Responds to Crisis in Ivory Coast
15th November 2004
RAF Lyneham received an urgent call
at the weekend to prepare aircraft to fly to the Cote d'Ivoire
and assist in the evacuation of Non-Combatants from an increasingly
In light of the volatile and violent situation in Cote
d'Ivoire in early November 2004, the UK deployed a small
military team to review contingency plans, liaise with the
French military authorities regarding the safety of , and
offer expert advice to the British Ambassador in Abidjan.
The Ministry of Defence had also put in hand some precautionary
preparatory work against the possible need for an evacuation
operation, and placed troops on standby in the United Kingdom.
On 11th November 2004 , the Secretary of State for Defence,
Mr Geoff Hoon, made the following statement to the House of
Commons: "The UK places the utmost priority on protecting
its citizens, whether at home or abroad. We are always prepared
to deploy British forces to evacuate UK nationals should
their lives be placed in jeopardy.
In light of the deteriorating
security situation in Cote d'Ivoire, a military reconnaissance
team deployed earlier this week to assess the requirement
to evacuate UK nationals. I wish to inform the House that,
following this reconnaissance, the Foreign & Commonwealth
Office has requested British forces to undertake an evacuation
of UK nationals and others over the next few days. Some 400
people are entitled to our protection."
board an RAF C-130K Hercules transport aircraft at Abidjan airport.
Smiles all round, The Deputy Head of Mission at the British
Embassy in Abidjan is reunited with his daughter at Accra. Pictures
with thanks to RAF Lyneham.
Within a few hours, 3 air transporter C130 Hercules aircraft were
prepared and dispatched and flew to Accra to await further tasking.
A professional demonstration of "Rapid Reaction"
was shown. Not only did the aircrew deploy, but also a team of
movements personnel, communications specialists and engineers.
A medical team remained on high readiness at RAF Lyneham.
The evacuation operation commenced early on 12th November, RAF
Hercules aircraft flying into Cote d'Ivoire to begin ferrying UK
nationals and other evacuees to Accra, where the Foreign & Commonwealth
Office and Ghanaian authorities took care of their reception and
onward movement. Soldiers from the Royal Gurkha Rifles provided
assistance to the Consular staff on the ground in Cote d'Ivoire.
The evacuation by British forces was completed to the satisfaction
of the British Ambassador at 1100 on 13 November, with all those
UK nationals who wished to leave Cote d'Ivoire having been flown
to safety in Ghana, along with the Embassy staff. In total, the
three RAF Hercules aircraft brought out 220 evacuees, including
some nationals of other countries at their governments' request.
The British forces began returning to the UK from the operating
base in Accra on 13 November, having received outstanding support
and cooperation from the French and Ghanaian authorities.
Very quickly the Lyneham aircraft were involved
in bringing 220 UK nationals and other evacuees to the safety
of Ghana. The overall duration of the operation, from the
call forward of evacuation assets from the United Kingdom
to the last aircraft departing from Abidjan, was only fifty
RAF Lyneham Station Commander, Group Captain Oborn [pictured
left] praised his base personnel, "Once again this
operation demonstrated the high-readiness and professionalism
of Lyneham's Hercules crew's. The total time taken from the
call forward of assets from the UK to my last aircraft leaving
Abidjan, mission complete, was only 50 hours and is a good
example, if one were needed, of how we in the RAF Hercules
Force act as a 'force for good' by providing security for
UK Nationals abroad whose lives are in jeopardy."
Secretary Mr Geoff Hoon also praises the military personnel
in their efforts ""Our ability to react quickly to the
situation in Cote d'Ivoire is testament to the flexibility and
capability of Britain's Armed Forces, and to the professionalism
of British Servicemen and women."