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Twentieth Century Chivalry

A 20th Century Diary continued
Day 11 Caught a lift in the back of a landrover to the MLRS unit situated 5 km from the border, and took over the map reading when the route became difficult. Drove through massive amount of US soldiery and equipment. Passed through many old positions covered in rubbish left by departed Allied troops. Arrived at my destination and asked for a particular Battery Commander I had been briefed was a good chap. He directed me to his Commanding Officer, something I had hoped to avoid. As night had fallen, I set out for the CP, and found that the visit of two official cameramen previously had eased matters for me.

Day 12 Attended a briefing and got attached to a crew. Spent the entire day with the vehicle and filmed its operation by both day and night. Astonished to find that while standing 300 yards behind the MLRS that I expected to fire, six launchers fired simultaneously. The launchers were close together and had crossing trajectories. Obviously, with new equipment operated by fairly inexperienced crews there are bound to be mistakes. Dropped my camera when hit on the helmet by fragment from backblast ~ uninjured, but surprised; shaken, not stirred!!!
MLRS ~ Multiple Launch Rocket System, a fearsome weapon that scatters bomblets over the target area.
CP ~ Command Post
Multiple Launch Rocket System
Day 13 Left the MLRS unit to visit 4 Bde. Detected some antagonism caused by an order to accommodate a visiting journalist who had asked to accompany the Warriors, despite having no military background. Sat in on a briefing to learn the latest news on the big push, and discovered that there was a journalist around posing as a British Army Captain who had to be apprehended!!!

Day 14 Discreetly decided to leave 4 Bde and spent a very hot day in the open desert, continually diving for cover against low-flying helicopters. Got very low on water.

Day 15 Walked north to the border and found a US hospital unit. Reported that I was a Liaison Officer whose vehicle had been hit by a US 3rd Armd Div 5-tonner. My rifle barrel had been bent; my driver and signaller had gone rearwards with my vehicle. I had been replaced by an In-Theatre Replacement, and now expected the US Army to compensate for ruining my war. This personal tragedy was sufficient for the whole of my stay with the US Army.

Day 16 Left the hospital. Met some incredible US Reserve soldiers who gave me a lift to HQ 3rd USAD. Attached myself to 1 Bde, the point Bde.

Day 17 Moved across the Iraqi border through the US Inf Div which had made an almost unopposed breach.

Day 18 Moved forward with 1st Bde. Transferred to a forward Bradley of the "Bayonets" attached to the "Red Lion" taskforce. The battle started at dusk against the "Twakana" Division of the Republican Guard, when, 100 miles inside Iraq, T72 tanks advanced towards us. Occupied the gunner's seat at the start, but shortly afterwards was asked to move into the back of the vehicle. The T72 tanks attacked; the Bradleys stopped; then everything became quite noisy. A T72 hit a Bradley about 500 metres NW, killing most of the crew and maiming the remainder. Bradleys engaged that T72 tank with TOW missiles. We fired both of our TOW missiles and destroyed two T72 tanks, one of which was in a berm we had thought a bunker.

We were stationary for most of the initial engagement, but started to move as the battle expanded. The enemy which had reached us were engaged by Warthogs, Apaches, Cobras and our tank escort ~ quite a memorable sight, even from the back of a Bradley. With a lot of fire around us, and a shell (probably one of ours falling short) landing alongside, the atmosphere in the Bradley was somewhat tense.

The Bradley crew has not trained to dismount in action to quite the same extent as the British. This means that the back is in effect full of passengers who might be asked to dismount to look after prisoners or to help load supplies or to act as ordinary infantry. The Warrior synergy is missing. As far as the battle was concerned, the Bradley was a light 3-man tank which happened to be performing also a secondary role as a transport vehicle.

Day 19 Battle continued until around 0400, but with intensity decreasing and our movement forward fairly rapid. At the end of the day we have turned south into northern Kuwait. Success is reported over a wide front and the Republican Guard appears defeated.

