Op Granby 4 Aug 1990 - Jun 1991
Op Granby Aug 1990 - Apr 1991
Op Safehaven Apr - Aug 1991
Originally August was going to be an exceptionally quiet month following reduced levels of AT tasking. The planned siesta was rudely terminated by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August. Throughout the month all 3 Flights of UKMAMS were subjected to the most intense period of sustained pressure since the Falklands conﬂict in 1982. The efforts of the Squadron were dominated by the support required during Operation GRANBY for the deployment of British Forces from the UK and Cyprus to the Gulf region.
The full manpower distribution around the Gulf detachments as at 31 August was:
RAF Akrotiri Flt Lt Bruce Morgan plus 31 personnel.
Dhahran Flt Lt Andy Thomson plus 7 personnel.
Bahrain Flt Lt Paul Higgins plus 23 personnel,
Minhad Flt Lt Jeff Green plus 3 personnel.
Seeb Fg Off Woodward plus 2 personnel.
Thumrait Flt Lt Roly Barth plus 3 personnel.
BAMF. Four teams of 6 contingency personnel were transferred to MAMF, denuding the Base organisation of so many staff a 3-shiﬁ system had to be adopted. Whenever possible, assistance was sought from 4624 Auxiliary Squadron from RAF Brize Norton. Many of the loads were a mixture of vehicles and ﬂat ﬂoor unit freight to allow the maximum number of passengers to be deployed on each ﬂight. With these aircraft departing at very close intervals the shifts were under relentless pressure to meet 'chox' times.
The operational tasking in support of Operation GRANBY during 1990 continued unabated. In addition to maintaining support for the existing airheads, new deployments were announced. A further Tornado GR1 Squadron (617 Squadron) was sent to Tabuk and the advance parties of 7 Armoured Brigade were despatched to Al Jubayl; a sizeable hospital move to Bahrain was also completed. This workload, coupled with the MOD desire to maintain normal tasking, again placed the human and material resources of UKMAMS under enormous strain.
MAMF. Many of the vehicles and support equipment used in the Gulf by UKMAMS had been deployed for 6 weeks and had been subjected to rigorous conditions. Therefore, MAMS Engineers were exceptionally busy servicing ACHE at the airheads. This job was made more difficult by the loss of Sgt Ash Ladva, who began his resettlement course and reduced the pool of engineers available for duty in the Middle East. On 6 September the commitment at Bahrain was reduced from 24 to 8 men; similarly the Akrotiri reinforcement was lowered to 10, including 4 contingency personnel, and remained at this level through to the end of the month. (Rumour has it that this was achieved due to all Akrotiri personnel exhausting their leave entitlement!). At Tabuk a joint UKMAMS/5 Mobile Aerial Port Squadron (5 MAPS) movements detachment was formed. This worked to great effect dealing with all RAF and USAF transport aircraft during the deployment.
Another new base, Al Jubayl, opened on 28 September following the decision to send the 7th Armoured Brigade to the Gulf. Two teams of MAMF personnel, led by Flt Lt Simon Fletcher, were sent to form this detachment, working alongside 4 MAPS from Germany.
BAMF. The Base Flight struggled valiantly to meet their ever increasing task, despite having to lose manpower to MAMF for mobile commitments. A slight lull in activity in the middle of the month was the calm before the storm and the 7 Armoured Brigade deployments dictated the 3-shift system was maintained. To avoid bulking out at Lyneham the preparation of 22 Field Hospital was carried out at South Cerney by 6 personnel from MAMF/BAMF. The shifts were under sustained pressure throughout September, and the loss of personnel to MAMF meant the 3-shift system had to be continued to give sufficient manpower to meet the tasking rates. A large percentage of the aircraft departing Lyneham left in either the 17C or l7F role. These roles demanded that the shifts were reliant on each other to build as many pallets as possible, in addition to those that needed loading, during their 12 hour duty. Failure to do so prevented the oncoming shift from operating adequately with aircraft conflictions or busy outbound programmes. All the shifts had to load many items of equipment they had not moved before: these included a Volvo tractor, mechanical diggers, fuel bowsers and Long Range Insertion Craft (LRIC). They also had to handle Heavylift's Belfast aircraft which carried loads too large for the Hercules aircraft to the Gulf, and supported the transfer of torpedoes and their ancillaries to Cape Canaveral in Florida. Moreover VCIO and TriStar aircraft were turned round on 6 occasions as RAF Brize Norton had limited operating hours due to runway and aircraft parking pan repairs!
