Friday, 11 November 2016

7. Ground offensive and home

Sunday 24 February 1991                               Allied Ground Troops Invaded Today

Another SCUD disturbed night.  Had a complete ‘rest’ day today – ie no running and swimming.  On the way to the pool (for sun-bathing) there was a SCUD alert at 11am.  Put on my mask and returned to the accommodation to find a dozen people in various states of NBC dress waiting with cameras poised to get the Patriots taking off.  All they got was one of me with shorts, Desert Storm T-shirt and respirator on.  Had a while at the pool and then went to Mass, which was packed out.  The American priest is very good; gave a good sermon on the Transfiguration but rather spoiled things by saying that all the Masses ‘wouldn’t be silent’ and asked for readers, musicians and eucharistic ministers.  Also advertised "prayer meetings" where we would look, if indeed we came, at different forms of prayers – imaging, journaling – and have a look at traditional prayers such as the rosary in a ‘diffenrent’ way.  The ground battle started today at 4am our time.  There is a total news blackout which is frustrating for us, but it’s a good idea – however, the radio is just full of speculation.  We are confined to camp today but have still been given the day off.  Both the B shifts are in tonight so we must be expecting some “action” reasonably soon.  Schwarzkopf wouldn’t say much tonight in the briefing from Riyadh.  We had another SCUD tonight at 10am.  Tony managed to record the alarm and the Patriots going off.  Another great event took place today – the desert combats have been issued at last.  How ironic if we got these this week and went home next week.

Monday 25 February 1991

Good progress appears to be being made in the allied ground offensive today.  Went into work where there was a thumbnail sketch type of map which had been copied for all the wards showing the allies just outside Kuwait City. So far only a dozen US casualties and no U.K. casualties have been reported.  The Iraqis do not seem to be putting up much of a fight.  I fear they may be trying to trick us into coming as near Iraq as possible before hitting us.  I hope I’m wrong and that it is all over soon.  We had 9 patients today; I took absolutely no part in their care – all minor non-battle casualties, since my ‘team’ was not involved at all.  Instead I filled in the time queuing for my desert combats; we got two sets plus 3 t-shirts and scarves and a hat which is much too big for me.  Read a great deal today – The XXXX and YYYY  by Dick Francis.  Got ‘home’ early to hear the news that a SCUD had killed several US servicemen near Dahran – a freak hit, no doubt, but one that will please Hussein greatly.  Maybe this will give him the ‘moral’ victory he needs, however, to have a god reason for withdrawing from Kuwait.  We are being told to expand the hospital and are to expect masses of ‘3rd country’ ie Iraq and Arab coalition country, patients.  Had no letter from my beloved today but had 4 others – Martin, Henry, Steve R and Mum.  Skipped supper, went straight to bed and fell sound asleep until we had a SCUD alert after which time I couldn’t sleep for a very long time.  Inevitably I get to thinking about and greatly missing Debbie.

Notes: no idea why I do not know the titles but after a few of these I was quickly sick of Dick Francis!

Tuesday 26 February 1991

We evacuated our first batch of casualties yesterday and have more in; still non-battle casualties and a really lively lot.  We have another BCR in the ward, Mandy, a sergeant but RGN; a district nurse from Bristol; a busty unlikeable lass – full of herself.  Basically, today I took a back seat and let those who had already been caring for the patients carry on.  XXXX is a real pain in the arse; she never sits down, always buzzing around doing absolutely nothing; it’s all show because she not averse to disappearing from the ward for ages when she feels like it.  Two letters form Debbie today and it appeared that she had not had any from me for quite a while.  Went swimming this morning; the water is very warm and it is a real pleasure to have a morning dip.  Too cold and windy for sunbathing.  Also, overcast.  Am presently reading a strange but quite enjoyable book by Julian Barnes called A history of the world in 101/2 chapters.  Seems like a bit of a dig at religion, particularly the story of Noah’s Ark.  Very amusing in places.  The war continues to make good progress; our hopes rise steadily but we know better than build them up too much.  Wrote, as usual, to Debbie and also to Henry.  Can’t help but write platitudes to Henry in reply to his MRA-type of questions.  Graham Smith mentioned today that I must ‘get the day off’ on (I think) 6th Sept.  Which is the day he and Fiona get married.  I would be delighted to be invited.  He is a superb chap and they are a delightful couple.

Notes: XXXX  identity protected

Wednesday 27 February 1991

Remarkable progress in the war.  All objectives being attained within the time set.  Our first battle casualties came in today; it is a strange feeling to be actually doing the job we came here for.  I feel so sorry for these guys who have given so much and now paid for it in injury.  They are separated from their kits, are exhausted and look like lost sheep.  They get together well, though, these guys – they really know how to share – cigarettes, jokes etc; they have so much in common and so many experiences to share.  We had one lad who saw one of his friends blown up by a mine.  We called down one of the Ward 12 team to speak to him.  One of my colleagues objected to “specialists’ being called in to do this kind of thing.  I’m afraid that Maj. XXXX is another pain in the arse.  Had my own patients and my own team today which was much better.  Good to work like this and to liaise with Graham and the physiotherapists etc.  I do enjoy being a nurse.  Cpl Lesley Brown is very reliable – sticks up for herself though, but Pte YYYY is a strange, highly strung and easily upset, immature character who wants to do everyone else’s work but not really too keen in doing his own.  The great news today is that officially we should be home in 2-6 wks.  It all depends on the POW situation and on whether humanitarian aid is required for Kuwait.  I didn’t come on a humanitarian mission and, given the choice, I will not move any further forward.  Preparations have begun, however, to move us home – great!

Notes: XXXX & YYYY identity protected

Thursday 28 February 1991                                                                            CEASE FIRE

At 0800 this morning I heard for the first time the news that President Bush had called for a cease-fire at about 3am our time and that Iraq had agreed to the UN resolutions – great news but not so elated as I expected; just relief that it may, very soon be all over.  Everyone happy and smiling at breakfast today.  Went for a swim today; the water was very warn despite, or perhaps because of the torrential rain last night.  There is water lying all over the place; it doesn’t drain away here; the top layer of soil turns to clay.  The news at 12 noon said “The war in the Gulf is over”.  I could hardly hold back the tears.  All the same, however, Hussein is claiming a victory.  Went to work with a lighter heart but the day dragged.  Yesterday’s patients had been evacuated leaving us with only a handful many of whom lost friends and witnessed the ‘attack’ by a US pilot on a British vehicle, killing nine people.  Did a bit of nursing but am really finding it hard to do any work with enthusiasm; I just want to get out and get home a.s.a.p.  But, the nightly briefing was not so optimistic about getting out quickly.  We thought we would be out in 2-6 weeks, which came from “the top” of 205; however, BIFME (sic) have no word on that; we have to pack up the hospital and strip the plumbing and electrics.  I had a request on BFBS last night but didn’t hear it.  Wrote to Debbie 3 times today.  Had letters from Debbie, Tonks and Andy Flood with comments from Alison Kinsey.  Not so optimistic tonight about getting home soon.  XXXX is useless.

Notes: BIFME = BFME (British Forces Middle East)´BFBS = British Forces Broadcasting Service on which my Kirklandside Hospital colleagues had asked for a record to be played for me - I did not hear it but a private on the bus on the way to work told me; I cannot recall what the song was.

Friday 1 March 1991                                                  ? Promotion

A complete day off today; no parading in the morning.  Went for a run and then a swim.  The pool was murky with sand from the sand-storm last night but a few of us managed to swim while that was going on.  Overdid the sun-bathing today a bit and my back is burned but Tony’s is worse and his legs are very sore.  It’s so hard to resist the temptation to get a good tan when you’ve literally got nothing to do and the sun is shining.  Gave into another temptation today and smoked a couple of cigars – quite enjoyed them – somehow relieves the boredom – but mustn’t make it a habit.  Wrote a long letter to Debbie and a bluey and parcelled up some spare kit for posting home.  I’m hoping to get all my kit into one bag for the return journey.  Still no idea when we are going home but I’m not alone in seeing the madness in packing up all our kit.  We should decide what is needed and leave the rest or donate it to a 3rd World Country.  The drugs are all out of date already!  The cleaning up operation in Kuwait and Iraq, in the military sense, is going well and Iraq have accepted all of the UN resolutions.  Hussein it is reported but not confirmed, is fleeing to Algeria.  Some Iraqi troops do not know that the war is over and are still shooting.  Some tragic incidents are taking place.  The extent of Iraqi casualties is not really known and may never be fully known.  How I long to see my little wife.  No sign of Part One’s as I write so I don’t know if I’m a captain yet.  I bet they forget about it.

