On 7 May 1994 2 half-teams were put on standby to 'go somewhere hot for up to 5 days'. Thankfully the newsmen gave us a slightly fuller brief for our pending deployment to Djibouti - on the northeast coast of Africa, just across the Red Sea from Yemen - to evacuate British dependants from Sanaa who were in danger from the civil war between North and South Yemen forces. The teams were:
Flight Lieutenant David Jacobs
Flight Sergeant Jim Buchanan
Sergeant Dillon Willans
Corporal Duncan Metcalfe
Senior Aircraftman Dom July
Senior Aircraftman Jimmy Stone
They were to deploy on 8 May but a financial delay of 24 hours (the FCO would not pay for the 2 MoD Hercules and a British Airways DC10 which was also on standby) started a week where the plot changed more often than the tasking board in MAMS Ops does in an average month. Each aircraft, in full seat fit, flew direct to Djibouti on 9 May, to find a rather surprised French Foreign Legion who were not expecting us, and humid temperatures in the mid to high 30s. The French were very helpful, which is fortunate as with their assistance it took the Detachment Commander and Operations Officer 3 hours to sort out basic office and domestic accommodation. I hate to think what it would have been like if they had been un-cooperative.
Having set up satellite communications with Sanaa and High Wycombe we headed for our hotel (we were advised by the local civil handling agent that it was one of the best in the country), which was situated in what we initially thought was the smelliest, dirtiest area of town. It soon became apparent that this was, in fact, typical for the whole town. Speaking to members of the crew the following morning we considered ourselves quite lucky as the air conditioning in our rooms seemed fairly reliable, unlike their hotel where if the air conditioning worked at all, you could not guarantee whether it would be hot or freezing cold air coming through.
For the first couple of days we would dutifully catch the 0530 transport into work, to sit around in the humid heat like coiled springs ready to jump into action. Late on 11 May, while we were munching away on our usual pizza meal (a relatively safe alternative to the local food that we had seen, fly infested, on the roadside stands), we got word that a decision had actually been made - we are still not sure who by! - and that we would be granted safe passage in Sanaa the following morning. We were also told that the Yemen troops had no central control over the SAM sites, which tended to shoot any aircraft that they didn't recognise out of the sky, and which was not so comforting.
The big day arrived and we thankfully had an uneventful flight into Sanaa, where we were met by Squadron Leader Kit Ayers who had gone there to review the evacuation JTP and was stuck there! Each aircraft kept one engine running for the 3 hours that they were on the ground (to avoid the embarrassing situation of not being able to restart following shutdown) waiting for the passengers to arrive from a hotel downtown where they had been processed by the Embassy staff.

When they did arrive absolute chaos ruled in the Terminal building as people fought to get out of the country, and despite the confusion caused by the local handlers who decided to ignore all our requests and instructions, the passengers and what little baggage they had with them were loaded as quickly as possible and we departed for Cyprus. The heat and noise on the aircraft upset a few of the children and babies aboard but everyone settled down soon after they had eaten the basic 'buttie boxes' that we had managed to get from Djibouti.
The arrival in Larnaca was fairly uneventful with just one camera crew recording the moment - paying particular attention to the more attractive women evacuees of course! The passengers then had a few hours to wait for the aforementioned British Airways DC10 to arrive and take them home to UK. We managed a few hours sleep at Akrotiri (the restaurants in the village had closed by the time we arrived) before flying back to Djibouti to recover the Ops and Comms personnel and all the equipment which we had left there the previous day. After a QTR we headed back to Lyneham, flagging Akrotiri for fuel, to complete a rather long and tedious day.
Despite the 'hurrying up to wait around' syndrome and the uncomfortable heat and humidity, the task was a very satisfying one. I would recommend however, if you have a choice, that you do not go to Djibouti. I certainly hope not to return there (once is definitely enough), and have crossed it off my list of possible places to go on holiday!

Evacuation from Sanaa, Yemen 
by Bill Stewart
This is a brief account of my son William's memories of being evacuated from Yemen during the civil war there in 1994 (he was 9 )
Boom! AtttAtttTaaaAAttttt! Those were the noises that I woke up to one May morning in 1994. Yay! Fireworks! I was just 9 years old and I had slept over at a friend's house. We had just started to eat breakfast when the "fireworks" began, and we were excited. We were still dancing around when my friend's dad walked in, and said, "those aren't fireworks, it's war." And that was the beginning of the short-lived Yemeni Civil War for me.
My friend began crying, but his older sister and I ran around some more. The circumstances did not worry us because at the time we were still too young to realize the potential danger involved. However, our parents did.The war, even though not immediately life-threatening, created a lot of tension and difficulties. The fact that I had been at a friend's house was a difficulty. Our family was split up, and could not be immediately reunited. Needless to say, I was thrilled, because I would be able to spend a few more nights with my buddy than planned. When my dad finally did pick me up, I could tell by his mood that this thing was actually very serious. We drove home, where most of our necessities were packed up, ready for evacuation.
As we waited for the day of evacuation to arrive, we had to stay in our basement, because our house was located between two hills on which anti-aircraft guns constantly blazed bullets into the sky directly overhead. While we were in our basement, we had no electricity; although the electricity faithfully went out every night in Yemen, not having it at all was yet another annoyance to be dealt with.
There was a lot of scrambling being done in the embassy trying to figure out a way for us to be evacuated. All planes had been grounded at the airport, and so we would have to be evacuated on military C-130's. People were still nervous, because even though the North Yemen government called for a short cease fire of their anti-aircraft guns, the Yemenis had already mistakenly shot down one of their own fighters. Thankfully, the evacuation went off without mishap, even though the C-130's were not meant for the transport of civilians. As we all sat in the netting, and lay back exhausted, the poorly pressured bay area of the plane caused a good majority of travelers to become quite airsick. Still, we were safe and we were going home, and that was all that mattered.