The announcement in late September of the deployment of 7th Armoured Brigade to Al Jubayl by the Secretary of State for Defence subjected the RAF AT force to a further surge of intense pressure throughout October, Similarly UKMAMS toiled relentlessly to avoid being overwhelmed by the ever increasing human and material demands placed on our movements organisation in support of Operation GRANBY. Without a doubt the continuing motivation, spirit, camaraderie and teamwork displayed by MAMF, BAMF and STF were the overriding factors that enabled the objectives of MOD and HQSTC to be achieved.
MAMF On 5 October the Squadron's commitment at Al Jubayl rose from 12 to I8 men; remaining at this level until 17 October when 6 of the Contingency team returned to RAF Lyneham. The Thumrait detachment ﬁnally closed down on 24 October, this was the result of the Jaguars of 6 Squadron moving forward to Bahrain. This redeployment was achieved using USAF AT aircraft, 3 Mobile Aerial Post Squadron (3 MAPS) and further personnel from Contingency teams Again this task reﬂected the particularly close co-operation and liaison between UKMAMS and the various MAPS teams that was a feature of movements operations at each of the Gulfairheads. The ﬁnal major development in October came at the end of the month when 10 men were despatched to Riyadh; their task was to set up and co-ordinate the daily KC1 and in-theatre C130 resupply system from King Khalid Airport.
BAMF The shift's fought a constant battle throughout October to prepare and load freight for the 3 daily Gulf resupply B707s, in addition to the Operation GRANBY 'specs' and routine MOD schedules. A brief ﬂirtation with the 4-shift system was terminated abruptly by the need to deploy 24 Contingency personnel to assist MAMF at Al Jubayl and Thumrait. Furthermore, 'D' Shift was taken out of the shift cycle to man an autonomous 24 hour palletisation operation on the Calne Strip, they unloaded, manifested, palletised and load-planned the large, awkward and bulky RE equipment that accounted for 27 C Mk 3 aircraft loads alone.
On 2 November the KC1 schedule flew into King Khalid Airport in Riyadh to start the new resupply system. The system worked with few problems for UKMAMS, however, the team size had to be increased to 13 during November in order to cope with the workload. In order to permit a greater turnround of personnel in the Gulf, and to enable the Flight to cope better with the normal MOD tasking, a major effort was made to increase the MAMF manning to 100%. Extra personnel were transferred from BAMF to MAMF and by the end of the month only one vacancy was left on Mobile, which was planned to be ﬁlled by January.
BAMF. The duty shifts ﬁnally returned to their normal 4-shiﬂ pattern at the beginning of November. The much needed respite gave all the personnel a brief but well-earned break, stand down being offered for the ﬁrst time since August. However, with further manpower being lost to MAMF and a progressive increase in tasking during the month the pressure, previously experienced by BAMF during Operation GRANBY, returned. In addition to the C 130s, the shifts handled the Anglo Cargo Boeing 707s, relying on their ALMs (who were ex-UKMAMS personnel - Al Storey, Bob Turner, Mike Rowan and Hugh Curran) for guidance during the preparation and loading of the aircraft pallets and P1Ps. The regular shuttle of the 707 into RAF Lyneham also gave the shifts regular experience with the Main Base Transfer Loader (MBTL).
MAMF. The major task during December was to ensure that the maximum number of MAMF personnel managed to get some of the 23 days Christmas stand down as directed by HQSTC. Therefore, a major turnround of men was necessary throughout the month. Between 2-8 December OC UKMAMS visited all of the MAMS Detachments in the Gulf. The manning of King Khalid Airport was reviewed and was subsequently raised to 24 personnel who were organised into 3 shifts, each with an ofﬁcer and F S. A new post was created at Al Jubayl from 2 December when a SNCO (Floyd Patterson) was tasked to work at Jubayl Port in order to control the call forward of Army freight to Al Jubayl Air Base.
BAMF. As the deadline for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait moved ominously closer so the tempo of the continuing deployment and resupply of British Forces increased. Even when the RAF AT force was given a short Christmas break, UKIVIAMS personnel in BAMF, MAMF and STF were fully committed to handling civilian aircraft chartered to ﬂy throughout the holiday period. The C130 ﬂeet was bolstered by aircraft and crews from Belgium and Spain but despite the extra airlift, the backlog of freight in the UK for the Gulf units continued to grow. The shifts managed to remain on a 4-shiﬁ system during December, however, leave was seriously curtailed so that sufficient personnel were available to meet the heavy tasking rates. The shifts toiled throughout the month to build loads ahead of the published programmes knowing that up to 3 B707s taking 39 pallets and a large amount of belly freight had to be handled. To deal with outsize loads, the Heavylift Belfast and Guppy came into Lyneham on alternate days, these aircraft being handled on TFD and Disused North.
