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.

No comments:

Post a Comment