Aden.

Deep water moorings were provided to accommodate the large passenger vessels and aircraft carriers and could complete bunkering in some four hours at these moorings. The port provided a full 24 hour 7 day service to shipping requiring refueling, water, vitals and repairs.

Aden was a tax free shopper’s paradise and there seemed to be nothing that could not be purchased from the many shops situated in the Crescent within short walking distance of the Prince of Wales Pier, where passengers and crew from visiting ships were disembarked during their stay in port, to avail themselves of the local amenities. From cameras, binoculars, transistor radios and Rolex watches, some fine tool shops, stockists of kits for model enthusiasts, through to top of the range clothing and jewellery, there were shops catering for every possible need of visitors and residents.

The local markets stocked an excellent range of fresh vegetables grown in the Aden Protectorate with local bakeries and food shops providing a wide range of meat and luxury foods either shipped or flown in from across the world to provide the local civilian and armed forces families with a superb choice of food. Initially milk was only available as a deep frozen product but during our period of residence in Aden a new plant was established to process reconstituted milk which was nigh on equal in taste and consistency to 'fresh' milk.

The photographs presented on this website were taken by me, unless otherwise stated, during the period I was based in Aden in the employment of the Marconi International Marine Communications Company repairing communications equipment, navigational aids (radar, echo sounders and direction finders), Sperry gyro compasses and autopilots fitted to ships of all nationalities and classes.

Dates given after picture titles are the processing dates on my transparencies and the actual date the photograph was taken would have been some month or so earlier. Where no dates are given the photographs were probably taken between September 1961 and December 1962 when the processing laboratories did not date the photographs. My black and white photographs were developed and printed in the bathroom of our flat in Tawahi.

The Mission to Seamen’s Club, at Steamer Point, was a great meeting place for a cold beer on a hot day when work permitted and the Shalimar restaurant with its attached open air cinema, the Shenaz, was a popular resort of locals. Eventually, as the insurgency lead by the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen (FLOSY) and the Marxist National Liberation Front (NLF), who were sworn to rid the region of the British, increased their activity and the political situation worsened, these favourite haunts became target 'hot-spots' for grenade throwers so sadly fell out of popularity on security grounds. Many of the cafes frequented by military personnel and their families along the main street of Ma'alla met with the same fate.

The Aden Airport Restaurant was a personal favourite for intimate special occasions where the quality of the cuisine could match the best available in a top class London restaurant and benefited from the daily import of produce from the scheduled flights into the airport. There, my wife and I enjoyed a number of excellent meals and good wines rounded off with the best of Napoleon Brandy and coffee.

For those who were interested, Aden offered some surprising activities including golf on a compacted sand course, gliding, go-cart racing and, as I was keen on building model aircraft at the time, a disused airport surrounded by sand dunes was a great place to fly (and crash) them. My interest in Amateur Radio enabled me to set up a radio station under a licence granted by the Governor of Aden and I held regular scheduled contacts with my brother-in-law in Durban, South Africa, and other amateurs around the world who desperately wished to add Aden to their list of contacts.

Our accommodation, provided by the company, was in a large air-conditioned flat in Tawahi with outside balconies from which we had a good view of the harbour and could track the movement of shipping whilst being ideally placed and just a short walk from our offices located in the P & O Building at Steamer Point, Tawahi. To compensate for the hot climate these flats had walls approaching some 80 cms thick, very high ceilings and ceramic tiled floors.

The water supply in Aden was pumped up from deep wells and there was never any need for a hot water supply to baths, showers or sinks - the 'cold' water supply soon ran hot due to the sun heating the piping system during the day. Initially the brackish taste of the local water was found to be rather unpleasant and for many months we were unable to enjoy 'English' tea or boiled potatoes due to the tainting by the water. However, some six months later and it seemed more palatable providing it was either chilled or boiled! Fortunately the local 'Stim' factory produced a very pleasant lemon flavoured cold drink and plentiful supplies of fresh limes squeezed into a glass of lemonade were great thirst quenchers during the hot days. 'Aden tummy' was a common complaint until one realised the absolute importance of scrupulous vegetable and fruit cleaning and became accustomed to the local water.

Aden was a truly fascinating place to live in once one became accustomed to the climate and although the incidence of attacks on civilians at the commencement of the rise of the Arab factions intent on removing the British presence started to increase towards the end of our contract my wife and I still recall our life there and the memories shared during those years with nostalgia.

Ultimately the British Forces evacuated Aden at the end of November 1967 and the BBC correspondent of the time, Brian Barron, recently recalled the final withdrawal of ships sailing away from Aden in his report, some 40 years later, when he revisited Aden. This report, for those who might be interested, appears on the BBC's website at: -


This website is best viewed using a broadband Internet connection as the pictures are quite large. I considered using 'thumbnails' but decided that full size pictures are less troublesome for the viewer and the historic value of them justifies this method of presentation.

Whilst reasonable effort has been made to obtain consent to reproduce those images which have been sourced from other than my personal collection, or named persons who have given their permission for reproduction of their personal photographs, if any images infringe the rights of the owners of applicable copyright they will be immediatlely removed from the site upon receipt of their instruction to do so. However, as this web site serves no commercial purpose, it is hoped that they will not raise any objection or make such instruction.


Steamer Point and the Crescent from the 'Barren Rocks'.

This photograph appeared on the cover of the Port of Aden Annual dated 1964-65

and is reproduced here with acknowledgements to the former Aden Port Trust.


Key to numbered buildings & places of interest: -

P & O Building in which the office and workshop of Marconi's Aden depot were located
Crescent Hotel
Port Trust Head Office
Rock Hotel
Crescent recreational area used for football matches , military and pipe band displays, etc.
Palida Terrace - location of our flat with balconies overlooking the harbour to west and east
Prince of Wales Pier - disembarkation point for visiting ships' passengers and crew
The Hogg Clock Tower, known locally as 'Little Ben', built between 1894-1895
Victoria Park Gardens and location of the statue of Queen Victoria
National and Grindlays Bank, Steamer Point Branch

The two aircraft carriers are probably HMS Albion and Bulwark or Hermes.

The passenger liner to the right of the picture is P&O 'Oronsay'.


Port of Aden Signal Station.



The new harbour offices, April 1965.