Friday, 11 November 2016

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.

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