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David Ledger (1939–2008)
David Ledger, who died on 12 November 2008, will be remembered by members of the Society who served in Aden during the traumatic events that led up to British withdrawal in 1967. He will however be known to a wider audience as the author of Shifting Sands: The British in South Arabia (1983). Many accounts have been written before and since about the British connection with this part of the world, but David Ledger’s narrative tells the plain unvarnished truth about an unfortunate and tragic episode in British colonial history. In discussing British involvement in Aden he describes how an honest if belated attempt to bring development and prosperity to a remote corner of Arabia became a thorn in the side of the British political establishment and an international embarrassment. He concludes his account with an epilogue about the Arab friends we let down and the fate of the leaders and the regime which followed British rule.
For his National Service in 1960, David Ledger was drafted into the Intelligence Corps and served on secondment to theTrucial Oman Scouts. After completing his military service he joined the British High Commission in Aden, where he worked in the Information Section with Derek Rose, whose murder he describes in his book. He was therefore well placed to know all about events taking place as they happened and was able to keep notes that would later prove invaluable when he turned to writing and publishing Shifting Sands. After his service in Aden, David Ledger returned to what is now the United Arab Emirates, and for six years was adviser to the late Ruler of Fujairah. In 1974 he went into business and was a frequent visitor to the Middle East. But clearly he had always wanted to write about his experiences in Aden, which for him and for many of us who were there was a formative influence in our lives. He finally found time to write up his notes and to look back on those times of tragedy and farce with nostalgia, some humour and a measure of detachment.