This one went to a very old schoolfriend of mine who was in a tank regiment during the first Gulf War. So the language and style is quite different. He didn't censor it as I'd asked him to do for general distribution, which in retrospect was probably good; it was hard for me to tell when I was so remote what things sound like... Dad typed it up as usual and has added some comments which I've extended or replaced as necessary. Most of these with jargon explanations are at the end -M

20th March, Sandy Place

Well that was exciting - all we've done is pack up to go to the assembly area and we've already had 3 NBC alarms. Respirators on, hide under landrover! Our FUCHs have fucked off to a missile strike 14 hours away and we're on an immediate NTM to go and decontaminate them if necessary. And then someone fired a Scud at ME!! Luckily it missed - we did hear it hit so some random patch of desert has been scorched. Had fun filling in a hole in the JNBCR comms as I have both secure and insecure comms and my officer has a PRR, so we've been relaying messages back and forth, happy days. Stressful though!

25th: Now in Iraq, hurrah! Just one section of our TA unit - a single decon troop. Not done any chemical decon which is great, but are now held in reserve ready. Unlike the rest of our TA unit which is still back in Kuwait the REMFs. Things are going to plan overall (although for some reason the BBC seems to think we're behind schedule - how on earth they got the idea we would take StalinBaghrad in 5 days is beyond me) although 16 Air Assault have decided to go ahead with the 'a bridge too small' operation, only this JNBC operation will be the ones running out of petrol - so the CO had enough confidence to take us with him, which is good - and bad! Exciting stuff, especially as the roads aren't safe yet, so I've prepped my GPMG and loosened the ammo boxes. And got a nappy ready.

The signals stuff has been demanding - lots of relaying between secure and insecure mesages and taking messages. And all the kit works so am happy with all the hours of prep I put in. It's been a bit of a Gollum experience - cooped up in the back for 12-14 hours at a stretch getting food and drink passed in and passing bottles of piss out. I get let out for 5 mins a day to help put the cam up or take it down (which means actually letting the cam down off the roof or putting it up on the roof, respectively) and occassional half hour snoozes. We've had a couple of days rest now in deepest darkest Iraq - only a couple of 'incoming' warnings and a terrific explosion about half a km away that turned out to be a controlled explosion of some UXO. It would have been nice of them to warn us! Anyway the time has allowed me to move the crew boxes to the rear door so that I can actually see the sunshine - probably by sitting on the trailer with the GPMG out and brolly up.

My hands are beginning to heal up now - they were cracked and bleeding, the poor soft things, I must be getting hard, or would be if it wasn't for the bromide ho ho. I've marked the back of the landrover as 'Soft Pawn' though, which I still like.

Our Wine Merchant (a trooper) is holding a 'Dinner Party' tonight, with a 'table' and 'chairs' and tablecloth and everything. So I'm going to have to remember my manners - and not only heat my boilies before eating them but use a spoon instead of sucking them straight out of a packet. And I'm also trying to work out how to make make a Banoffie Pie out of compo - I think it can done...

Anyway, must be off to clean my weapon (and get the sand out of my helmet)

Please let my parents know I'm OK although might be better to leave out the bits about ambushes and RPGs. And the rude bits. Doesn't leave much I guess!


JNBCR Joint Nuclear Biological Chemical Regiment. The comms I referred to was one of their Squadrons Ops Officers had no secure comms so used ours.

NBC - Nuclear Biological Chemical

NBC Alarms - a warning that the area may be under attack; depending on the threat (ie what chemicals/etc are expected) depends on the response, but requires at least putting on a respirator (gas mask) and possibly a full heavy protective suit which is uncomfortable and leads quickly to 'performance degradation'.

FUCHS - German-built Fox vehicles - shouldn't have been in caps - which are used as chemical detection systems

NTM - Notice To Move.

PRR - Personal Role Radio on a short range net. These are excellent bits of bought-in (rather than custom designed) kit when used in their designed role as a personal radio, giving each soldier communication with every other soldier in his section. However, the army being the army, there are not enough of them, and so they are used at brick or section-level, which requires a greater range, and at which they are pretty useless.

REMF - derogatory term for people in the rear echelon.

GPMG - Dad had this to say:

A GPMG is a General Purpose Machine Gun, the same one used in the Korean war and when I was in the TA a few years later. Tripod mounted and very effective, though lighter more accurate guns are now in production. I longed to play with one but at a maximum of 750 RPM (yes, that's more than 12 bullets per second, 2nd person to feed the ammo belt and tracer so you could see where it was all going) they could't afford the bullets for us to have fun. As Martin has told us, you can swing open the back door of his landrover and let fly at the attacking enemy while fleeing (sorry, withdrawing) down the road and calling for artillery or air support. Pure Hollywood if the enemy fire is light and they don't have tanks about! Looks like they've given him plenty of ammo now, hence the ammo boxes (plural), loosened so you can get at it fast!

Ah, the nappy! The barrel of this thing gets very hot with all that activity and after a few minutes of heavy fire it starts to droop! To prevent that you change the barrel when it starts to glow a dull red! You don't do that with driving gloves.

Which was close but not quite :-). Nowadays they're normally bipod mounted (they can be used in a Sustained Fire - SF - mode using a tripod), and they are intentionally designed to 'spread' over an area rather than to be sniper accurate, so they can be used to harrass and kill all those in an area rather than individuals. They are infamously heavy as a personal weapon, as is the ammo you need to feed it! There was only me to load and fire in the cramped back of a radio-filled Land Rover with 3 blokes day kit including 3 days water supply (50+ 1.5L bottles..), and the ammo comes in boxes of 200 rambo-like linked rounds. So I probably wouldn't have managed the maximum rate over a minute. Also, in absolutely typical army/TA fashion, we only had one live firing barrel - the other was for firing blanks on exercises. So no barrel changes; I only had 800 rounds anyway. The nappy was for crapping myself.

cam - camouflage netting. As opposed to CAM which is some plastic stuff used to protect our vehicles & equipment from slime & goo when washing others. Lots of scope for confusion...

UXO - UneXploded Ordnance - eg mines, unsafe shells

crew boxes - one of the many bits of slightly incompatible kit I had cobbled together, you could use these audio-gear relay boxes to switch between radios without having to unplug and replug cables, and control the volume etc without having to reach the face of the radio which was usually buried beneath a lot of gear.

compo - composite rations. A days supply of food comes in a box of various goodies such as boil in the bag meals, sweets, biscuits, melted gooy chocolate, brew kits, etc. I never did make any banoffly pie. I'm not even sure how you spell it.

RPGs - Rocket Propelled Grenades. Unreliable russian-made shoulder-launched mini rockets. Harmless to main battle tanks. Very nasty to soft skinned vehicles like Land Rovers...