This was an undated letter to Guy & Sarah, but according to the diary we moved to 3AAC on the 10th April...

Hi Guy

Lots of thanks for the parcels and the letters! Tales of daring do from our favourite policeman - just like home! Talking of arming the Met without sufficient training, we're now doing NI Ops (vehicle check points mostly) with no training at all on how to handle MOPs! I tend to just smile and try out my few remaining words of Arabic, which led to a huge crowd gathering at a water purification plant yesterday, which got my driver/corporal and a relatively new boy quite twitchy. No ones shot at us yet - I've not even made ready though I have loaded the GPMG a few tries. Shame Colin isn't here - although if he was he'd probably end up directing traffic in a classic army mis-assignment.

Yesterday a report came through of a site, where children were getting burns around their mouths and on their bodies, and lots of drums marked with skull and cross bones, and an underground lab. Turns out to be an ordinary industrial chemical plant and not, as our officer Conn suggested, a plant for manufacturing tinned pirates. "What we need is a training day".

Got a bit twitchy the other night myself - we were guarding a Gas Oil Separation Plant for a few days (appropriate role?!) and at 12.40am, I paused by a mesh fence a few minutes before waking up the next lot. The howling wind pauses, and there is a terrific metallic clang from inside the (unoccupied) compound behind me. Like a good signaller I'm on the floor with my hand on the transmit button rather than my rifle cocking handle! If all then goes to pot in classic Martin fashion - I try raising the fire trench that overlooks the compound with a night sight, but get their call sign wrong. Clearing up that confusion it takes a while to explain, by which time nothing else has happened and I'm back to lounging on the fence. Embarrassing ho hum. Turns out to be a hanger door blowing in the wind. Anyway, the guys who took over from us need 87 to guard the place, whereas we (JNBC regs mostly) did it with 24. That's cos we're well hard, obviously.

I'm with 3 other TA guys attached to the JNBCR squadron, which is great as we're away from our incredibly crap TA command structure - so far we seem to have done OK, and the regs are greatly amused by our 'posh' accents - 2 of the TA guys here are aristocratic types. We've been practicing scouse accents ('fockin chip shop') which is fun, and will stand us in good stead when we return.

Yesterday we looked at an old Iraq barracks for scary looking weaponary, but just found lots of ordinary stuff. Lots of "souveniers" but not sure where I'd put an Iraqi helmet in my tiny flat up north so stuck to taking photos. Not really keen on collecting mortar shells that have been baking for a few days either. It's getting very hot (over 48C by midday a couple of days ago according to the bio detection boys) yet I find I'm scoffing huge amounts of food. Something to do with energy required to keep cool - I must have a chat with a fridge when I get back to find out how they do it. Your goodies go down very well though, thanks! Question for Mark: the pipes over the landscape here have square bends in them every now and then. Any idea why?

Anyway it looks like we have fuck all to do now - we're in a compound with lots of helicopters and pink panthers and no need to stag on, wahey. If the Americans turn out to be really crap at peacekeeping they might resort to us, boo I hear my unit (Royal Scots) in Edinburgh are standing by for mobilisation - I can just see me getting back, getting my transfer papers and getting called up again! In which case I shall say NO! and appeal a lot! [This was a funny joke until I got back to find they really were being called up. They didn't need me thankfully]

So looking forward to hearing about a date for returning home, which will probably be about 6 weeks or so. Then have to wait for our kit to arrive and sort that out, but should get time out in between - to DRINK!


OpTelic