Saturday 2 March 1991

Are we being bluffed in an effort to bluff the Iraqis into thinking that we have achieved a total victory?  Saddam Hussein continues to claim a victory for his troops, which is ludicrous, but there would still appear to be a long way to go.  The Iraqis have postponed the talks on cease-fire and there were 81 tanks plus many A.P.Cs “taken out” by the Americans today because they refused to stop at a check point.  What is really going on?  Iraqi communications may be bad but any cheap transistor radio held by one of the troops would tell them the situation.  Anything up to 100 000 Iraqis dead.  Apparently the body of the missing US woman soldier was found today raped and beheaded.  I spoke to Brigadier Mapkee* who had just returned from Kuwait City and had come to visit the fusiliers from the A-10 disaster.  He spoke of bodies everywhere on the battlefield, XXXX YYYY that British troops at inflicting such casualties and, optimistically, spoke of having us out of here as soon as possible.  He could see that the hospital wasn’t being used to anything like full capacity and said there was no need to keep us here.  We are not to be involved in any kind of humanitarian work, thank goodness.  The CO visited the ward several times today; he is evidently upset at the lack of business and is ‘gung-ho’ keen to stay on until the job is done.  He is proud of the numbers who are volunteering to stay on and who would stay behind in the rear party.  I am certainly not one of them.  Letters today from Tony Fraser, Tony Steedman, and Martin.  Martin had seen the surrendering of the Iraqi troops.  No letters from my dearly beloved but there was a parcel with The Economist and other things.

Notes: * - no idea if this was the proper spelling of the name; XXXX & YYYY indeciperhable names

Sunday 3 March 1991                                                                         T/A*

A very quiet day off; running, swimming and sun-bathing followed by sleeping, reading and listening to my Walkman.  The allied and Iraqi commanders have met today and agreed on terms for a permanent cease-fire.  I feel great that it is all over and that I’ll be going home but no real satisfaction at almost destroying a country and killing possibly 100s of thousands of its young men.  These are all sons, brothers and husbands and fathers, many as young as 15.  There are new calls for a religious service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to mark the victory.  I feel that there is, perhaps, something distasteful in this**.  I think religious ceremonies are necessary in the respect but not to celebrate massive slaughter.  We need, somehow, to focus on the poor Iraqis.  I’m proud of the work and success of our armed forces and, for once in our history, the firm resolve of the western allies, of course, and am glad to have been part of such a successful military campaign.  Neither do I doubt that it was necessary but it’s over and done with.  I find it extremely hard to guess how I’ll feel about this when I get home, especially living in a cosmopolitan community like The University.  Had supper with Col Ken Brown tonight.  It looks like we’ll be demobilising at South Cerney and it appears that we are flying to Glasgow.  Part One Orders indicate no change in security state, NBC state etc.  Presumably waiting for the cease-fire to be formally signed before doing so.  All my thoughts are on home and packing up here.  It cannot happen quickly enough for me – any of it!  Went to Mass today – un unholy racket from Jim on the keyboard.

Notes: * - no idea what this denotes; ** I was selected to represent 205 at the equivalent service in Glaasgow and was very proud to do so

Monday 4 March 1991

Went to the morale tent this morning with the intention of going to Confessoin and/or Mass, but went to neither as Jim was playing a few notes on the organ.  The air was one of ‘involvement’ rather than repentance.  I would like to go to Confession before I go home, preferably with Fr Rick, but it actually looks unlikely.  Jane, for absolutely no good reason, came in at 1100 this morning.  We began taking down some of our beds, which is a step in the right direction.  Rumours abound but it seems that we will be home in about 10 days, if all goes well.  Had 3 letters from Debbie today; one of them was particularly beautiful; she is a good letter writer and certainly knows how to get to my heart.  I love her more each day; if loving her more is possible; I just love her so much.  Our NBC state was relaxed today, at last, and we all feel quite naked without our respirators round our waists.  This will make a great difference to our time here.  There was tannoy call in the camp this morning and we thought it was a SCUD alert, however, it was the Americans getting the “all clear”.  Ours came first verbally and then on orders.  I went to the 2IC briefing tonight; we are flying back to Brize Norton and finishing demobilisation at South Cerney.  The original 205 unit is flying to Glasgow from Brize Norton so I hope that Debbie and my parents and, perhaps Martin and Gill, will be able to come and meet me.  We are all impatient to get the hospital dismantled.  I wrote to Debbie today and wrote to Kirklandside.  Also wrote final letters to work and to Martin on blueys with Victory and Cellat Rats photocopied on to them.  I feel that we are almost there.

Tuesday 5 March 1991                                               PROMOTION

At last my captaincy came through.  It was on orders this evening.  I had a beer with the lads in the room and changed my slides immediately.  Day off today, and what a miserable day it was; it seemed dull when I woke up and it was actually pouring with rain; had started last night.  Without enough money, or quite frankly, the inclination, to go into town I just spent the day, mostly alone, at Singles Camp.  Slept too much, ate too much.  Went for a run but didn’t go swimming – don’t quite know why as the water would have been warm enough.  Wrote two letters to Debbie and a final letter to Tonks.  Also replied to the Deputy Head of the school where the children who had sent pictures to me were.  Another bit of good news on orders was that we can hand in our NBC gear here.  With any luck I will get all my stuff into one kit bag.  Somehow, my hopes are rising that we will be returning even earlier than we originally thought but I have no grounds, only hope, that this may be the case.  I am ready now to see my darling wife who I miss so very very much.  I have run through our reunion at Glasgow Airport time and again.  Of course, it won’t be anything like I imagine it will be, but it’s nice to dream.  I’m thoroughly bored out here but kept going by our imminent departure.  All I can hope for now is good news on the plans for flying us back to the U.K.  Tony bought some nice pieces of gold in Riyadh this afternoon.  I would like to get my beautiful little wife a nice something to wear if time and the pay office allow.

Wednesday 6 March 1991                                                                  2/9*

No letter from Debbie today but there was a letter from Ali with some excellent photographs of Debbie and the children in them.  They were taken at Lucy’s birthday party and outside in the snow.  I was a bit upset after realising that I was looking at my children – at first I did not really recognise any of them.  Lucy looks so different and so does William.  I knew it was Emily because she was beside her Mum, and Hannah was recognisable.  Debbie looks as beautiful as I have ever seen her and really suits her short hair.  I wrote to my dear wife twice today.  Another day is gone; another day nearer to being at home.  We have completely dismantled our ward today; all the beds are gone; the out-of-date drugs have been discarded and the rest await collection by the Med stores and there is equipment for the QM.  We are supposed to go and sit on Ward 2 but why bother?  Had my discharge medical today.  That all went remarkably smoothly and appeared to be well organised - a credit to 205 I would say – at least we are getting things right.  Jane and I did confidential reports for the other ranks on the ward and she gave me mine.  I was very pleased with mine, although I did not know what to expect.  A couple of the other ranks will not be too happy with theirs but they deserve them.  Came home early; spoke to Peter Adams in the bus, he went to the mosque today with Amman Raja and said it was a wonderful experience.  Ian Jack came to pay me a visit this evening to talk about our return and also about Benbecula.  I have a headache, probably caused by the cold water in the pool this morning. And also feel very tired so I am going to bed.

Notes: *-no idea what this denotes

Thursday 7 March 1991

Runing and swimming as usual this morning.  No Mass; the morale tent is now dismantled anyway.  Now on 24-hour standby to come home – rumours flying all over the place.  Apparently it has been announced in the U.K. that 205 will return to Prestwick but as fas as we know we are going to Brize Norton and on by bus to Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Sunbathed for too long today but thought it might be my last chance.  Took some photographs in the afternoon with Tony and took a few of the tanks at the gates.  Went to the British Embassy Club tonight.  Booze flowing freely and good kebabs by the heated swimming pool.  Had a few Pimms No 2 and even a can of lager and far too many cigars.  Just felt a warm glow from the drink.  Phoned Debbie on the Desert Direct Phone number; she sounded great and I spoke to Hannah and William.  They both sounded so grown up the wee darlings.  Hanna said “Oh goodie”.  Many people drank far too much tonight Celia XXXX jumped topless into the pool followed by John Urquhart with nothing on.  About as exciting as two rhinos in a mud bath.  “Dr Jack” was well oiled but very amusing with it.  Rumours still flying as to when we are due to return – at least we are almost certain to be leaving on Sunday and getting back on Monday, but the route is very uncertain.  Some ‘know’ for sure but there is nothing sure.  The lads next door are having a sing-song with a guitar.

Friday 8 March 1991                                                              2/9*

Morning swim in a slightly warmer pool.  Went in to work to “hang around” for ages then do some very hard work indeed.  Complex more or less cleaned up.  Got a letter from dearest Debbie.  Stood down early after loading up a lorry load of water for Kuwait.  Went into Riyadh at night with Graham & Fiona; bought a watch for Hannah, an electric game for William and some gold for Debbie.  After a struggle I got some little dolls for Lucy.  Came back to see the much awaited Part One Orders.  I’m going on Sunday at 6am, thank God.

Notes: *- no idea what this denotes

Saturday 9 March 1991

Called in early to the complex today for a final “sweep’ and an address by the CO. At least he expressed sympathies* that the decision to repatriate 205 (SCc) contingent before the rest was not his decision.  We had a very good, rouding, Church service.  Padre Barclay (Ian) gave an excellent sermon on the theme of “If you don’t want to find God, you will not be disappointed”. Got off my final parcels of books; the PO had run out of stamps but I managed with the help of my good friends Jane, Ian and John, to scrounge enough to send them out.  That will lighten my load considerably.  Debbie wrote a real “letter from the heart” today and it was very fitting that it should be my last letter from her while out in the Gulf.  Some confusion still exists over what the arrangements are at Prestwick, I can only hope and pray it will be over quickly.  We take our kit down to the complex for X-ray this afternoon and then up early (2am) tomorrow morning.
This is my last entry in my Gulf Diary            Deo Gratias.