The Coalition Forces' ultimatum, calling for Iraq to withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait by 15 January was ignored by Saddam Hussein and his military. Therefore, the following evening saw large scale aerial strikes against targets in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, a strategy that continued throughout the rest of the month. The equipment and support needed by the British Forces prior to the outbreak of hostilities led to intensive periods of activity at RAF Lyneham and throughout the Gulf airheads. As well as the AT ﬂeet being used to maximum effect, the MOD made extensive use of civilian charter aircraft including 707s, DC8s, 747s, Belfasts and a CL44 Guppy. Consequently the month, like so many during Operation GRANBY, subjected all UKMAMS personnel to considerable periods of sustained pressure; the despatch of 2 or more aircraft per hour was not unusual and widebody and C130 operations were frequently conducted simultaneously. To alleviate some of the workload and allow further experienced full-time movements personnel to be transferred to the Gulf, the Secretary of State for Defence authorised the mobilisation of 4624 Auxiliary Squadron from RAF Brize Norton to help at the UK airheads and in Cyprus. In the Gulf all movement of in-theatre MAMS personnel was stopped. Throughout the month all detachments except for Seeb were reinforced, and 2 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) were opened.
February saw the Gulf War continue with coalition aircraft bombing targets in Iraq and Kuwait in preparation for the land offensive that ﬁnally began on 23/24 February. Surprisingly for the AT ﬂeet, the tasking experienced during early and mid January slackened off throughout the month, despite the land battle having commenced. The work of our own AT ﬂeet reduced signiﬁcantly as the month progressed; however, the shifts still had Belgian and Spanish C130s to load for Operation GRANBY and also handled twice weekly German Air Force C160s that supported the Royal Marines Winter Deployment exercise in Norway. The ﬂow of aircraft was monitored to ensure there was sufﬁcient spacing between outbound frames, particularly Anglo Cargo and Tarom 707s. The shifts remained on a 3-shift system, a signiﬁcant number of personnel being Auxiliaries who had been mobilised to bolster the trade's numbers and release further full-time Movements personnel for service in the Gulf.
As the war continued the mobile workload remained very light in the Gulf and also on other tasking; the ban on roulement remained in force. Following the start of the land campaign however, a 4 man team was tasked to a new FOB known as LZO4. This FOB was north of the original FOB, Qaysumah, and was run in support of the British 1st Armoured Division from 23-28 February. In addition a 6 man team, including FS 'Polly' Parkin, was tasked into Kuwait City on 28 February on the ﬁrst RAF C130 to arrive there after the cessation of hostilities.
Following the cessation of hostilities in the Gulf, with mercifully light casualties for the British troops and the allies, the AT ﬂeet and its supporting elements were dedicated to returning our forces to the UK and BAOR. This led to a huge increase in tasking for the RAF's C13Os, VC10s and TriStars, particularly as the charter contracts with the civilian airlines ran out and were not renewed. Huge recoveries had to be undertaken from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Oman; UKMAMS personnel were re-distributed in-theatre and extra members of 4624 Auxiliary Squadron were drafted from BAMF to help with the extra work in the Gulf. At Lyneham a steady return to normal working practice and hours was evident, allowing STF to run training courses, although the shifts remained on a 3-shiﬁ pattern.
MAMF. Following the ceaseﬁre, tasking in the Gulf increased considerably as the job began of returning all the men and equipment to home bases. This month saw the closure of the MAMS detachments at LZO4 and Kuwait Airport, and the opening and subsequent closing of 2 more natural surface FOBs (known as LZ05 and LZ06) within the Kuwait region. MAMF roulement was re-established, although in-theatre movements control of MAMF personnel still rested with HQ BFME. Out of theatre mobile tasks ranged from Romania to Turkey, Diego Garcia and Australia.
BAMF As already mentioned, 15 Auxiliaries were transferred from BAMF to MAMF to help the mobile teams. The return of the reforce Q-Sup-LLS and the reduction in numbers on shift, and the continuing need for contingency team members at the airheads at Al Jubayl, Dhahran and the FOBs prevented any possibility of returning to a 4-shiﬂ system. After the relaxation of the loading and DAC rules for Operation GRANBY, normal standards and regulations had to be adhered to for MOD scheduled aircraft that began to reappear on the ﬂying programme.
