Directorate of Telecommunications PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS Qatar - Two Years in Doha and a week in London By: Roy Tichelli IEng MIET
This account of a two year secondment from the then HO Directorate of Telecommunications to the Qatar State Police is intended to be historically accurate. Views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Home Office, Foreign Office, Qatar Government Agencies, commercial companies mentioned, or individuals named in the article:- Roy Tichelli
The 1976 was one of those rare hot summers in UK that everyone reminisces about and despite having spent a lot of time at beaches in Qatar we all enjoyed the British seaside. We enjoyed seeing family and friends again. However when we arrived back in Doha we where met by intense heat and humidity as we left the aircraft despite being late evening. We had in been away only a month but had forgotten just how hot it gets in the Gulf Region in summer.
No cataclysmic events had taken place during my absence. Alan Taylor had dealt with the routine work well but was somewhat dispirited about the High Band project. He & John Alexander had updated the extension of the VHF high band plan to cover the Southern area. A site had been identified but little interest had been shown by operations. During the next week we assembled the detailed plan. I engaged a surveyor from the Government Engineering Services Department and tasked a Police Air Wing helicopter to go and survey the site.
As we took off from the military side of the Doha Airport I glanced at the clear blue sea below seeing a flotilla of small boats, and enormous fish clearly visible beneath surface before the pilot did a 180 degree turn and headed off over the gravel plain occasionally broken by sand dunes. At this point I reflected on how much I was enjoying being in Qatar despite how challenging work could be. We landed at the site identified only by its grid reference. As we disembarked the pilot joked “You know how Neil Armstrong felt now.” There was no evidence of development anywhere & the landscape was not unlike the moon. The survey result was optimistic. The site was potentially suitable but overland access and power remained a costly & logistical obstacle. What ever site was chosen in the south would present the same infrastructure problems.
I produced an executive report summarising the requirements and requested authorisation to do radio survey checks and obtained a detailed infrastructure proposal from Engineering Services Department with costings.
While we awaited a response to my report I learned that a grand new building was planned to be sited on the Corniche over looking the sea. The building was to be the new Ministry of The Interior offices and the Police HQ would be housed within the same complex enabling the Police to vacate Rumaillah Fort which it had shared with Army. This had many ramifications regarding resisting of equipment and re-engineering. However the need for an additional site in the south would not go away.
Weeks passed without a decision being made about the site in the south. I became very frustrated with the delay particularly as I was frequently asked when the High Band project will be completed. I saw producing the proposal as my job but expected Fuad to obtain the Chiefs approval. Finally he told me when pressed that the project was on hold because of the new Ministry of the Interior building. Alan & John shared my bewilderment but continued to enhance the high band & work on other projects. We where all concerned as to whether our secondments would run full term I learned from control room staff that American engineers had been surveying the equipment accompanied by Fuad. I asked a few questions and quickly concluded that the Americans were from Motorola. It appeared that my success in London was going to conspire against us.
As the departure dates for Alan and John approached I was called by David Crawford the Ambassador himself on my direct line. He explained that following discussions with Qatar authorities the MoU would not be renewed. Some continued presence was later requested but after I spoke with Bill Nicol the repatriation process was started. He did not want to further commit DoT personnel on the terms proposed. Alan and John left on their due dates and I continued for a few weeks either completing projects or handing them over. I felt some what gratified in that two major security projects involving seismic alarms, low light automatic sector alignment projects were re assigned to other ministries. The power station project went to the Ministry of Electricity and Water and the VIP guest villas security system to General Internal Security best described as the local “MI5.” I considered that my advice had been taken,
By the time our final week arrived we had sold cars, arranged packing, and booked a holiday in Cyprus. Sadly it was not practical to take the dog with us. This was a blow to Kerry in particular. The dog had adopted her as the boss. The Dog went back to the family, long term expatriate residents who had given him to us originally. Our return to UK was more measured and orderly that our outward journey. Once we left the house we moved into the Gulf Hotel. The hotel contrasted sharply with our temporary accommodation at the Doha Palace on arrival. The children were excited by the prospect of a week in the hotel with a swimming pool and daily visits to the coffee shop and not just on Fridays.
On my last day I was collecting our air tickets from the travel agent. The phone rang and the agent said “It is for you “handing me the phone. An excited Staff/ Sgt Yusef said “Sir Sir You must come now the Chief wants to see you now. “It remains a total mystery how he knew that I was at the travel agents. I returned to the Fort for the last time and was ushered into the big office ahead of the bemused gathering sitting outside waiting to see the boss. I spent about 30 minutes with him. He thanked me for what I had done singling out the procurement of Motorola equipment stating that he was “not wrong to send me to London “That trip had a profound effect on everyone concerned.
