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Expatriate Recalls Witnessing UAE Union Formation and Forces Departure

Len Chapman clearly recounts his experiences during the UAE's creation and the withdrawal of British forces.

Len Chapman, a British expatriate who arrived in Dubai in March 1971 to work as an engineer, vividly recalls his experiences during the formation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the departure of British forces. 

His immigration process took 30 seconds upon arrival, and he initially planned to stay for two years. However, Len ended up spending over 30 years in Dubai. 

Now retired and living in Australia, Len shared his memories of witnessing the signing of the UAE Union and the departure of British forces.

Memorable Union Formation:

Len decided to visit the beach palace on Jumeirah Road on the day of the UAE Union signing, gathering with a few others to witness the historic event. 

As the rulers’ cars drove into the palace, Len and the onlookers realized the Union was being signed. Despite the absence of celebrations, the impact was significant. 

Len specifically recalls Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan waving at them from a black Cadillac, creating a lasting memory of a quiet yet powerful union.

Historic British Forces Departure:

On the same evening, Len drove to Sharjah to witness another historic moment—the departure of British forces. 

Attempting to meet an old classmate piloting the last Royal Air Force (RAF) plane with soldiers leaving the country, Len walked across the base. 

The departure marked the end of an era, and Len observed the curiosity of people exploring the base, which had been opened to the public for the first time.

Len Chapman’s recollections offer a personal perspective on the early days of the UAE, capturing the quiet but impactful moments that shaped the nation’s history.

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