Echoes of Aden: The Historical Significance of the Saluting Bunder

As we delve into the rich tapestry of Aden's past, the Saluting Bunder emerges as a focal point of historical and cultural significance. Nestled in the northwest trajectory from The Prince of Wales Crescent, this landmark, once a symbol of imperial power and maritime prestige, evolved into a poignant memorial of war. From its origins as a ceremonial platform for saluting dignitaries with its twelve-pounder guns to its later incarnation as The Prince of Wales Pier, the Bunder's story is interwoven with tales of royal visits, maritime glory, and the solemn remembrance of those lost in the throes of the Great War. This narrative explores the transformation of Saluting Bunder, unveiling the layers of history that have shaped its enduring legacy in Aden's heritage.

Tucked away in the heart of Aden, the Saluting Bunder stood as a testament to the region's colonial past and its vibrant maritime history. If one were to stroll northwest from The Prince of Wales Crescent, past landmarks such as the Government and the P&O Coal Grounds, and along the scenic Jopp Promenade, they would have encountered this significant site, directly opposite the Police Chowkee. Here, six imposing twelve-pounder guns mounted on 4-wheeled carriages once stood sentinel, ready to fire salutes in honour of arriving dignitaries.

The origins of the Saluting Bunder can be traced back to the British colonial era when Aden was a crucial coaling station for ships en route to the Far East and Australia. The presence of these guns was not just for ceremonial purposes; they symbolised the might and reach of the British Empire, and their roars were a familiar sound, echoing across the waters to welcome notable visitors.

In 1876, a notable addition was made to this historic site—a cast iron shed supported by eight robust posts. Its distinctive semi-rounded roof, crowned with a full-length vent, became a recognizable feature of the Aden waterfront. The Saluting Bunder's transformation did not end there; it was later renamed The Prince of Wales Pier, a tribute to the heir apparent of the British throne.

The Duke of Connaught's visit in 1921, amidst his journey to India to inaugurate the Reformed Legislative Council, highlighted the Bunder's significance. Though his visit was marred by illness, leading to a subdued reception compared to his grand welcome in 1905, the Duke's presence underscored Aden's role as a key stopover for dignitaries and royals. His journey aboard HMS Malaya was a blend of imperial duty and naval might, reflecting the strategic importance of Aden in the British naval network.

HMT Euphrates off the Saluting Bunder 1875

Picture taken c. 1902. Jopp Gardens and Jopp Promenade in the foreground. Passenger ship belongs to the German East Africa Line (D.O.A L.). She is probably the Burgurmeister (5,902 g.t.), completed at the Flensburg yard in 1902.

Perhaps the most poignant chapter in the history of the Saluting Bunder was its role during the Great War. The Memorial Building, erected and funded by the Port Trust, was a solemn dedication to the servicemen who had sacrificed their lives in Aden. The Duke of Connaught, during his brief stopover on his return journey, inaugurated this memorial, lending a touch of royal solemnity to the tribute.

The memorial's brass plaque bore the names of 19 NCOs and men of the Brecknockshires, a stark reminder of the harsh realities of war. The majority of these soldiers succumbed not to battle wounds but to heatstroke in the unforgiving climate, a tragic episode occurring predominantly between July 4th and 5th, 1915. Contrary to some reports that suggested 21 UK casualties from heatstroke, the War Graves booklet clarified that this figure likely included the total number of UK soldiers affected, including seven or eight gunners.

Today, the legacy of the Saluting Bunder, or The Prince of Wales Pier, lives on in historical accounts and the memories of the local populace. It stands as a symbol of Aden's past—a past filled with the echoes of naval guns, the whispers of war, and the footsteps of those who walked its grounds, leaving behind stories of valour, sacrifice, and the relentless march of time.

In a city woven with the threads of history and culture, the Jopp Gardens and Jopp Promenade stand as enduring symbols of a bygone era. These landmarks, essential to the social and urban fabric of Aden in the 1800s and early 1900s, were named after Brigadier-General J. Jopp, Political Resident from 1890-1895. Despite the lack of detailed historical records about the individual Jopp, these namesake spaces reflect the city's colonial past under British rule and its transformation into a bustling port. Jopp Gardens and Promenade, captured in photographs and postcards from the early 20th century, evoke images of leisurely strolls and the mingling of diverse cultures, painting a vivid picture of Aden's rich and varied history.

Jopp Promenade with Jopp Gardens on the left. Saluting Bunder in the background.