*Postcript: there was a greta deal of discontent at the 205 core being repatriated first and non-205 people saw this as the COs fault but it was a political stunt. We had been last to enter the war zone and John Major announced in Parliament that we would be repatriated first and that was it. However, it was almost impossible to speak to non-205 people thereafter and a great divide was established so much so, I heard from John, that when the CO tried to address them on return to Brize Norton, he was boo'ed, which must have been terrible. He was deeply unpopular with the non-205 personnel. I was always a great supporter of Col Glyn Jones and remain so; he was never anything but friendly and supportive to me. I think he quickly wanted to forget The Gulf and announced at a 205 Gulf War reunion in Peebles within a year of the Gulf War that it was time to forget it and move on; I did not agree with him.

6. February until land war

Friday 1 February 1991

After all, I had a day off today.  I had planned to volunteer for the work party but also noticed that our ward was going to be left without NO cover.  Jane agreed to do this, I was stood down, so had a day relaxing in the usual fashion.  Did 2 figure of 8’s around the camp in the morning.  Did XXXX taking my respirator with me and found it much easier to run and enjoyed it more.  The pain in my arm eased enough to run allow a few press ups and sit ups.  This is a good discipline and I feel better for it.  I have lost weight and would be interested to weigh myself.  Read The Economist which my dear little wife sent to me, wrote some letters and ate a couple of meals.  Watched TV for a while in the evening.  The CNN coverage of the troops at the front is quite moving.  One guy admitted that he ‘was real scared’.  There has never been a war like this before with front-line press coverage right up to the start of hostilities.  There is some continuing action in the East of Saudi and it is very hard to work out what the Iraqis are trying to do.  The Saudi troops seem to be acquitting themselves well.  The Saudi’s coverage of the war on the TV we have in our lounge is dreadful; it is so amateurish and overpowering and, basically, people, both the interviewer and interviewee seem totally incompetent.  They were describing casualty decontamination and whether or not they had any idea what they were doing or not, I don’t know, but they didn’t convey it.  I love Debbie.

Notes: XXXX - indecipherable writing.

Saturday 2 February 1991 (1 a.m.)

I am writing this entry with full IPE on.  We have just had a red alert followed by black so it may be that, as I write, there have been some chemicals in Riyadh.  We heard the Patriots going off.  An extremely boring day today and the boredom was really getting to me.  I’m irritable to say the least.  The Sergeant on my shift is a most annoying, chain smoking bugger and I could see him far enough at times.  Have made great ‘progress’ with TE Lawrence and read many newspapers.  Mild panic this morning because there are absolutely no blueys.  Graham Smith kindly gave me a couple and I wrote to my beloved little wife and later to Ian Atkinson.  I think I am missing Debbie more all the time and the boredom is increasing this longing.  (At last state yellow has been declared after about 15 minutes).  Tried to interest the lads on the ward in some CTR and SOPs for Evac and ward routine.  Cannot really think what else to do; how else do we prepare for something none of us have ever done before?  Had a long chat with Ian Barclay the CoS Padre.  He turns out to be a fairly reasonable chap and he admitted to not coping too well with things at Saighton Camp but was coming to terms over here – very honest I thought and it turns out that he was at Edinburgh when I was there and lived in Holland House for 3 years.  Gavin Hope is being ‘casevaced’ due to a fractured wrist; he will be out for 6 weeks before returning.  Let’s hope that he doesn’t come back; ie, that it’s all over before then.  Tony has just had a huge box from his wife with all sorts of magazines in it.  No letters at all for me today.

Note: CTR - casualty treatement regimes.

Sunday 3 February 1991

No more SCUDS last night but we had one false alarm; false alarms disturb your sleep as much as real alarms.  A SCUD did hit Riyadh and injured 27 people.  Ken Brown has a fragment of a SCUD given to him by the RAF NBC officer.  Had a most enjoyable run this morning; three times round the figure-of-eight in 250574 and I reckon a figure-of-eight to be about a mile.  It is hot, sweaty work.  Basically, relaxed in the morning as I was Duty Officer and did not have to rush to get on duty at the hospital or for work parties.  Took over at 12 noon with Sgt McNab from Edinburgh, a jovial friendly and reliable sort of bloke and his girlfriend Cpl Brown.  L/Cpl Seviour was also on; he is an E/N going to do his conversion course to RGN.  We are now enforcing the rule that shorts and vests must not be worn in the dining room to prevent disturbing the Pakistani Moslem workers.  They are a very friendly and seemingly efficient lot.  Nothing much happened as duty officer.  I wrote to my beloved wife.  Missing her, I have concluded is perfectly normal and healthy; I should just accept it as part of our relationship.  If I did not miss her so very much there would be something wrong.  I love her so very much and I realised what love is; to think about her every spare minute and to want her, in every way, above all else.  I must learn to love God as much as this; but I do desire Debbie more than anything else in the whole world.  Jim celebrated Mass in the American morale tent.  It was good to go to a well attended Sunday service.  The Singaporeans had a meal with their Ambassador tonight and invited us to help finish the food; it was really very good but meant that I ate more than I meant to today.  When will this all be over?  Bad news from Afghanistan – floods and earthquakes.

Monday 4 February 1991

Another peaceful might SCUD-wise and what a great day I had today.  Jane asked what I was doing in uniform in the canteen and said that she was going in; so I skipped the work party - Mr Richardson said that he ‘had my name’ - but I didn’t care, so I went into Riyadh with Bill, Ken and Francis.  What a great day; a real adventure and such a change to be away from the camp and the complex.  We got a taxi from KKIA for 55 SR to the centre of Riyadh.  What an incredible shambles of a place; seething with people and humming with cars, colourful and chaotic.  It was, despite that, actually quite quiet when we got there as it was the middle of the day.  A combination of prayers and a kind of siesta close most of the shops.  Still, we managed to have a good look round the markets and the odd assortment of shops.  Each street seems to have a theme, ie clothes, electrical etc.  I bought a Walkman for about £36.00 and some things for Deb including a Valentine’s day card.  I had a letter from Deb today - she is missing me, bless her little socks - and I kept it all day before reading it.  We got another taxi back from Riyadh to KKIA and found the whole place closed so had to scramble down a coupe of banks and walk or ages to regain the complex before getting the bus back to Singles.  The day out has given me a real lift.  It was a real help to be buying things for my beloved wife.  I hope she like the abaya, the head scarves and the CDK’s(!)  The Walkman is superb and might get one for my little wife; I’m sure she would like it.  A beer with John should finish the day nicely.

Notes: Mr Richardson - and very good man - was the Warrant Officer who organised the daily work parties to help keep the campsite clean and tidy; I volunteered daily, the surgeons never did in case they 'damaged their hands' - with very few exceptions they were a bunch of lazy arrogant snobs. KKIA = King Khalid International Airport; I think CDKs was some manner of underwear - there was very little to purchase in Riyadh.

Tuesday  5 February 1991

No mail today.  Yesterday’s trip to Riyadh gave me a real lift today.  I look forward to going back before too long.  One of the tapes I bought turned out not to be the group on the cover – can’t win them all!  The Walkman has been a great novelty for me today and I listened to The Eagles nearly all day long.  Had an enjoyable run this morning, 3 miles or more.  It’s getting like Piccadilly Circus around the camp with people running in all directions at once.  Mainly it’s officers who are running with a couple of the sergeants who are regulars.  A very quiet day at work but not an enjoyable one.  Listened to my Walkman and began to read The Sower and Seed by Laurens Van der Post.  A most enjoyable book; I already know the story from the films I have seen, but it is so enjoyable in his own words.  Also spent a great deal of time talking to Graham Smith who is a really decent bloke.  We spoke about everything – university, biochemistry, politics and religion.  He seems to have moved from the right slightly to the left while I have moved in the other direction.  I wrote to Mum and Dad thanking them for the parcel and, of course, my darling Debbie.  My longing for her increases every day but I must also have a sense of peace and assurance about our relationship.  I appreciate here, getting to know some of the other ranks and senior NCOs in 205 who I should know already.  The make staying in the TA seem a more reasonable prospect.  Spoke to Sgt Martin today, he is married to a woman who is niece to my Uncle George and Aunt Edith in Inverness.  No significant military action today.

Wednesday 6 February 1991

An interesting day in the complex for a change.  We ran a mock exercise to put 81 casualties through the hospital and load them on to a VC-10 at the other end.  I reckon that it went fairly well and I certainly learned a lot.  Got quite ‘grumpy’ with one of the CMTs who is a bit backward but very irritating with it – a know all who likes to be the centre of attention.  We did not seem to know quite what we were doing but I honestly wonder if we ever will even when it comes to the real thing.  I very much enjoyed The seed and the sower by van der Post.  It is the story on which the excellent film with David Bowie called Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence was based.  It is really very moving and not in the same way as the film.  Another great day from the correspondence point of view.  4 letters from my dear wife; one from Tonks and a box of goodies from the colleagues who are taking the strain in my absence.  I got off early tonight and went to the deserted canteen to write letters.  Got disturbed within one paragraph by a proper chatterbox.  I was very glad when Graham & Fiona came to talk.  I like them as individuals and I like them as a couple.  Debbie’s letters are a real joy to read.  She has great powers of observation and description and really writes what she feels.  I love her and miss her so much.  She is praying for me; I can feel it and I do feel closer to her now than at any time in our marriage.  I just long for that day when I walk down beside the refectory to Grant House.  I rehearse it in my mind and am sure it will not be at all as I imagine.

