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The War Starts

19th March - Formed Up at the Point

Not been issued our POW/Refugee cards, surprise surprise. A last minute radio check revealed the frequency our folks are using doesn't match the CEI.

First stage was to 'cross the line' - just cross the Main Supply Route before it becomes a frogger game between bumper-bumper loggies. So we're now in 'Brighton', probably for hours yet. Rumour (via Older Williams) has it that the air war has started although we can't hear or see anything. There's the continuous rumble of tanks in the background, but with a light dust haze obscuring them it seems very calm and quiet for a war. I'd just got some clothes washing done before the notice to move dropped to 1/2 hour, so there's a gypsy washing line in the back of the van, I've got British Forces radio on, a book and a pipe so I'm feeling very at home for the night..


We've got to stop meeting like this. Scud Attack at the FUP

Thu 20th March, Waiting...

What with the GPMG to clean, handing out callsign indicators and passwords as well as the previous usual stuff, I'm getting busier.

Bombing started this morning; our aircraft on them and their scuds on us. At 0930 got first "Lightning! Lightning! Lightning!" over the radio. This is the American version of "Incoming!" and over the radio is particularly useless as there's no indication of where or when it's arriving or when it's clear. Anyway we get into 4 Romeo (full anti-chemical gear) and then out again, and when we get the alarm we all dive under the Land Rover with resperators on. It's not all that comfortable cowering under the fuel tank of a Land Rover, once without a helmet (duh) waiting for things to start coming apart around you very fast. Especially if you can't smoke. I did this several times without letting Ø know, which is bad and incompetent and caused Taff to call me all kinds of horrible things in clear.


"Dig for your lives!" Really, someone shouted that...

The Fuchs were on standby to recce impact sites, and we were on immediate NTM to decon the Fuchs if required. We heard a faint but deep and short bang which we assumed was one Scud impact, but not much else. I don't know who was at Brighton, but there were a fairly large number of 16AA vehicles all nicely parked up in neat compact rows. One scud, arty shell, or shoulder launched rocket would have made a real mess. Adam is Not Impressed ("Have these guys heard of 'Force Dispersal'?"). Neither is Conn with their officers - who apparently are not even passing information onto their own staff.

Had three Gas Gas Gas alarms, all started by car horns. So either someone's getting clumsy or panicky or is having a laugh.

Brooke's looking after me well, bringing me food (oh joy, sausage and beans!).

Rumour has it the GOSPs have been blown, the next move will take 8 hours.

Another incoming! "30 minutes to impact!" Which presumably means they're wheeling it out of the garage and have opened the instruction book, so how do they know it's targetted at us? but we're now on immediate NTM and I need a pee. I'll have to use a bottle...

Fri 21st

Spent the night crammed in the radio shack 'helping' Beaves who's using our super duper setup to talk to his own folks; he doesn't have secure coms. So I missed out on some sleep; took the middle watch. Slept in a bag on carm [plastic sheet] ready to go; wierd dreams including the mushroom cloud on Saffron hill and losing my rifle... Happily, the plan to daisy cut Saffron Hill seems to have been put aside. Also missed out on a big artillary show; someone said they saw 2 shells come over and 60 go back.... At night you can see them glow as they rise (is this the remains of the propellant? Or a kind of tracer?) which suddenly ceases, so it seems as if they head up and away and then disappear. Unlit helicopters are coming and going overhead.

Brighton was big, about 1km x 1km, but at last we're spread out a bit more. Although we've had to cam up in the dark, which seems pretty useless, and just hampers our own movements and responses. Our JNBCR guys let 16AA management know about the Fuchs coming back from recce and just got a 'so what?'. So aren't you going to let the sentries know, or are there none, or are they all snuggled up and having a fag? Conn says Brigade HQ is like the Star Wars rebels control rooms; a mix of high tech gear and grubby, temporary, cobbled together stuff.

Forward Fuchs position given in clear on the radio by our local contingent. No one's interested in messages that include BATCO...

Listening to the BBC when the headphones aren't on. The news pretty much matches our own impressions, rumours and briefings. Which probably means they're from some embedded reporter who has no more idea than we do. At 1400ish they report the land forces going in; British forces commandos have got the peninsula, and the marines have most of the port. We hang around in a car park

We head off down the wrong side of the motorway in a huge convoy to Griffin - where there is to be no smoking, uh oh.

22nd

Another night short of sleep, took middle watch. Excellent dump in a deep hole, very satisfying after all this cooped upness. Lost the bog paper I'd taken in the wind though, so was very releived to find I had some spare in a pocket. Some very funny stories from Beaves about getting shot at and bayoneted at Sandhurst...

Things are About To Happen. Cleaned rifle & GPMG again and oiled 'em. Snoozed a bit. Listened to the helicopters. By 0930 we were sorted into a 3AAC packet for the move (G Sqn) across the Berm to the Dallas/Tampar crossroads. NTM 30 minutes for several hours.

Windy and dusty.

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Can't wash it down, but it looks good.

We are at the back as the NBC threat is now low; no delivery mechanism. News from 10A (forward Fuchs) at GOSP 3 is that RIP is complete. Fuchs here is bored and letting us know, and seem pleased that at least Conn is keeping them informed.

Rumour has it Chemical Ali is dead via a cruise missile. Again. Or was it a camel spider? Reporters have no idea and keep reporting rumours of senior enemy dead as fact.


Conn doesn't seem impressed with Jules' latest toilet exploit


A Gollum's-eye View

Crossing the berm border was all very organised. RMPs directing a continuous stream of traffic through the break. Few burning oil spots, no piles of dead people, just a few ruined buildings. I didn't even notice that we'd got there, as we'd passed between other berms and I couldn't see out the front for all the junk, er, equipment in the way. Instead I sat working both nets [log?], GPMG on my knees, and lit a pipe. The aroma drifted forward to the front cab, soothingly reassuring for those who could see the border coming up. Ignorance is bliss.


Not many of these


Just naturally pulled up like this. Poseurs

Brooke the Chef considers the ingredients for the next meal. Hmmm, chicken bones and lumps of flour in a thick starchy sauce.

 

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