MAMF. 18 Mobile personnel deployed to Incirlik/Diyarbakir (Turkey/Iraq) in support of Operation SAFE HAVEN. Other tasks included the recovery of a Deltic engine from Sigonella, the recovery of SatCom equipment from Eglin AFB and a Royal Navy crew changeover at Norfolk, Virginia.
BAMF. This month heralded the return of BAMF onto 4 shifts for the ﬁrst time since 8 January. Numbers were low initially but a large proportion of our individuals drifted back into work during the month, having returned from contingency team duty on MAMF and taken post-Operation GRANBY stand down. The last 5 No 4624 Auxiliary Squadron personnel remained until their demobilisation date on 30 April when they returned to Brize Norton, the 'part-timers' having been of exceptional value during the last 4 months. First indication of BAMF's involvement with the crisis in Turkey and Northern Iraq came with the creation of freight bays for Incirlik and Diyarbakir. By the third week in April it was announced that 3 Commando Brigade was to deploy to Turkey and Iraq as part of Operation SAFE HAVEN. The opening window at Diyarbakir for our C130s restricted the ﬂeet to hourly departures between 2100 hrs and 0800 hrs. This placed immense pressure on the shifts to meet this tasking rate which was in excess of anything experienced during Operation GRANBY.
MAMF. Apart from the commitment to Operation SAFE HAVEN, the mobile tasking was quite light, the only notable tasks being a Logs ﬂight to Kirtland AFB and the closure of HQ BFME in Riyadh.
BAMF. MOD schedule tasking was maintained although the utilisation of the Belize aircraft on 3 consecutive weeks by the ODA led to a spec DC8 task. The Operation BANNER programme caused an immense amount of work as the VC10s again failed to undertake their planned tasks and the Army's requirements changed radically.
For the ﬁrst time in over 10 months the Squadron was able to relax and begin to unwind; outbounds for the shifts had dropped to just 4 a night but no-one was complaining. Mobile continued to man detachments in Turkey and Kuwait. Amongst the other tasking there included a task to the Isle of Man to deploy and recover the Red Arrows; McGuire AFB to deploy parade personnel for the New York parade; and Montejo in Portugal to deliver an engine for an unserviceable aircraft. With the publication of the Operation GRANBY Honours List, the following UKMAMS personnel received the following awards:
Squadron Leader Chris Hewat
Commendation - AOC in C HQSTC
Flight Sergeant Frank Breithaupt
AOC in C
Flight Sergeant Ray Ralph
Flight Sergeant Alan Soane
Flight Sergeant John I'Anson
Sergeant Derek Grayson
Sergeant Alan Randle
Sergeant Steve Burke
Sergeant Martin Liggett
Corporal Ian Dixon
Corporal D Roberts
Corporal Tom Brown
Corporal Steve Moore
Corporal Ade West
Senior Aircraﬂman Charlie Warden
MAMF. All UKMAMS Engineers returned from the various Gulf and Turkish detachments, where they had spent many of the past few months. Cpl Laing completed a week's detachment at Hull Docks, supporting the Army detachment working on RAF vehicles returning from the Gulf by sea. All Turkish and Gulf airheads gradually closed during July with Incirlik being the last in Turkey on 23 July and Dhahran in the Gulf on 31 July. MOD tasking was minimal during the month, allowing most MAMF personnel to take leave.
BAMF. BAMF experienced one of its quietest months for some considerable time as operational ﬂights to the Gulf and Turkey came to an end. Although the routine MOD schedules to Gibraltar, Belize, Cyprus and those in support of the Operation BANNER programme continued, there were minimal exercise ﬂights.
MAMF. Aﬁer a protracted build up, 4 x 6 man teams were deployed in support of Operation WARDEN. Two teams deployed to Cyprus, one to Turkey and one to RAF Coltishall.
BAMF. August will be remembered by all on UKMAMS, but especially by those BAMF personnel involved, for the historic day of 8 August when a western hostage held in Beirut, namely John McCarthy, was released after over 5 years in captivity and ﬂown by VCIO into RAF Lyneham, to be met by his family, the Station Commander and the world's media. Operation WARDEN commenced in August and involved the deployment of Jaguars and their support equipment and personnel from RAF Coltishall to Turkey as a peacekeeping measure against Iraq attacking the Kurds in Northern Iraq/Southern Turkey. All aircraft leﬁ Lyneham to collect loads at RAF Coltishall before ﬂying via Cyprus to Incirlik in
My wife and I were married on 21 July 1990 and we spent our honeymoon touring in Egypt. We were in Cairo on the 3 August when we saw a Ferrari driving around with the occupants hanging out of the car waving the Kuwaiti flag. Eventually when we saw an English newspaper, we found out that Iraq had invaded Kuwait.