Notes: Grant House was the student residence where I was Warden.

Thursday 7 February 1991

A farcical day in many ways.  I woke up expecting to have the day off but found out that we were all expected to work.  I volunteered to go and fill sandbags.  This was a good move as we did not start until 2pm and finished after a couple of hours.  It was great to take a trip on the back of a 4 ton truck into the desert and do some hard physical work.  It was very hot, I could see how you would not survive long out there.  We had frequent breaks and played frisbee.  Some of the soldiers went hunting for scorpions and lizards.  One of the lads was going to keep it as a pet without a clue what he was going to feed it on.  We returned and I met Ken Brown who was going into Riyadh.  I took a chance that there would be a free seat on the bus and was lucky.  We got hopelessly lost and ended up on the East side of Riyadh.  We eventually found that the Western style shopping centre was closed.  The police stopped the traffic on the motorway to let us cross – very embarrassing.  Ken, Tim Winning and I took a taxi to the market and I ‘showed then around’.  When I came back Graham Smith had a parcel and 2 letters from my dear wife for me.  There were some things from the children. William is drawing smiley faces.  Wrote to Deb, sent her Valentine’s Day present and wrote her a ‘special’ letter with her Valentine’s Day card.  Have I ever remember (sic) this day before?  Finished the excellent Sower and the seed by Van der Post, today.  I miss my lovely wife.

Friday 8 February 1991

What a boring day; no post due to having snow in the UK preventing planes from leaving Brize Norton.  The only thing which brightened up today was that I was expecting to have the day off.  However, this was not to be and we heard on the grapevine that we were all to be called in for an exercise.  They did not stoop to tell us officially before learning tonight; they would rather spoil our breakfasts tomorrow by the ridiculous ritual calling us out half-way through our breakfast to parade on the pathway and be given our orders.  The way that this whole show is being run is ridiculous.  I finished my first Agatha Christie novel today.  Easy to read, hard to put down but not all that satisfying.  I can see why Debbie enjoys them.  I’ll be trying a Dick Francis book next.  I wrote a bluey to Deb but, since they are in such short supply I think that I will just stick to writing letters in future.  Spent the whole day reading; finishing off Agatha Christie and getting into a le Carré novel.  How I long for a week alone with Debbie.  Our nursing officers briefing was another comedy show with great argument about wearing the abaya.  Also, it becomes evident that we are not really clear about what we are going to do with any bodies generated in the hospital.  All is a mystery except that what we are putting them into and that is completely inadequate.  Thank God the land battle did not start a few weeks ago.  Also heard that folks back home are beginning to get the idea we may be kept here for longer than 6 months.  If Debbie gets wind of that she will flip; as I nearly flipped myself.  I so want to see the next baby into the world.  I so want to see Debbie.

Saturday 9 February 1991

Increased my laps this morning and did 4 figure of 8’s.  I really felt this after with painful muscles and I was beginning to feel my ankle.   We were called in this morning to take part in an exercise which went quite well, from our point of view.  A always, patients were forgotten and left lying around for hours.  However, I got off quite early.  There were two letters from my little darling today and also letters from Mum, Ian Deary, Martin and Sheila Rodgers.  Mum seems to have accepted, however grudgingly, that another baby is on the way.  I wonder how this will change the tone of things?  Ian’s letter was very sincere as was Martin’s.  I haven’t had any insincere letters, it’s just that these guys are really good friends.  After the exercise we were asked for comments and I had the opportunity to see Matron working at close quarters – she couldn’t handle any criticism of the Treatment sections which, as per usual, mucked about and, to some extent, spoiled the exercise.  She seemed totally impervious and Jane said that was her normal way of dealing with problems.  Tony came ‘home’ fuming about the fact that, in the process of moving his ward again, the Matron asked him to stop.  He asked to meet all the ‘heid yins’ tomorrow morning.  Sheila sent me a hilarious book of cartoons and a poster with two frogs on it.  I have told Debbie about the poster which I find quite funny, but I can already sense that she won’t like it – oh no!  I do love that wee lass who writes faithfully every day.  What a treasure she is.

Sunday 10 February 1991

An absolutely dead boring day today, what else can I say? The only piece of news was that some controlled drugs may have gone missing and that we now have a procedure – not before time on this issue.  Morale, especially among officers, is at rock bottom; it is undeniable and the other ranks know it well, the incredible cock-up at hierarchy level just cannot be hidden from anyone.  The CO is never to be seen, the Matron rarely and, by all accounts they are not speaking to one another.  Tony got his problem of being continually moved from place to place sorted out; it’s obviously up to the junior officers to take the lead.  We just wonder what it will be like when we have some casualties and how we will all feel about 205, the original 205 that is; when we get back home.  I had an outburst at Celia, a major and MD, and Fr Duddy as I listened to them discussing the dispensing of contraceptives to all and sundry.  Both maintained that it is OK to give contraceptives to non-Catholics; thankfully both agree that abortion is wrong, but only just in Celia’s case.  They are so concerned with everyone else’s ‘well-being’ and hardly give a damn about their own souls.  It is so easy to fall from grace.  Where am I, I wonder?  I know I am so far from it most of the time, but where are they?  The high point of the day, on the other hand, was talking to Ken Roach the Anglican Chaplain; he seems to have his head screwed on.  He is a much more shy chap than the other padres but is very interesting to talk to.  A letter from my dear little wife brought some sunshine to the day and I wrote to John & Anabel, and Martin & Gill.  Felt down after talking to my ‘fellow’ Catholics.

Notes: somewhat ashamed of my judgmental attitude to fellow Catholics - not that my mind on the issues has changed.

Monday 11 February 1991

A welcome day off at last.  Went to Mass, which was held at Singles Camp.  It was very peaceful and Jim chose the psalm which said ‘your wife should be like a fruitful vine in the midst of your house and your children like shoots of the olive tree around your table’.   This immediately made me think of Debbie and the children. Jim chose as his theme the reward that the Lorf will gove to those who choose to leave home and family and serve the sick and he prayed espcially for families. I really spent the rest of the day sleeping; with a few meal breaks in between and a walk to the American shop.  The pool was crowded so didn’t stay that long.  Sat by the canteen in the old cinema seats, and wrote to Debbie.  How I love and miss her, especially when I don’t get a letter from her.  Nothing much else happened of note; I felt quite lonely today but also felt sustained by the sacraments despite, after yesterday’s outburst, feeling a bit XXXX from the local Catholic community.  It is nice, also, to meet some of the USAF personnel.  Met one of the guys who goes up in the tankers today.  Jim Duddy came to my room that night with a photograph of the two of us taken at Mass one day in the complex.  I feel that, in part, that was a peace offering.  He was visibly taken aback by the photograph of Debbie and the children; I don’t think he realised we had so many. I’m so proud of Debbie, God help her with all these children and a husband like me.

Notes: XXXX - indecipherable 

Tuesday 12 February 1991

Duty Officer today.  Everyone was at the complex taking part in an exercise so it was really extremely quiet.  Went to Mass again in the morning and Jim prayed especially for families and the reward that God would give to those who left family to serve the sick.  I don’t know if this is a mis-application of this gospel and even if it is it applies to me.  I really feel, at times, that I should be at home with them; someone else could do my job here and that contrary to all expectations, it is really strengthening our marriage.  It did not seem to need strengthening but it is being.  I know I will see Debbie with new eyes and appreciate her and the children more than ever before.  Got another haircut today and wrote to Debs.  Also made up a parcel with a T-shirt and shamog (sic) scarf for Tonks.  Had 2 letters from my wee lass tonight, taken to me by Graham Smith and also letters from Hamish and one from Andy Flood a (sic) 22 Field Hospital.  There was a new warmth about Debbie’s letters which is just what I need just now.  I miss her so much.  It was good to hear from Andy and Hamish.  Reading another Agatha Christie and, while quite amusing in her descriptions of Poirot, I don’t get the feeling that I’m gripped and must turn the page.  It probably makes better drama.  John Hughes is amusing himself by making a fool of me with little puzzles and tests.  I’m XXXX sure if I’m good at these things or not but, at the moment I just can’t be bothered.  All I want is out of this place and home to my wife.

Notes: XXXX - indecipherable

Wednesday 13 February 1991

Went to Mass today; after a 4 lap run in which my legs felt like lumps of lead.  Jim layed (sic) on the ashes a bit thick on the forehead; we all had to tone them down a bit before going to work.  Work was probably more boring than it has ever been – absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do at all.  Had three letters from my most precious darling wife.  She is concerned for my safety; also concerned about me staying in the army.  I don’t want to make quick decisions but I think that the least I could do was to promise not to volunteer again.  She is a lovely lady and I so want to do the best for her; she thinks that what she says will make no difference – that is not true; it may not make me take a different decision over a ‘yes or no’ issue but she does not know the agony which her feelings and opinion sometimes cause me.  I do love her and listen to her and I want her to know that and be able to show it to her when I return.  Or even now in a letter.  She is excited about the prospect of going away on holiday with me.  Sat with Graham for a long time today and also talked to him with Fiona a couple of times.  I do like them, they like the people I like and dislike the people I dislike; they have a shrewd insight into the personnel of the unit.  The news today is that some kind of peace talks are going on in Moscow and that Iraq wants to make peace.  Intelligence suggests only 20 days supplies for the Iraqi front line troops.  Also news of an allied strike on a so-called civilian air-raid shelter killing many women and children.

