x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

‘Gent Geordie’ of Trucial Oman Scouts dies

87-year-old Briton ‘paved the way for modern UAE army’.

‘Colonel Dee’, right, served with the Trucial Oman Scouts (TOS) from 1959 to 1961. Courtesy of Alan Sanderson, a former TOS
‘Colonel Dee’, right, served with the Trucial Oman Scouts (TOS) from 1959 to 1961. Courtesy of Alan Sanderson, a former TOS

The honorary president of the Trucial Oman Scout Association died in England early on Tuesday morning. He was 87.

Lt Col Harold Wallace Dee served with the Trucial Oman Scouts (TOS) from 1959 to 1961 at a period when the British-led security force set the framework for the foundations for the Union Defence Force.

“His legacy was like so many others. He paved the way for the modern army of the United Arab Emirates,” said Allan Stanistreet, who served under Dee from 1960 to 1961. “They regard us as the founders of the modern army and many of their systems are based on what we did and that was our joint legacy I suppose you can say.

“We never treated the Emiratis as second-class citizens which is, I think, why we enjoy such good relations with them today. We worked hard out there with very little.”

Dee was famous and well-loved for what the TOS did best: he developed trust and mutual respect with Arab, English and Emirati people at a time when scarce resources could quickly strain tribal relationships. The fair-haired moustached man from Chester-Le-Street in north-east England won respect and hearts through his strength of character, exuberance and wit.

He received the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry, in 1974 and a second-class Al Qasimi Medal in 2003. To those of higher and lower rank, he was known simply as “that gent Geordie”.

“To sum up Geordie Dee he had a magnetic personality, a brilliant sense of humour,” said Terry Ward, a TOS who first met Dee in the early 1960s. “Rank meant little do him as long as you got on and did the job. If you didn’t do the job he might pull some rank on you. He retained that attitude right throughout. All he wanted was efficiency.”

Dee was acting quartermaster, responsible for military supplies in a land of scarcity. From a small barasti office he secured food, ammunition, bedding and tailored uniforms for outposts across the Trucial States.

“It was just being in the place we were because we were so far from everywhere and communications were not good,” Mr Stanistreet said. “Well, we had aircraft and things. There were no telephones. If you wanted anything from outside you had to send a signal by Morse code.”

Dee started his service in the early days of the Second World War, enrolling in a Home Defence Battalion in 1940, aged just 15.

By the time he arrived in Sharjah, he had served in Greece, Malaysia, Korea and Kenya. Dee retired from active duty in 1982 after serving in Malaysia, Mauritius, Australia, Germany, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. He retired fully in 1990.

He is survived by his step daughter, Shelley, and one grandchild.

Funeral services will be held on April 18 at 2.30pm in Gateshead, County Durham.

azacharias@thenational.ae