I was a corporal on A-Shift BAMF at the time and knowing that Britain's response would be to deploy troops or aircraft to the Gulf, I knew that Lyneham would be heavily involved. Once again UKMAMS would be living up to it's unofficial motto of 'First in - Last Out'. Despite what any other unit might say, it was a Hercules carrying a MAMS team that deployed to the Gulf first!
MAMS Landrover at Riyadh - suitably decorated!
My actually involvement with the Gulf started on 10 Aug when I went into work to the "organised" chaos that had taken over. Normally the shift pattern was 2 days, 2 nights, and 4 off (12-hour duties). Well this had gone out the window after a day and we were now working 2 days, 2 nights, and 2 off. This later changed to 3-3-3. I was initially working in the passenger section looking after passengers and their bags. Later on I ended up working in Load Control, collating the aircraft paperwork and producing trim (load) sheets.
At Christmas 1990 I managed to be get 2 days leave (Christmas and Boxing days). BIG MISTAKE. While I was away, the Mobile flight needed reinforcements and each shift had to provide 3 people. As I wasn't there, I 'volunteered' for a month in Riyadh. As the UN deadline ran out 10 days after we were due to arrive, we were told that the month might last a bit longer.
The 3 January, when the rest of the station came back from their leave, saw the lucky volunteers touring round the station getting all their kit together. Clothing stores to draw 6 NBC suits and 3 canisters for the respirator (don't take them out of the protective covering until told to - they are in short supply); Medical centre (how many jabs can you fit in one arm); RAF Regiment to learn how to use our weapon, the 9mm pistol, and refresher training on how to survive a chemical or biological attack; Admin (have you made a will).
The Regt told us that as there had been an error with the ammunition supply, we could either use our 26 rounds (2 magazines) on the range to practice with or take them to the Gulf! Apparently the Army was now responsible for ordering all ammunition for the 3 Services and as they no longer used 9mm they didn't think anyone else did. So none had been ordered!
5 January we report to Lyneham for transport to Brize Norton and our shiny Tri-Star flight. The inside of the Tri-Star had been converted so that it could carry fright and passengers together. The aircraft could carry upto 20 pallets and ours was carrying 16 freight pallets, 4 of seats. It took 6 hours to get to Riyadh and we arrived in the middle of the night. The Tri-Star was offloaded, back loaded with freight and pax bound for Germany or the UK and then departed.
Riyadh had been set up as the "hub at the centre of a supply wheel". The Tri-Star brought the freight from the UK. It was then transferred to a mini fleet of Hercules who would then ferry it to the various Gulf bases at Dhahran, Tabuk, Dubai, Al Jubail, Seeb and Al Quaisumah and any of the small desert landing strips. These were in addition to the direct re-supply flight to those locations. The freight they brought back was then loaded to the next nights Tri-Star that would return to the UK via Germany. As the RAF Hercules were in short supply (what a surprise) we had 2 New Zealand Hercules working with the RAF Det. The Kiwi movers worked with us as an integrated part of the MAMS det.
2 Tristars on the pan at Riyadh. The pink one was used for air-to-air refuelling. The other was a normal freighter.
The RAF det were working from King Khalid International Airport (KKIA). We were based in a new terminal building, which was partially completed. At first it was just the Hercules (RAF and Kiwi), 101 Sqn VC10 tankers and 216 Sqn Tri-Star tankers. When war looked more likely, we were joined by 205 General Hospital and all their attendant units. The airport was still being used for some civilian flights. The other military user of the airfield was France with some Transals. They were totally separate from us.
The working pattern was the same as at Lyneham 2,2 and 2. All went well for the next few days until the UN deadline passed without Iraq withdrawing from Kuwait. Our normal nightly Tri-Star had arrived and was being turned around as usual. Then the air raid warning was given. The air war had started in the early hours of 15 Jan 1991. There was mad frenzy of trying to contact the teams on the aircraft pan, putting on NBC suits and respirators (yes they had been unwrapped despite what the suppliers had told us). We trooped down to the concourse on the ground floor of the airport and sat around waiting. Someone pointed out that the people who had decided that this area was the shelter had not chosen too wisely. The front of the terminal was plate glass! Anyway nothing happened, the all clear was given and we set back to loading the aircraft. Apparently the first wave of bombers had just struck and the warning had been given just in case of any retaliatory strikes that might happen. The air raid was sounded about 3 times that night. As I remember when the war ended I saw a report saying that the air raid had gone off 63 times.
