From The Thames to the Tigris
We had been training hard with G Sqn for just a week when the tempo and atmosphere suddenly changed. Where once there had been a couple of helicopter overflights each night, now there were swarms, their warning lights ominously inactive and their cabins lit only by the eerie glow of the pilots’ night vision goggles. The desert around Camp Eagle was churned up by Challenger 2s; despatch riders criss-crossed the trackways in haste.
We were told to make the last of our satphone calls home. Nerve agent protection tablets and morphine were handed out. The lingering sense of unreality was dispelled when we finally received our ammunition: 300 rounds of 5.56mm each, plus link for our GPMGs and grenades. And we knew we were certainly going to war when they served us roast chicken and ice cream for supper instead of nondescript stew.
The squadron formed up alongside row after row of the rest of 16 Air Assault Brigade near to Camp Eagle IV. After a tense last night and breakfast, we were off. It took three staggered moves – marshalling area, motorway, then forward assembly area – to get us to just south of the border. Each time we stopped we spent most of the time leaping into hastily-dug shell scrapes as missiles thudded into Kuwait.
A breach in the berm had been made the previous night by the Royal Engineers. There was no sign of any NBC attack on it, which meant that ground forces were free to move into Iraq: G-Day was on. At the border, the commander of each vehicle had to dismount and make his invasion on foot. In front of us lay the Rumaila Oilfields. Some wellheads were ablaze but the gas/oil separation plants, whose destruction would have been an environmental and economic disaster, were still intact.
Although the ground to either side of route DALLAS was mined, the road itself was not. We made good progress, reaching our objective by the close of day. We sat at the junction of DALLAS and route TAMPA, ready to tackle contamination if it happened. All around, war proceeded: convoys of US forces stretching for miles made their way past us; in the distance we could hear artillery, while much closer the EOD dealt with the antipersonnel mines strewn about. A storm flooded the landscape. We listened to the progress of the war on the radio and in o-groups, praying that if the moment came where we were called on, we would do our job well and all make it through.
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