Martin's latest to us, this one arrived 27th March. Now the action has started I suspect they will take a bit longer.
Gordon & Ros Hill

19th March, Wet and Sandy Place

Got your letter from 10th March yesterday - just after I'd posted my 18th one. Thanks for that, just the stuff I wanted to hear. Feel free to use the eblueys (web address on outside of bluey envelope) it gets here quicker and is easier to write. Encourage Sue etc to use them too - jokes and stuff would be good!

We're 'battened down' just now as there's a fair sandstorm blowing. I was going to clean my socks and get a good wash, ho hum.

Our training is easing off now anyway - partly because it looks now as if we're going to 'go' soon, now that Bush & Blair have given up on the UN and Blair has got his vote (see, we get some news - courtesy of the BBC. We also get our battle plans, but not in the fancy graphics form you're probably getting on TV! Ours involves bits of sand and stones and masking tape and mugs etc!). The other partly is that after 'demonstrating our stuff' to the regular JNBCR [Joint Nuclear Biological Chemical Regiment, which for daft political reasons is made up of soldiers drawn from 1RTR - battle tanks - and the RAF Regiment] guys over the last few days they're actually not only happy with our ability, but our discipline around our vehicles (keeping things clean and tidy and ready to go at short notice) have shamed the regular NCOs to improve their own practices. So we're pretty chuffed. If still tired & dirty!

I hear the firemen are still striking - I guess that's the last of their public sympathy ruined! Bad thing when the war is "about to start" and the soldiers are already under a lot of pressure. I'm not sure of the exact proportion but I gather the Americans & UK have around 200,000 troops here, of which 40,000 are ours, nearly 20%. Met some marines (USA) a couple of days ago and they are a friendly welcoming bunch, proud of their ability and very supportive of each other - not like our paras that seem to thrive on fighting everyone and each other. About 20 of them (paras) went past this morning pushing a bedford truck around the camp (a good couple of miles on sand...) so they are 'fighting fit', and they do have some very nice toys - stripped down pink landrovers, quad bikes, fast reconnaissance tanks and light armoured carriers. All day & night the surrounding 'countryside' is busy with lights and the noise of heavy diesel engines carting around the heavy weight of tanks, people and lots and lots of supplies. The full moon makes the nights very pleasant and often even beautiful with the stars out and lots of green & red lights flashing as helicopters and jets fly over.

The food is pretty monotonous as given so good choice on the tubes you gave me, they help to enliven the evening stew. We get American rations (MREs) for lunch; they have a wide variety but they are all a bit 'samey' (some of them have been eating MREs for over a year and will do almost anything for British rations, just for the variety!). Some of them have little fruit chews called 'skittles' that are so 'moreish' I find that when I finish a packet I end up wandering the camp with a pickaxe handle looking for any poor unsuspecting soul who hasn't finished his yet. "They're mine, my precious" comes to mind!

Anyway I'll take this opportunity to write to some others too.