The night before we left Doha we noticed an intense glow in the sky from the hotel window. I judged it to be just beyond the Airport. As the glow intensified we saw a constant stream of blue lights passing the airport in convoy. We soon learned from visiting friends that the fire was further away at the oil refinery in Umm Said. As I watched the convoy I prayed that the communications worked. They would be tested to their limit tonight. All channels would be busy. The Burndept Consort would come into its own tonight. A vivid glow remained in the sky for hours. Little appeared in the local or International press about the fire but it was quite horrific. I learned later that were many fatalities. The airport was closed due to its fire tenders being deployed to assist the Police Fire Brigade but opened again next morning and we left for Cyprus.
After Easter in Paphos and Nicosia we arrived home to a cold April & snow showers. Once back at CCE I was assigned to Evaluation and Development but requested a transfer to training which did not go down well with all my superiors. Eventually an exchange posting with Norman Butler was negotiated. Norman wanted to go back to E& D & I wanted to join training. I had once been told by a senior member of the Directorate there comes a career watershed where the choice is learn “more & more about less and less “or “less and less about more and more.” I felt that I had gone a long way down the “less and less about more and more “route. Training was a good place to up date my technical knowledge. I took on Basic Logic Courses & PNCU VDU courses after attending the Sunningdale Trainers Course.
Soon after repatriation I attended a lengthy de-brief with the Director at Rochester Row. I travelled to London with a feeling of anxiety that quickly vanished on entering the office. There was a large file on his desk. He made several references to correspondence we had exchanged. I had followed the Deputy Director’s advice and kept him informed. I explained, to the best of my understanding, the complex relationships and political influences that had driven my decisions concerning the project. Bill Nicol had been in Bahrain with the civil aviation department & I felt that he understood the minefield of political and commercial intrigue experienced in such Middle East posts. I had once had to seek his advice on how to handle a visit to Qatar by HM Inspector of Constabulary *4. as I could sense that the Directorate & Inspectorate were at variance with some aspects of the mission. It was then that I realised that home departments were not immune to politics either. During the meeting the Director confided that he had tentative plans for other Directorate secondments but he retired soon after this due to ill health and the plan seemed to retire with him. The meeting was lengthy and at the end I was entertained to lunch at a Pub near Rochester Row before leaving to board a train to Harrow to come to terms with the reality of being back at CCE.
I spent around two years in training before resigning to go abroad. During this time I met Philip Archer for the first time at Kippax & renewed acquaintance with Gerry Moy who was in a CWT post there. Overseas life also attracted Alan Taylor & John Alexander away from the Directorate again. Alan went to Kirabati with the blessing of HM Government but John Alexander also burned his bridges . He worked for a business communications company in Qatar. We socialised a few times. I heard that he eventually rejoined the Home Office via the Met. Police Telecommunications Dept. I did meet Fuad once in the Middle East & learned that Salem Ajab went to USA on extended further studies. The Contract Police Officers were older than me and went into retirement one by one soon after I left.
I spent a further 17 years living a working in the Gulf Region. After initially returning to Qatar with the Ministry of Electricity & Water I worked for an oil company in the Sultanate of Oman as Head of Transmission and Telephones until I was replaced by an Omani under a planned Omanisation programme. I joined a Canadian Telecommunications supplier as a Programme Manager running projects mainly in France, Austria & North America. I was reassigned to my final post of EMEA Market Readiness Support Leader for GSM, GPRS & UMTS for the last three years before retirement. Though many years had lapsed the peripheral skills acquired during my secondment became very useful as my role became progressively more commercial. Anne returned to work in the NHS after a long absence until she took retirement at the same time as me.
The liking of overseas life extended to our children. Kerry bided her time between London, Dublin and New York with an American bank and later lived in Hamburg while her husband Tim was based in Germany with Philips. Our grandchildren Olivia and Charlie attended an International School in Hamburg as their mother had done in Doha. Royston worked in Japan after graduating from University in Dublin and later worked for an investment bank in Germany and the Czech Republic before being posted to London with the Bank & currently works in the in the city. . He is married to Liz who has worked in Pakistan with the Red Cross & lived in Switzerland before joining the banking community in Canary Wharf. We all currently live in the London Thames /Valley area.