Thursday 14 February 1991

A day off again without any stupid work parties in the morning.  Woke up early thinking abiout little Debbie.  I wish she was lying beside me; how I miss her.  Got up early and went for a swim; 10 lengths of the pool which was freezing cold.  Enjoyed it though.  Went to Mass and breakfast before Tony was up.  There are two huge chunks of SCUD missile lying in the camp, taken there by the Americans.  Apparently one of the pieces landed in the swimming pool at the nearby university.  The pieces are basically just big tanks and they even have English writing on them.  Eventually got down to Riyadh today by taxi with Tony & Ian Jack.  Visited the American PX/XXXX first of all.  the shop was a waste of time, with nothing out of the usual but I managed to get a full Abbaya costume for Debbie.  I can’t want to see her in it!  Went down after that to the XXXX market and found a Sony Walkman for Debbie.  I don’t know if she wants it but she’s getting it.  Wrote to Debbie twice today; I’m missing her in a very different way today; I feel lonely and just want her with me.  I miss so much about her; she’s nice to look at, fun to be with and YYYY.  Had a sociable evening in our room with Tony, John and Ian; very good company.  Tonight there is a combined Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year celebration in the canteen.  I won’t be going.  Really running out of things to say; I’m losing interest in everything but my dear little wife and the children, when I can bear to think about them.  Will try to get some gold for Debbie and will leave the presents for the kids until I get back.

Notes: XXXX - in dechipherable; YYYY - edited out for personal reasons

Friday 15 February 1991

Back to work for another, basically, dull day.  The day was, however, brightened up by 3 letters and a parcel from darling Debbie and also letter from Mum & Dad, a parcel from Jeremy, including a letter from Fiona Douglas, Neil Heath, Ali, Steve Tilley and Henry.  We had a brief moment of exhilaration this afternoon when we heard that Iraq had ‘decided’ to withdraw from Kuwait, we really thought that we were going home but then a list of conditions rolled out and it was, as described by Bush, as a proposal ‘dead on arrival’.  However, as a proposal it was very different from previous efforts in that it proposed withdrawal for the first time.  The Russians are behind this.  I planned to run 4 laps today but only ran 3 laps due to pain in my legs; for once, I felt that I had done the sensible thing; otherwise I enjoyed my run and 35 press-ups followed by 25 sit-ups.  I am, however, eating too much mainly as a result of the sweets and biscuits which are being sent to me.  Debbie does seem a bit ‘down’ in her letters.  She had high praise from my Mum who says, and I quite agree, that I have ‘picked a winner’; I would go a step further and say that I have picked ‘the winner’.  I mentioned XXXX to Ronnie Seyler today and he asked a question with which I agreed ‘is she married yet?’  I wrote to Kathleen tonight.  I find it hard to know what to put in a letter to her, I told her about Fr O’Connor’s opposition to me coming to the Gulf.  Fiona Douglas writes a very thoughtful letter about Christians and war.  Saw The Student today.

Notes: XXXX - identity protected

Saturday 16 February 1991

It doesn’t really seem like a Saturday today. No day really seems like any day, in fact, they all run into one another in a dreary endless mish-mash.  Went for a swim this morning and, since the sun was shining, it was much warmer and more enjoyable.  Went to visit Vigil Mass in the afternoon as well.  Had lots of letters again today; Debbie, Jeremy Crang, Steve Rayner and Cathy Dransfield.  Wrote to Debs twice; to Tonks, Jeremy and Cathy. Also wrote to all the children except, of course, wee Emily.  There is much discussion today on the radio about the proposed Iraqi’s withdrawal.  It’s hard not to see some hope in it all, despite the obvious fact that, under the terms proposed, no cease fire could be possible.  I watched the TV for a while and an excellent press briefing given by Air Vice-Marshall Hines.  Finished my first Dick Francis novel today – really well written and quite gripping.  He deals very sensitively with sex and there is no gratuitous violence.  All these are but temporary diversions in the face of my strongest desire to be back beside my little wife.  I think the temporary raising of spirits yesterday has done damage in that it has raised expectations and made us all think of home.  I think we should expect the worst and hope for the best.  Debbie is missing me; I’m glad, of course, but feel so sorry for her having his inflicted upon her.  Had another offer today to go to Riyadh in a mixed group, which I refused.

Sunday 17 February 1991

Everyone was called in to work today mainly because we have a visit from Air Vice-Marshall Sir Peter Hines.  He addressed us all and said that hopefully it would all be over in 6 weeks.  That was, actually, longer than I had hoped!  The CO also briefed us today; quite well.  I thought he pointed out a few obvious things but also emphasised our role in evacuating patients to the U.K. and how any fouling up in 205 could and would have repercussions back up the line to the battlefield.  He said that no battle commander would commit his troops to battle without all supplies and medical backup being intact.  Troops are moving to the front and some are resting.  Perhaps in 48 hours it will have started.  We had some battle casualty replacements (BCRs) today which is most welcome on our ward and had another member of staff assigned to us.  Jane rearranged the teams. I have to admit that two of our lads really get on my nerves; so much that they really distracted me from writing a letter to my dear wife.  However, I came home and wrote her another explaining how close I felt to her at Mass and how much I missed her XXXX .  There was no mail available today; it came in but nobody sorted it out.  The can be a mean petty-minded bunch of buggers in admin.  I had a real blitz on writing blueys today.  Wrote to Bruce McMaster; wonder if I will ever hear from him?

Notes: XXX = edited

Monday 18 February 1991

The rain yesterday has signalled a very definite change in the weather.  It was cloudy this morning but thereafter, very hot in the sun; the sun seems “stronger’ here than anywhere else I have been.  The pool could almost be described as warm when I dived in this morning for 10 lengths.  I stayed in the sun for a few minutes before going back to shower and then going to Mass.  After breakfast I returned to the pool where I tried, successfully, to get some sun on my shoulders to help my skin.  I read, finishing off The Edge by Dick Francis today and getting started on another book.  Spoke at length to Ian Whittle about the war, the University and his work and his family – which he is missing – says that is the worst part of being here.  Returned to the room and slept and then sunbathed some more out in the quadrangle.  I had a rushed Valentine’s Day letter from Debbie; it’s (sic) sheer spontaneity was a delight to me; she liked her present and promised to write a letter more in tune with Valentine’s day later.  I have to admit that I returned a XXXX letter to her; such is my trust in her and my love for her.  I would give her anything I had and I’m sure she would do the same for me.  Otherwise, I am incredibly bored today.  A letter, also, from Tonks, was a pleasure to read.  No real no (sic) news of the war today.  Troops continue moving forward, ships are moving in closer to shore, two have hit mines and there has been a continual flow of tankers* from here all night and all day.  I have much more I want to say to Debbie but I want to read her next letter first.  Perhaps I’ll get it tonight or tomorrow.  Why am I so lucky to have a wife like her and why does it same weeks of separation for me to realise it!

Notes: XXXX - edited; *tankers  = refuelling planes

Tuesday 19 February 1991

Sadly, I did not get Debbie’s second letter from Valentine’s day which I was so looking forward to.   I write to her though, and later at night wrote to her at length about our family and whether or not it should be any bigger.  All our sleep was disturbed last night by a constant flow of tanker planes roaring over the camp on the way to the front line to re-fuel the fighters and bombers.  The Republican Guard are taking a real pasting by all accounts and the imminence of the ground offensive is uppermost in all our minds.  We ask ourselves if each ‘day off’ will be our last and alternately encourage each other with the thought that it won’t last long; ‘the diplomats might sort it out’, ‘surely he’ll withdraw’ etc.  But always return to realise and say that we expect to be here for a few more weeks.  Today at work was boring, as usual, but less so than Singles Camp.  The two ‘boneheads’ Dave and his fat pal, were on with me.  They are noisy and disgusting.  Thankfully, according to Graham, they are subdued when I am on with them.  I’m glad I have some positive influence, but, apparently, Jane has no control over them at all.  Some casualties are arriving at the hospital but these are non-battle casualties to clear out the forward hospitals.  One of our new ‘In Theatre Replacements’ is already on the psychiatric wards – problems at home apart from all else.  I am reading and thoroughly enjoying a Penguin book called The Man Who Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing by Peter van Greenway.  The night is quiet so far.