Day 20 Returned from "Red Lion" to Div HQ in a HumVee. Iraqi positions were in an appalling state ~ no sign of concrete; no overhead protection. Tanks in berms made excellent targets and had no protection from sabot rounds. There were either a very large number of dummy positions or the enemy had absconded. Abandoned enemy vehicles had plenty of ammunition.

4 Bde ~ 4th Brigade (British)
Warrior ~ British Infantry Fighting Vehicle, does work similar to that of the American Bradley.
3rd USAD ~ 3rd US Armoured Division
point Bde ~ the leading brigade
US Inf Div ~ US Infantry Division
Bradley ~ US Infantry Fighting Vehicle, equivalent to the British Warrior
T72 ~ Soviet-manufactured Main Battle Tank
TOW ~ Wire-guided anti-tank missile
Warthog ~ anti-tank fixed-wing aircraft
Apache and Cobra ~ anti-tank helicopters
HumVee
Day 21 Waited at Div HQ all day for a helicopter ride back to the hospital to collect my equipment.

Day 22 Flew on a Blackhawk heading back towards the hospital site. Huge expanse of trench fortifications obvious during the flight, and a multitude of abandoned vehicles. Bomb damage seemed less than I expected. Saw some Iraqi soldiers moving, so we landed and took four prisoners from a dugout. They claimed to be Kurds and discarded their weapons. We bundled them into the helicopter. The hospital had moved, so I took a lift from a neighbouring unit to their next position. Met the Colonel on arrival, and learned that my bergen was still at the last position but would arrive in eight hours. I showered and waited. When it arrived I walked 8 km to a transport area where, while avoiding the distinctive noise of British landrovers, I lurked in the dark, waiting for a truck.

Caught a lift in a full ammunition truck for 20 km, and then in a US SF vehicle to the SF base on the road to Dahran. Was then extremely tired and the temperature was very cold. Slept on the floor of a bunker. The SF had been training the Saudi Army, reported as being next to useless and somewhat cowardly. The SF wore their hair long, had no headress or badges of rank, but were a likeable bunch.

Day 23 Returned to Dahran airbase on one of the SF vehicles. Met British soldiers returning from Kuwait City with reports of thousands of bodies and of undisciplined behaviour of the Kuwaiti liberators. I appeared to be the first "frontline soldier" seen in Dahran, so was much questioned. Decided to return to Bahrein immediately, but needed an exit visa. Completed the correct paperwork, signed for my absent commanding officer, and took the form to the Saudi authorities on the base for the correct stamp.

Day 24 Borrowed large American car to return to RAF Muharraq. US movements kindly put me on a Galaxy flight to Sicily after noting obvious signs of battle fatigue, etc. Arrived Sigonella and slept on floor of transit building.

Day 25 Requested place on flight to Frankfurt to rejoin my unit, but unhelpful USAF NCO takes copy of my ID card and starts to 'phone Germany. Retrieved copy of ID card and caught lift to civilian airport. Changed into civilian clothes in the lavatory and hired a car. Set out for home.
Blackhawk ~ large battlefield helicopter
SF ~ Special Forces
Galaxy ~ very large American transport aircraft

SCOOP

The filmed sequences of what Saddam Hussein called "the Mother of all Battles", taken from a fighting vehicle on the front edge of the fighting, amounted to a brilliant exclusive of a type of which most journalists can only dream. No other cameraman got as far forward, so no other cameraman captured to this extent the immediacy of the battle's violence.

Return to Day 1

An Historical Footnote

Froissart's epitaph on Sir Guichard d'Angle, KG, Earl of Huntingdon (as translated by Lord Berners) ~

"....... there dyed in London a knyght called Sir Rycharde Dangle, erle of Huntyngdon, and maister to the Kynge ; he was reverently buryed in the freres prechers in London. And on the day of his obsequy there was the Kynge, his two bretherne, the princess his mother, and a great nombre of prelates, barounes and ladyes of Englande, and there dyd hym great honoure and truely this gentyll knyght was well worthy to have honoure, for in his tyme he had all noble vertues, that a knyght ought to have ; he was mery, true, amorous, sage, secrete, large, prewe, hardy, adventorous and chryvalrous. Thus ended the gentyll knyght Sir Richarde Dangle."

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