David Neild

David NeildA Soldier in ArabiaDavid Neild was born in Portsmouth in 1938, the second son of a Royal Naval Officer. At Portsmouth Grammar School he concentrated more on the combined cadet force and sport rather than his academic studies and was already considering a military career when he was called up for national service in 1957. A year later he was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps and posted to Singapore. Exciting as this turned out to be, his preference was for the more active military career of an infantry officer.

In 1959 he joined the the elite Trucial Oman Scouts comprising of British and Arab soldiers. At the age of 20 he was the youngest officer ever to serve in the TOS and it marked the beginning of a remarkable Arabian journey that was to change his life for ever.

After completing his 18-month tour of duty, Neild transferred to the Kings Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool) and saw service in Kenya, Berlin and Northern Ireland. He then returned to the UK as second-in-command of the Recruit Training Company at the Lancastrian Brigade Depot in Preston. A brief romance with a Coronation Street actress led to the offer of a job with a Granada TV news team. However, a return to the Trucial Oman Scouts was offered and the call of Arabia proved too strong.

In the years between 1966 and 1972 he rose from Captain to Lt Colonel and was witness to and often closely involved in the skirmishes, incursions and political upheavals that took place leading up to the formation of the United Arab Emirates in December 1971. He commanded the first Trucial Oman Scouts rifle squadron to be based in Ras Al Khaimah where he formed a lasting friendship with the Ruler, His Highness Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. This relationship was further strengthened when his squadron was successful in peacefully putting down a tribal rebellion in Ras Al Khaimah. Towards the end of 1968 HH Sheikh Saqr took the decision to establish his own independent Mobile Force and invited Neild to form and command it, provided he left the British Army. This was an offer he found impossible to refuse and he spent the next three years establishing a fully trained efficient force.

In 1972 the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed al Qasimi was assassinated and Neild was asked to form and command the Sharjah National Guard. In 1973 Neild left the Gulf for Africa (the subject of his next book) but again the lure of the desert proved too strong and 2013 he returned with his wife, Eileen, to the United Arab Emirates where he resides today.

He is married with one daughter and two granddaughters and still enjoys a game of golf, despite an ever increasing high handicap.

Published by Medina Publishing Ltd:
A Soldier in Arabia