x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police founder was devoted to the UAE

Peter Clayton, who has died aged 83, was a member of the Trucial Oman Scout and the British soldier's mediations were crucial in the resolution of the Buraimi dispute in Al Ain.

Peter Clayton, left, and other veterans of the Trucial Oman Scouts prepare to take part in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies on November 11, 2007 in London.
Peter Clayton, left, and other veterans of the Trucial Oman Scouts prepare to take part in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies on November 11, 2007 in London.

DUBAI // Peter H Clayton, the man who founded Dubai Police and played a key role in maintaining the territorial integrity of Abu Dhabi during the Buraimi dispute, has died. He was 83.

A member of the Trucial Oman Levies, later the Trucial Oman Scouts, Clayton was stationed in the Emirates between 1954 and 1957.

Fluent in Arabic, he dressed as a Bedouin and assumed the name Sultan bin Hamis while in the UAE. He was a close friend of Sheikh Zayed, founding President of the UAE.

Clayton died on July 19 after suffering from cancer.

At his funeral in Plymouth, in the south-west of England, on Friday, his son Patrick Clayton poured desert sand on his grave and said the words "Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim" ("In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful" - words that brought his father great comfort in his final days.

"My father loved the Emirates and he tried to get back whenever he could," said Mr Clayton. "He was always really happier there than anywhere else."

Peter Clayton's life was an adventure from the beginning. He was born in Croydon, south London, but was soon whisked off to spend his early childhood in Maadi, Egypt. His parents both spoke fluent Arabic and his father worked for the Geological Survey of Egypt.

He moved back to the UK in 1936 and was conscripted into the army in 1949. After a period at Sandhurst, he joined the 1st Battalion the Queen's Royal Regiment in Germany as a motor transport officer.

Clayton studied Arabic at the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies at Shemlan, Lebanon, in 1953. The institution was then regarded as a "school for spies", and such was his grasp of the language that he was commonly mistaken for an Iraqi.

He joined the Trucial Oman Levies in 1954, about the time the Saudi emir Turki bin Ataishan occupied the village of Hamasa, near what is known today as Al Ain. Clayton's role was to travel daily to visit the emir and persuade him to leave.

He was given the MBE for his efforts in brokering an end to the Buraimi crisis.

In 1956, he was appointed as the newly renamed Scouts' chief political and intelligence officer, and was responsible for founding Dubai Police with a team of six men.

"Sheikh Rashid [the former Ruler] wanted a police force in Dubai and Mr Clayton was the man for the job," said Dr Saif bin Aboud Al Bedwawi, a historian in Ajman who attended the Scouts' boys school in 1966.

"Mr Clayton started the police force with just a few Somalis, a few Baluchis and a few locals. The crimes back then weren't so serious, just a few cases like theft. However, he's famous among the Dubai Police commanders. They still regard him highly."

Back then, life in the UAE was tough, and there were just a handful of roads, said Michael Curtis, a former Scout and author.

"The camps were the most ghastly places," said Mr Curtis, who is 72 and lives in the south-east of England. "The greatest joy was to come into the headquarters for squadron commanders conferences, where everything was air conditioned, including the lavatories."

Clayton left the Emirates in 1957 and was married a year later to Pamela Passmore, a doctor. Patrick was born in 1959 and the family moved to Bahrain, where Clayton was a senior desert intelligence officer.

He stayed in contact with old friends from the UAE, including his old military comrade and close friend, Ali bin Azayez.

Patrick was called "Abdullah" by friends as they could not pronounce his name. Clayton Sr became "Abu Abdullah".

The family returned to the UK, where he became a technical officer at the ministry of defence. He was part of the team that developed the rubber bullet and became an expert in riot control.

He also wrote two books, one of which, Two Alpha Lima, was based on his time in the Emirates. He kept in close contact with many friends from the UAE, including Sheikh Zayed, who visited the family in Horsham when he was in the UK.

Clayton repaid the favour three years ago when he returned to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Dubai Police chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim.

"Mr Clayton was the type of Scout who not only spoke Arabic fluently, but also knew the local dialect," said Dr Al Bedwawi. "He was as important a cultural figure as [the historian and explorer] Wilfred Thesiger."

mcroucher@thenational.ae