| Erik Bennett|
|Member of||Le Cercle|
A secretive UK military advisor in Oman and a Cercle attendee.
He was an Air Adviser to King Hussein, 1958–62, RAF Staff College, 1963; Jt Services Staff Coll., 1968; RAF Coll. of Air Warfare, 1971. Order of Istiqlal (Jordan), 1960; Order of Oman, 1980; Order of Merit (Oman), 1989; Order of Sultan Qaboos (Oman), 1985; Medal of Honour (Oman), 1989.
He was a commander in the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force (in the rank of Air Marshal), 1974–1990. He retired from the RAF in 1991.
Bennett briefly served as an adviser to King Hussein of Jordan before moving to Oman in the early 1970s. In Oman he became an officer successfully helping Sultan Qaboos overthrow his father and fight Marxist rebels in Dhofar. Became a commander (Air Marshal) of Oman's Air Force in 1974.
1990 Cercle meeting
- Full article: Le Cercle/1990 (Oman)
- Full article: Le Cercle/1990 (Oman)
Erik Bennett still was in Oman when Le Cercle held a meeting in Muscat in 1990. Alan Clark wrote about the 1990 Le Cercle meeting: "I had a good meeting with Erik Bennett. He is a courtier of the very highest class. What are the characteristics? The voice, the intonation, the clarity of diction. The superficial speaking well of all and everyone. The way all communication occurs by the lightest of implied comment. Smooth, unwrinkled skin, and limitless endurance through ceremonial tedium. Also, in Erik's case, intelligence and wit. He has set up a draft letter 'from' HM inquiring about surplus military equipment sales after (EB said) 'rapprochement with Iraq'. I substituted 'a clearer determination of unpredictability in the region', which he admitted was preferable."
1995 Car crash
When the Sultan's car was rammed from behind by a speeding car in Salalah, where he likes to spend the summer, on September 11, 1995, Bennett was sitting right next to him, and was seriously injured. Qaboos' deputy premier for economics and finance Qais Al Zawawi was killed in the crash. The Sunday Times of September 17, 1995 wrote an interesting article entitled "Oman draws a veil over mystery car crash Briton; Air Marshal Sir Erik Bennett" which reveals more of the activities of this secretive man:
"IT WAS a curious kind of crash. When Sultan Qaboos Bin Said of Oman stopped his four-wheel-drive vehicle in the middle of a wide, flat and empty highway last week to listen to the complaint of a shepherd, a speeding car appeared from nowhere and smashed into him and his passengers. Even more curious was the fact that although the most important person in the Sultan's life a powerful, reclusive Briton was badly hurt, nobody dared mention it publicly. However, Air Marshal Sir Erik Bennett, 67, is one of Oman's (and Britain's) best-kept secrets: the key figure in a group of elderly former military and intelligence officers who help the Sultan to run his rich, strategically vital country at the mouth of the Gulf... No doubt it would have all been an overnight wonder except for the unmentionable figure who had been sitting next to the Omani ruler. The dapper, ginger-haired Bennett is now said to be recovering in an Omani hospital. But the refusal to acknowledge his presence only reinforces the fact that Oman is where the last remains of the British empire have still not been laid to rest much to the Sultan's (and London's) delight. Even King Hussein of Jordan had to get rid of his beloved Glubb Pasha, the British commander of his troops, long ago. But the sultan of Oman is a more absolute ruler and a more determined Anglophile. Sent to England at 18, he was tutored privately for two years while living with an English family and was then trained at Sandhurst. He served for a year in the Cameronians before returning home in 1964. His father, Sultan Said, a man of medieval habits, responded to his raging Anglophilia by putting him under virtual house arrest in the family palace in Salalah, allowing him only a Koran to read. His mother smuggled in The Times every day, however, and eventually a few friends were allowed up to play bridge. Prominent among them was Timothy Landon, a classmate at Sandhurst, who was serving as an SAS officer fighting Marxist rebels attacking Oman from Yemen. Both Qaboos and Landon knew that the British were unhappy at the sultan's failure to fight the rebels adequately and at the medieval situation of Oman. With a population of 1m, it had only 10 miles of paved roads, 500 telephones and three schools. The gates of the walled city of Muscat were closed at night and strollers had to carry lanterns. Radios and just about anything else modern were illegal. The wearing of spectacles could lead to jail. In 1970 the British encouraged a palace revolt by Qaboos which ended when his father pulled a pistol to defend himself and shot himself in the foot. He was bundled on to an RAF jet waiting on the British base behind the palace. The old man lived out the remainder of his years in the Dorchester hotel on Park Lane while British soldiers and airmen fought the rebels for five more years. Among them was Bennett, shy of publicity and happiest mingling with other figures from the world of cloak-and-dagger wars and secret intelligence. A short, shadowy figure with an Anglo-Irish background he had been educated at King's Hospital, a Protestant school in Dublin Bennett had transferred to Oman from Jordan after doing a stint as Hussein's air adviser. While Bennett took command of the Omani airforce, Qaboos took the throne and hankered after London. He spent £100,000 on a bronze-and-gold-leaf clock that played the Westminster chimes, flew out a British circus on his birthday, and commissioned the entire London Symphony Orchestra to fly to Salalah to celebrate his accession. Because of the sensitivities of Arab nationalism, the sultan in recent years has had to be more clandestine about his Anglophilia. He instituted a programme of "Omanisation", and British officials now work behind the scenes. But a British major-general, Jeremy Phipps, and 65 army officers are still on "loan service" to the sultan. They eat curries, wear cummerbunds at formal dinners, and go "wadi-bashing" for fun. Another powerful figure is Tony Ashworth, a civilian with Whitehall connections whose influence is crucial in the tight limits that are kept on the number of visitors to the sultanate. Bennett is now officially retired, but he still gives his address as his palace in northern Oman and remains the sultan's "special adviser". Many in Oman say the two men, both unmarried and without children, are the closest of friends. Once in a while Bennett still performs mysterious missions. A few years ago, when British special operations officers who had fought a secret war in Albania returned for the first time since the war, Bennett went along as a friend although he had never visited the country. Landon, the SAS officer and former bridge partner, also keeps up his connection. He is listed as a "counsellor" at the Omani embassy in London. The connection between these men and the sultan is more than just Anglophilia and friendship. Oman has 1,000 miles of coast on the Indian Ocean and controls the strait of Hormuz through which pass the tankers of the Gulf oil states. With its output of 800,000 barrels of oil a day, it is also rich and likes to buy British. As Mark Thatcher found, when the sultan wanted a university he picked the British firm Cementation to build it."