Wednesday 20 February 1991

Another day off; another ten lengths of the pool, which is getting very much warmer.  Went to Mass and Jim heard my Confession out in the bright Saudi sunshine.  Yesterday, at Mass, it was a Priest from the American Army and he and Jim are to take alternate days.  No real work to do today except picking up some rubbish around the accommodation.  Steps are being taken to ensure that people turn up for parades and also for work.  Discipline, self-discipline, as an absolute disgrace especially among officers and particularly among the theatre staff.  There is quite a spilt in the old 205 between those who are in theatres (with some exceptions) and those who are not.  Spent an hour in the sun by the pool before lunch and then a sleep in the afternoon.  Finished the latest book and took The Vatican Cellars by André Gide out of my collection.  Watched a film called Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  What a complete load of fantastic rubbish.  Reminiscent of Blade Runner, which was also rubbish.  I crave for a ‘nice’ film which would be suitable for Debbie and I to go to see together.  Maybe there’ll be something we can see when we go away together.  So far, no mail from anybody today; Tony forgot to post the letter I wrote last night and nobody checked the post for me.  When that is your only source of solace then it makes for a bad day.  The troops are ready to go at the front line, the Iraqi’s are pulling back and the Kuwaiti foreign minister thinks he will be back at his desk by Monday.

Thursday 21 February 1991

No letter from my little love today but I read yesterday’s letter many times which was the second Valentine’s day letter.  Had a letter from Dad and had a blitz on answering other letters.  Also wrote to Bob Bedwell.  Debbie wrote a beautiful letter to me; she is a wee gem and I write to her today twice.  Today was broken up by a visit to a Swedish hospital in Riyadh.  It was quite interesting – well laid out, clean, neat and well equipped with Swedish efficiency.  The bus broke down on the way back so the trip took much longer than we thought, which was no great hardship.  We had some tea there, while the bus was being fixed, and eventually came back.  On the way back we saw a camel and a man sitting by the side of the toad smoking a giant sized hooklah pipe.  Otherwise, fairly boring back at the complex.  I write to Helen, Sarah Baggley and one of my students, Tessa Parkes.  This morning I had got up especially early, planning to have a run and a swim.  I had a run, but when I got back to the pool it was being cleaned so I sunbathed for half an hour.  Bad news today!  Saddam Hussein has repeated his intention to hold on to Kuwait and a ground battle, as ever, looks increasingly imminent.  The hospital has many casualties today, all ‘non-battle’; they have some from the forward Field Hospitals to clear them for the coming battle.  It is good to get some idea of how the hospital is going to look when it has patients, although we were not directly involved.  God, please get me back safely and soon my beloved wife and children.

Friday 22 February 1991

WE had a ‘red alert’ this morning which disrupted sleep a bit; I was very tired when I woke up.  However, managed to get to the pool for a swim and a sunbathe.  The pool is really getting quite warm now.  No duties today; was insulted by Jane asking me if I could handle the ‘parade’ on her behalf; I’ve only been doing it for weeks.  Returned to the pool for a spot of sunbathing and reading after breakfast and, after lunch I went on the bus to an ‘expat’ primary school where we have been given the use of their sports facilities.  I have never been in such a warm swimming pool – quite debilitating, in fact, and I actually preferred the outdoor one which was colder than at Singles Camp but bearable.  There were canoes to play in at the pool and we played some water polo.  I actually think that I’ve overdone things today and have hurt my left shoulder again – also blocked my right ear now.  No good news on the war front – all very confusing, in fact, it seem that some other proposals have come from Washington which Bush has studied.  He says, however, that the Iraqis withdrawal must start by noon tomorrow in order for a cease fire to begin.  I think that this is very unlikely.  Ian Jack has asked me if I would like to accompany him on a forward visit in a few days, with Matron and one other; I have agreed and look forward to a prolonged break in the boredom.  I have been almost sick with loneliness and missing my lovely wife today.  Also thought about the kids as we were in a lovely primary school with small benches and seats outside.  I so hope that they are safe and well.

Saturday 23 February 1991

Cannot but be described as a pretty awful day.  Felt terrible in the morning; having definitely overdone things at the sports centre and having had a SCUD attack at 0500 this morning.  Jane asked today if I needed her to come in with me for a while since we had 9 patients; I declined the offer.  The patients were all fairly minor cases and ambulant – all non-battle casualties from the forward Field hospitals and we were simply holding them for evacuation.  I was not really up to the task of handling the ward, the patients and the staff under this entirely new situation.  However, we got through the day.  No medical or nursing problems; all the problems were to do with the patients’ kit.  We were all under the impression that, having had most of their kit taken off them, that the kit they had would go home with them keeping washing and shaving kit etc beside them on the plane.  However, we found out that all the kit was going to Al Jubayl and then to their units with no real guarantee they they would see it again.  Debbie sent me a parcel with all sorts of helpful bits and pieces in it today, bless her little socks.  Felt so worn out when I got back to Singles that I went straight to bed without an evening meal.  Tonight I took the drug keys off the ward with me and on to the bus, where I discovered them; I gave them to the guard at the front sangar but he wasn’t quick enough to stop YYYY phoning the CP and them ‘phoning me when I got back.  Indicative of my state of mind.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Entry 5. Pre-invasion to end of January

Thursday 17 January 1991

Leaving King Khalid airport early this morning the siren went and we masked up immediately and took cover.  This was the first ever alert in Riyadh.  We were told after the alert, as we were getting out of our NBC gear, that the war had started 90 minutes previously.  It then dawned on some of us that we were surrounded by military planes and that some had gone from here.  The war started, according to the radio, at 1 minute past the deadline.  Very frightening; not knowing what to expect after the alert and, when we got to our accommodation we were in and out of IPE twice, once on red alert, so we had a very disturbed night.  We eventually slept in our NBC suits.  After a reasonably long sleep we managed to take stock of our accommodation.  Pretty basic really.  At first I could not find a room and was put into a lounge with six others.  There was no obvious space for me.  Eventually John Hughes poked his head out of a door and said that he had a bed for me.  There are three of us sharing and I have a top bunk.  Breakfast was excellent; we are sharing a canteen with French troops.  There are plenty of salads and fruit.  At midday we were transported back to the airport where the hospital is located in a half-finished airport terminal at King Khalid Airport.  This is a barren looking country.  It reminds me of Portugal, but is very much less hospitable looking.  At the moment it is not too hot and does not appear to be too cold at night.  The hospital is far from ready for action so we continued to set up.  The place is filthy with dust and it took quite a while to get oriented.  I managed to post a letter to Debbie but our brief tonight said that cargo flights were currently not flying.  No more alerts today and some mattresses have arrived in our rooms.  Two of the girls, one an officer, have had psychiatric referrals.

Friday 18 Jnauary 1991

None of us got very much sleep last night.  We had a red alert/don all NBC gear at 3am and, basically, we slept all night in NBC gear minus the respirator.  It is a horrible hot and dirty experience.  I suppose we will become used to all this.  Last night some SCUD missiles reached Tel Aviv and that was what all the fuss was about.  One was fired towards the East of Saudi but it was taken out by the Patriot missiles.  No casualties in Israel and it looks like they are not going to become involved as a result of this attack.  The Allied bombing continues with the objective of getting the ground troop ratio corrected for a land invasion.  We have taken out every SCUD missile launcher with a Tomahawk Cruise missile after the SCUDs, most of which are dug-in, have been launched.  The main bombing is now on the elite Republican Guard troops.  The Soviets have launched an AWACS plane for reasons which we do not understand.  Could I hazard a guess and say that they are helping the Iraqis; despite their public XXXX of Saddam Hussein?  Basically, we did very little today.  I seriously don't think that the Command Post have a role for those of us who were designated to Ward 10.  We were to be general medicine and now we are to be part of EVAC, taking all sorts of patients.  Perhaps they know what they are doing and things are going according to plan, but I am not convinced.  It will all depend on the scale of the casualties.  If there are none, then none of us will be required.  If we are overrun by them then the division of wards will become a bit academic.  Eventually we were given some space to set up in and set to work checking our kit.  Some people are going to burn themselves out because this is a 12 hour day 7 days a week job.  No weekends off.  Much warmer today and needed to drink almost continually.  Had a very supportive note from Henry today.  Glad to see that the mail is getting through.  Had a very encouraging NBC brief.  The risk to us is very low indeed, but it does exist.

Notes: XXXX - indecipherable handwriting; I am embarrassed by my use of casual military language: 'taken out'

Saturday 19 January 1991

Much hotter today.  Spent a few minutes outside in the sun this morning before lunch.  Sunbathing per se now seems a completely pointless exercise to me.  We get sufficient sunshine just standing waiting for the bus.  Had to waken at 6am this morning to take NAPS and, apparently, we are adding BAPS to our pharmacological collection.  Thankfully there were no missile alerts last night but I heard the call to prayer this morning.  We arrived at the hospital complex to find that we no longer had a ward and were planning to move into the main airport terminal.  By all accounts our Saudi hosts were not keen on this and we are now returning to the original site downstairs.  We checked off some more equipment today and got ourselves organised with a table and some chairs.  Wrote to Mum & Dad, Debbie and Ali today.  No letters in for me yet.  Ken, Sgt. Galloway and I volunteered to do some work in the basement scraping fire retardant off steel girders to allow for support for sewerage piping to be welded to them.  This was hot, dirty work and there was some confusion over whether the retardant had asbestos in it.  I like the team of people we are working with and I hope we can pull together to do our job when the time comes.  Jane is a bit laid back, has a habit of going off for long periods but I don't think she will harass us too much.  General Sir Peter de la Billiere addressed us today.  By all accounts the war is going our way at the moment.  There was one alert when an explosion happened on the airfield.  It transpired to be a negligent discharge of a Patriot missile; it went for a jumbo jet and a second had to be launched to take it down.  I saw an AWACS in the air this morning and saw two at the airfield.  A very impressive sight.

