Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Entry 4. To Saudi

Tuesday 15 January 1991

Definitely a day of rest because that is what we have done all day.  Parade as usual in “coaches”.  We have an Asian Major as our coach commander.  They give these people (Majors) responsibility without sounding them out first.  Yesterday she read out a list of surnames and then said that some of them were lieutenants.  I had to go and check which Watson she meant.  I sat down with her at Supper, by chance and she ignored me.  Today, she had to read out our names and give some instruction and she is absolutely incapable.  Why do I complain - because there is nothing else to complain about.  Managed to `phone Debbie for a reasonable length of time.  This will be the last time before going to the Gulf.  We took our large packs and kit bags to the gym at ten o’clock and I am now worried that I did not close the side pockets on my large pack and may have lost my Captain’s badges of rank and some name tags.  Otherwise we have all had hours of sleep and listening to the radio.  Moved off to South Cerney at 1700 where we arrived at about 2100 and made process fairly quickly.  Went to bed at midnight expecting to sleep until 7am but were woken at 4.30 to move to RAF Brize Norton.  Slept in a dormitory with 50 bunks in it.  Must be awful with all of them full.  Had breakfast at 5.30, boarded, or crammed into double deckers and headed for RAF Brize Norton.  A couple of female officers are missing as I write and we are just waiting for our flight at some unspecified time.  People are busy changing money to Riyals.  Personally I hope we’re not there long enough to spend any.  The UN deadline has expired and we expect military action soon.

Wednesday 16 January 1991

As mentioned yesterday; I woke up in a complete daze at 0430 in South Cerney to have a rushed breakfast before leaving for Brize Norton.  We did not have to wait too long at Brize Norton and we were off on a Kuwait Airlines Jumbo Jet by 11.30 and had a superb flight to Riyadh; landing a 18.20 our time which is 21.20 local time.  It was a warm evening when we left the plane at King Khalid airport.  We gathered in the new terminal building which is still being built.  This is where the hospital is to be situated.  The CO and Adjutant were there to greet us and there were drinks and sandwiches.  It was actually very pleasant to get away from the biting frosty air in England.  We had a briefing about our accommodation which sounds quite promising.  It is about 15 minutes away.  I sat beside Alex and Fiona on the plane.  They are a couple with very little to say to anyone else; although I feel I’m getting to know them slightly.  Biggest present concern is “who will I be accommodated with?”  According to a news report we got from the pilot on the plane Hussein has taken personal command of his army and the French have agreed to put their troops under US command.  Today, more than ever before I am missing Debbie and the children.  I start to forget what they all look like - really; not as in a photograph.  Next main concern is “when will we all get home?”

Thusrday 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.

Note: apologies for sexist use of the term 'girls'.  met one of these women years later and she refused to speak to me.

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