x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Colonel who helped build UAE armed forces dies in Abu Dhabi

Col Edward Wilson worked closely with Sheikh Zayed before independence, before returning to set up the royal stables.

Col Edward 'Tug' Wilson was the first commander of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force, the forerunner of today's UAE Armed Forces, until he retired in 1968.
Col Edward 'Tug' Wilson was the first commander of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force, the forerunner of today's UAE Armed Forces, until he retired in 1968.

Col Edward "Tug" Wilson, the founder and first commander of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force, died in Abu Dhabi on Friday after a brief illness, it was announced yesterday. Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1921, Wilson joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 20 and later transferred into the Worcestershire Regiment of the British Army where he served for many years, rising to the rank of colonel.

Besides fighting in the Second World War and the Korean War, he also took part in the Berlin Airlift and in operations in Malaya and British Honduras before coming to Abu Dhabi in 1963. After Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan became Ruler in 1966, Col Wilson worked closely with him to establish the Abu Dhabi Defence Force, the forerunner of today's UAE Armed Forces, and was appointed its first commander, a post he held until his retirement in 1968.

During this time, he became a close friend of Sheikh Zayed, who in 1973 asked him to come out of retirement in England and to return to Abu Dhabi to set up the Royal Stables. Over the next 30 years, as the stables' director general, and until Sheikh Zayed's death, he oversaw its development into one of the world's top centres for Arabian horses. Nick Cochrane-Dyet, a longtime UAE resident who knew Col Wilson for several decades, described him as "very meticulous and enthusiastic" in his military work.

"He had been here a long time and was much respected by the Al Nahyan family. He was someone who would do anything for you. He was a very kind mentor and guardian to me and a very kind gentleman," he said. In 2005, he was one of the first recipients of the annual Abu Dhabi Award for his services to the country. A memorial service will be held at the St Andrew's Community Centre in Abu Dhabi at 1pm on Saturday.

* The National