Notes: NAPS = Nerve agent pre-treatment set; BAPS = Biological agent pre-treatment set. I cannot recall if BAPS were ever taken but we universally stopped taking NAPS which had side-effects, mainly on the gut.

Sunday 20 January 1991

A great day in the respect that I had two letters from home, one from Mum & Dad and a letter from Debbie including a little smiling face drawn by William.  Debbie was very cheerful in her note.  Hannah is taking my absence very badly and her class at school have been praying for me.  That was very moving indeed.  Went to Mass today.  It is hard to describe what is happening in 205 as anything but a shambles.  The CO seems really withdrawn and the Matron, who I have always personally found very pleasant, is managing things very badly.  Morale is definitely dropping and I can feel it in myself as they have changed the shift systems and bus times in such a way that there is hardly any time for us to have time to eat enjoyably in the morning and to visit the American shop.  I went to the shop today by the swimming pool and bought some chocolate, non-alcoholic beer and shoe laces.  Also have my eye on some American Desert Shield T-shirts.  Our ward is beginning to take shape.  We now have a few beds and all our stores in one place.  Ken Kirk is doing well at sign making and we feel that things are 'coming together.  We had 2 SCUD alerts today.  The first one was not explained but in the second there were 2 on their way to the south of Saudi.  Also heard that 2 Palestinian terrorists were shot near Riyadh so we are 'coming into focus'.  The worst I have heard is that the Saudis offered each soldier in their operation £1000 per month in addition to their wages.  The UK government refused but the French have taken it.  All told we are having a pretty bad time.

Notes: the reports of terrorists being shot was undoubtedly false; the money was not and it's a disgrace that highly paid officers could have taken the decisoin that some poorly paid soldiers be denied this extra cash.  I am harsh on the CO (= Commanding Officer) - whm I respected greatly - and Matron but, while excelletn clinicians and well trained in military matters, setting up this hospital was, I felt, beyond their capacity. There seemed to be a refusal to take stock and plan - every idea for flow of patients through the hospital - some involving the use of fork-lift truck to move them form one level to another - was suggested. the worst thing was that with each new plan we were moced into action only to scrap that and start again.  We were relatively immune down in the basement but some colleagues on the ground floor were mutinous.

Monday 21 January 1991

No letter from my dear little wife today; much to my disappointment.  Last night we came under attack in Riyadh by SCUD missiles fired from Iraq.  The missiles, of which 11 were fired, and 6 came towards us, were mainly destroyed by the Patriot missiles.  We heard the ‘whoosh’ of the Patriots being fired, a bang as they broke the sound barrier and then felt an explosion as the SCUDS were destroyed; a little too close for comfort.  I was having a cup of tea after my main meal at midnight and ended up with everyone else, on the canteen floor with my respirator on.  I did not have my full NBC gear with me, or my helmet.  We have been joined here by medics from Singapore and we are to have a couple of doctors with us on Ward 10.  The ward is definitely taking shape but there is really very little to do and got a couple of letters off to Henry Macnicol and Jeremy Crang as well as a letter to Debbie.  We are all getting a bit fed up with the boxed meals at lunchtime but, apparently, tomorrow we are to have proper cooked meals.  Not many blunders from the hierarchy today but it seems unlikely that we will get any time off before we have to be ready on the 28th.  This all seems very pointless.  The British Ambassador came to visit but only drifted past our ward, accompanied by the CO, and his entourage.  I put a bag of laundry out today but found it still here when I got back.  Apparently the migrant labour has fled.  Saw plenty of Arabs this morning at the airport for the first time, presumably, since last night’s events when there was some damage in Riyadh, they are fleeing.  What is Debbie making of all this back in Edinburgh?

Tuesday 22 January 1991

Another night disturbed by SCUD missiles.  One hit Riyadh, causing minimal damage and the hospital had some shrapnel.  We had some missile fuel landing on the camp.  I have started to mask up only and apply the same principles here as applied in the complex.  We are under cover and there is little need to get fully kitted up.  The Americans, who control our life here, tend to overreact a bit.  Part One Orders say that the Iraqi airstrips are still functioning and there are signs, in my opinion, that the war is not going as well as we thought.  The Iraqis are pumping sea water into the desert with an unclear objective, but it is perhaps an attempt to make it impossible for tanks to cross the desert.  No letter from home today but very welcome letter from Tonks.  I wrote to Helen and Terry Cole as well as replying to Tonks and writing to Debbie.  I am Duty Officer tomorrow and have a day off the next day so it might be the case that I will have no mail for a coupe of days.  I’m enjoying The Seven Pillars of Wisdom as the story develops with the organisation of an Arab resistance force by Lawrence against the Turks.  At the complex we had a dummy run of casualties through the system to test the flow.  Apparently this went quite well and we are to have a day off.  XXXX, our NO i/c is a strange bird.  She disappears for long periods, which is noticed by everyone, and is hopeless at keeping to a train of thought and following through with things.  Also, she does not appear to be very good at passing on information.  I watch with amazement the liaisons forming between married people away from their spouses, on our ward.  They do not seem able to help themselves.  It may be harmless but the spouses would not agree, I am sure.

Notes: XXXX - identity concealed.

Wednesday 23 January 1991

Had a whole night’s sleep with no SCUDs but Israel was hit with many injured and some deaths.  Apparently there were deaths in Riyadh the night before last but it is being kept quiet.  John was able to go down to Riyadh today to pick up some medical supplies.  Riyadh is only 15 minutes away; not 30 miles as we were led to believe.  I had a good day today.  Managed a run in the morning, 4 times round the camp and then a swim before lunch.  The water was very cold; in fact the weather was very cold this morning.  The rest of the day from 12-12 I spent as duty officer.  This was not at all onerous and very little happened all day except a SCUD missile at 11pm exactly.  We heard the Patriots go off and an explosion but no damage here.  There are quite a number of psychiatric casualties.  One girl came back to the camp tonight to give it a go but the Red Alert finished her off.  She was taken back to the complex.  According to Tony, in my room, he is dealing with quite a few more including a regular soldier.  They seem convinced that the next SCUD is going to kill them and some are afraid to leave the complex.  Went over to the American shop and the pool for a while tonight and had some pistachios and non-alcoholic beer with John and Ian.  Good friends; we have a good laugh together.  Wrote to dear Debbie as usual but no mail for me today as I was not down at the complex.  Hope it is waiting in a pile for me when I get back there on Friday.  Not sure how to gauge the progress in the war.  Saddam has had trouble with his air force leader and I heard that he had shot him.  We may, therefore, see a change in tactics.  It will surely not be long before a ground offensive.

Thursday 24 January 1991

A day of intense inactivity today.  Spent most of the time on my bunk sleeping.  It was good to see a bit more of John Hughes today.  Missing Debbie very much today; wishing that this whole sordid mess was over and that I was at home.  But I do want to see the job done properly, in a military sense, whether or not we actually get involved.  These days off are, by all accounts, increasing morale.  I heard that the Matron thought they would have the opposite effect.  She is really and truly ‘not in touch’ with the people on the ground.  I have written to Debbie already today; it is not yet posted, but I am tempted to write again.  I wonder what she really makes of me now?  I do hope she loves me, I know she does, but I hope she knows that I love her.  The uncertainty of our present situation makes me feel a bit insecure.  Saddam Hussein has warned Moslems to leave Riyadh as he has a special surprise lined up for us on Friday.  That could mean tonight or in the early hours of the morning.  We fear a nuclear attempt or a massive barrage of SCUDS with which the Patriots cannot cope.  We can only wait and see.  Also speculation about suicide missions by Iraqi pilots.  Listening to the US press briefing on the radio tonight but didn't really learn anything.  They are covering up the truth about Riyadh, presumably for reasons of morale.  I love my wife and all my children and damn the world and what it thinks of us.  John asked me tonight, “If I could have any luxury other than my wife, what would I choose?”  I could think of nothing other than wanting my dear little wife here beside me, or for me to be at home beside her.

Firday 25 January 1991

Another superb night's sleep last night; undisturbed by SCUD missiles.  Nick Nicholls came for 2 of the circuits.  It was very hot indeed.  We were told that leave was cancelled and that all of A shift had to report for duty.  This raised speculation that the war had started on the ground but it transpired to be that help was needed putting up tents and filling sandbags and sweeping down the stairs in the complex.  The last one seemed particularly daft as all you do in the complex is rearrange the dust.  I helped with the tents but only for a short while before going inside and writing to Debbie.  Went to Mass today and was very grateful for this daily celebration.  I must see Jim about Confession before too long.  Elation - 4 letters today.  Dad wrote yesterday, a letter from Steve Tilley, Martin Kuhn and one from my dear little wife.  She writes very good letters, interesting and they cheer me up a lot.  We did end up getting off quite early tonight so I came home at the back of 6pm and slept until 9pm.  At about 11pm we had the expected Red Alert.  Two Patriots went off and one SCUD was destroyed.  Apparently one hit Riyadh.  Am I going to be killed in the God-forsaken place?  I really hope not; for the first time in my life I really value my life and will be grateful for every day I live if we make it home from Saudi.  There were free condoms to be had this afternoon at the hospital.  I wrote to Debbie, having expressed my disappointment to folk in the ward, and suggested she raise this disgusting issue back home, How do they expect wives (and husbands) who are left at home to feel safe that their loved ones are not having it off with all and sundry when this kind of thing is encouraged.  I am seriously considering resigning over his issue now.

