Vet Andrew tells of days as Army’s secret weapon

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AN ARMY vet, sent to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people of Oman by treating their sick animals, has written a book about his experiences.

Andrew Higgins, from Nowton, was plunged in at the deep end when he was sent to Oman in 1974 as a newly qualified member of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

It was the height of the Cold War and communist-backed rebels were attempting to take control of the country by force.

The British Army secretly played a crucial role in the bitterly fought war by pushing back the rebels and installing the Sultan’s young son, Sultan Qaboos, into power.

Now, nearly 40 years later, Andrew has written a book, With the S.A.S and other animals, from journals he kept of his adventures during Operation Storm.

Andrew said: “This was a very poor country at the time with their wealth entirely held up in their animals.

“These poor pastoral people were right in the middle of warzone.

“It was a secret British mission – the SAS were there to help the local people and help them to secure their future security.

“The reason the book has been written is that I kept a journal during my time in Oman.

“It was almost medieval at that time, the old leader had kept the country in a 17th century state with hardly any schools and no infrastructure.

“Apart from providing veterinary care for the Omani livestock and looking after the Army’s dogs, my other role was looking after the new Sultan’s animals. He had these wonderful horses and dogs that came from Harrods.

“The biggest thing was his animal zoo – he decided one day he wanted some animals in his gardens in the capital Muscat. I had to look after Himalayan mountain bears, exotic birds, hyenas and foxes.

“It was definitely not in the veterinary curriculum, I was only two years out of college and had not even seen a camel in the flesh until I went out there.

“I just had to get on with it though – it was all done on the hoof.”