Saturday 26 January 1991

A very disturbed night with SCUD alerts every hour.  However, none appear to have come this way.  It sounds like one person was killed last night in Riyadh and a building damaged.  Went to work today later than usual which gave us a more relaxed morning and the chance to sleep in for a while.  A reasonably hard physical day at work today with loading of lorries and unloading; mainly XXXX and then boards for making the windows next to COLPRO safer.  However, there was a fair degree of disorganisation within the work and this was not unwelcome as it gave us a chance sit out in the sun for a while.  I also like talking to some of the ORs who like physical work.  I think they all try to protect us officers from hard work.  I enjoy it though; it is all good exercise and helps me to sleep at night and takes my mind off my longing for home for a while.  No letters today but I wrote to my darling Debbie as usual.  How I love her!  Ken Brown, on whose behalf we were doing the work, was very appreciative of my help.  He expressed to me certain difficulties in getting some of the other officers, particularly the XXXX in COLPRO, mainly surgeons, to come and help.  I saw my glorious Platoon leader (from Saighton) helping to lift one board and then never saw him again!  It was educational to watch the Arab drivers just watch us lifting without doing a thing to help us.  One of the comedians from Edinburgh suggested getting a chair for one of them.  I hadn’t realised that Suzanne on the ward, who is just married, was called up and is ex-regular.  Poor girl and her new husband who must be worried sick about her.  Am I doing the right thing in deceiving Debbie about my safety here?  Especially by telling others about it!  We had another SCUD alert at 11pm tonight.

Notes: First XXXX is indecipherable writing and second is to protect identity.

Sunday 27 January 1991

A whole night's sleep again without SCUDs.  This was fortunate as I was off today.  I was very pleased with myself for getting up at 8.30am; going for a run and then a swim before breakfast.  I'm making a conscious effort to eat less since food is so available here.  I can afford one very big meal per day since we are doing some physical work; lots of walking, but I avoid the cooked breakfast and stick as much as possible to the meal at the complex.  It is possible to have about 6 meals per day as the food is very good.  I concentrate on salads and fruits.  Greatly enjoyed The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Wrote to Steve and Hamish today but, quite frankly, the only person I want to write to is my beloved Debbie.  I wrote a proper letter, as oppose to a bluey, to her today.  It was very frank about many things I feel.  I am so lucky to have such a wife; one who I have no doubts will be waiting for me when I get back.  I don't know if everyone could say that.  I saw one of my “friends” from 205 today walking to the pool hand-in-hand with some small woman with long dark hair.  I have no idea who she is or why the stupid bastard should be such a fool as to tow her along.  He's got a wife and two young children at home; he is a bloody ass.  Attempted to go to Mass today but no transport turned up.  Today was, on the whole, freezing cold with a constant sand-storm.  It was like a winter's day at home.   I also wanted to go to the complex to see if my wee girl had written to me.  It will be nice to get letters from all sorts of people but I only really want to hear from Debbie.  Last night I missed her more than ever before, I think.  I longed for her and would fly home on a magic carpet of one were available.

Monday 28 January 1996

Another peaceful night and a good sleep.  Woken at 5am by the call to prayers.  This was my best day here, so far, because I had two letters from Debbie and a parcel and also a letter from Neil Heath and one from Sophie Williams and later one from Mum.  Neil was asking about the radiography set up so I will ask Nick to reply.  Sophie's letter was very generous about my abilities as a tutor.  People seem quite stunned that I should be out here at all.  Mum is a good correspondent.  However, the real light of my life is Deb who writes so well and so affectionately.  The parcel had a packet of batteries - lots of them and laces and Vanish and pictures and a letter from the kids.  I wrote Debbie as usual and to Ali and Martin Kuhn today.  How I love my little wife.  Managed to have Confession with Fr Duddy and also Mass.  By all accounts the morning Mass is a real international affair with Americans, French, Singaporeans and some of us.  Very 'unbusy' today.  Read TEL for most of the day but also some very good stuff in the Sunday Telegraph.  The CO briefed all officers tonight.  I actually thought that he spoke fairly well; fairly typical for him but dropped a clanger regarding the abilities of the Reservists re the TA.  Also, of course, anything that was going wrong was the fault of the 'middle management' and not of the hierarchy.  Spoke at length to Ken Brown about it all.  He seemed very much on the CO's side but the reservists and those from other units were not impressed.  William did a drawing of ‘a soldier crying’.  Bless my little son, he is the apple of my eye but I love him no more than any of the others.  He is special and very different.

Note: TEL = TE Lawrence.

Tuesday 29 January 1991

A very poor night's sleep; not due to SCUDs but due to the extreme pain in my arm from the anthrax and plague inoculations.  Felt sick and had a headache.  Woke at 5am with the call to prayer and took my NAPS and some analgesic.  Took the latter throughout the day.  An extremely dull and boring day at work.  Jane showed me round the evacuation chain, which I found quite interesting.  Otherwise, I had a glance at the SOPs for EVAC and read the Telegraph and TEL all day.  Managed to get some sleep before supper, which was welcome.  No more boxed meals but was not very impressed by the beefburgers.  Perhaps it was because I felt sick.  Went to the canteen this morning to do the corrections to my Care of the Elderly article and sat with XXXX.  He was reasonably chatty; naturally I didn’t mention last night’s pep talk, which more and more I think was a real disaster, but talked about research and publishing.  He talked about his historical research but he is a very dull and broken character.  Obviously under pressure and rumour has it that Brig Johnson is coming to take over.  XXXX is rather pitiful and I feel quite sorry for him.  He is, I think, paying for his lifestyle.  Two letters from little Debbie today and I wrote back to her.  Also wrote to Sophie Williams.  Did not go for supper tonight as I didn't feel sufficiently well.  There are now sheets and a couple of blankets for our beds, which is an improvement.  Hopefully we will be able to have a day off tomorrow.  I heard Major Shepherd trying to convince the CO that days off were quite unnecessary and we should cancel them.

Notes: SOPs = Standard Operating Procedures; XXXX - identity concealed; Sophie was one of my undergraduate students

Wednesday 30 January 1991

Thankfully we got a day off today and the weather was glorious.  Still feeling very off colour from the injections and could hardly manage any breakfast.  Did manage two figure of eight circuits in the camp.  Slept until John came in from his shift and we went to the pool for a while read and wrote some letters.  Everyone was exposing themselves to the UV; I have quite forgotten why people do this as I have no time for it myself.  An incidental sun-tan from working in the sun is nice but it is so obvious when people have been sunbathing.  Returned to our room and I slept until early evening.  Manages some supper and sat with a few 205 friends and John and chatted for an hour or so.  Graham Smith and his fiancé Fiona Mackay, Una Smith, Ian Jack.  They are all very good company.  Returned to write some more letters and then went to the shop for a beer before closing time with John.  We were joined by XXXX who was reasonable interesting on his time in Saudi but who is, otherwise, a dead bore.  Things are in a mess at the top of 205; the RSM has had his gun taken away; the ATO is shacking up with the Staff Sergeant from QM stores in Glasgow - a woman who has written off several husbands already.  Nobody looks very happy.  (I have always felt obliged to fill these pages).  Tony, in our room, is fed up because he hasn’t been chosen to move forward with the BSRU teams.  He really fancies it and would be ideal; however, I would be very sorry to see him go.  Over 200 people have applied for transfers.

Notes: XXXX - identity concealed; RSM = Regimental Sergeant Major; ATO - some manner of training officer; QM - quartermasters; BSRU = battle shock recovery units.

Thursday 31 January 1991

Could have slept all day today; eventually surfaced at about 10am.  Strange happenings at work today.  Our XXXX claimed that she had had a death in the family and returned to the camp, conveniently accompanied by her boyfriend.  It so happens that he is going to the front.  I’m convinced, for various reasons that this was a set up job, a con, to have the day together.  She is a hopeless, irresponsible fool and I have talked to Ruth Murie about it.  Talking to Ruth was very interesting; my stance re morals and my dear little wife have been seen and truly noticed.  She said that this would put up a barrier between me and many of the other men who were only after sex.  She said that I was definitely in the minority but that there were others.  Ken Kirk has been moved to another ward so I was, in a sense, in charge of the ward.  I took the opportunity to have the two love-birds on the ward split up.  Three letters from dearest Deb - two parcels and 4 other letters today; what a great day.  Deb sent me some chocolates, an early Valentine’s day present; they were lovely.  I wrote to Mum & Dad today to tell them about the new arrival.  Poor Debs will have to “pick up the bill” at the other end.  Action has been taking place, in a limited sense, on the Kuwait border and we are all very expectant that things will blow up very soon.  I think that it is time for me to take more responsibility on the ward.  I attended an ‘O’ group and see no sense in the way the RSM is trying to manage things.  Other letters came from Diane, on of the NS2 students, Morag Lynch and Jeremy Crang.  The latter is a very good writer and observer of what is going on.  The media cover at home is nothing short of saturation.

Notes: XXXX - identity concealed; NS2 = Nursing Studies 2, one of the courses on which I taught at Edinburgh.