It was quickly announced that there was would be no aircraft movements other than the fast jets. The Tri-Star and all Hercules flights were suspended for 3 days. We were sent back to our accommodation compound to watch the war unfolding on Saudi TV. Not that we found out much as the TV was heavily censored. Finally it was realised that if the air war was to carry on then resupply flights would have to resume. The fast jets couldn't fight with out some help from the rest of the air force. We now started the normal resupply procedures only there was a greater sense of urgency now. We still had about 2 air raid warnings a night. The satellites would pick up the signs of a Scud missile launch and put out a general warning until it became apparent where the target was.
We handled a number of foreign aircraft that were used t evacuate the countries embassy staff. A Portuguese Herc was held up because the Saudis wouldn't let the staff go until they had cleared immigration. The Portuguese Ambassador pointed out that "there was a war on" and they were going what ever because of the threat of a missile attack. With that a Scud alert was sounded. We guided the civilians to the shelter where we sat and waited in our NBC suits and respirator. Some of the Portuguese had respirators but the majority including many children didn't. It was
The damaged nursery about 1 mile from the compound housing the MAMS det.
decided that if the missile was carrying a chemical agent then the children would be put in casualty bags until the threat had passed. That was all that could be done, as we had no spare respirators. Luckily this and all the other missiles were carrying normal explosives.
In the event only 1 Scud came down anywhere near the RAF det in Riyadh. It landed during the night near a nursery / children's school about 1 mile away from the compound we had moved to. The building was quite badly damaged. I managed to sleep right through the whole alert and woke to find that the compound had spent the night in the underground car park.
When the war ended, the race started to be the first Hercules to land at Kuwait City. KKIA launched a flight carrying staff and some stuff for the British embassy. Diplomats first! But the Hercules being used by the Special Forces, which had declared an emergency as it was supposedly running short of fuel and landed at Kuwait to refuel, beat them. The flight from KKIA carried 4 MAMS people to set up the Movements Det Kuwait.
The wreckage of the British Airways 747 at Kuwait airport
Wrecked hangar at Kuwait airport, taken from a Hercules while it was taxying
I managed to get a seat on one of the resupply flights to Kuwait via Al Jubail. Unfortunately it broke down at Al Jubail and that looked like the end of my trip until a Kiwi Hercules landed and said they were going to Kuwait and I could jump on with them. Although it was mid afternoon, most of the flight was spent in darkness flying through the burning oil fields of Kuwait. The Iraqis had set fire to the oil wells as they retreated. I had about 10 minutes to look around at Kuwait airport. Just long enough to see the remains of the British Airways Jumbo jet the had landed at Kuwait just the invasion was happening. It was bombed by the Americans in the air war.
Onloading the FUCHs force at Ali Al Salem. Just visible at the rear of the aircraft are FS Dave Roberts and Cpl John Belcher
The only other place that I saw in Kuwait was the Ali Al Salem (AAS) air base. FS Dave Roberts and I were detailed to recover the RAF Regt and Army NBC recce team (FUCH's Force, after the type of vehicle they used). AAS had been bombed by the Allies, each of the HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelters) had a hole in the roof. These were meant to be bomb proof! We made 2 lifts into AAS and it was planned to recover the rest of the team the next day.
When we got back to KKIA my boss (Fg Off Erica Best) asked if I was ready to go home? Was I! A month det had lasted for almost 3 months. I flew home on the 25th March 1991 on a Hercules non-stop to Lyneham. There were 2 other passengers, another Mover (FS Ray Ralph) and a Signaller. He was escorting a Landrover and radio equipment. The only other freight was a captured Iraqi Anti Aircraft gun. This trophy is now on display next to an Argentine mortar from the Falklands outside the UKMAMS HQ building at RAF Lyneham. We landed at Lyneham to a rapturous welcome. . . from HM Customs and Excise! The welcoming parties had stopped weeks before.
Approaching the burning oil fields and a view of several oil wells that are on fire
The war for me was a surreal experience. We were at war but living among civilians who were carrying on as if nothing was happening. At one stage we were living in a top hotel with visiting businessmen yet we were walking around carrying pistols, NBC suits and respirators. (We had to buy small civilian rucsacs to hide the suits and weapons when were out and about). Driving back to the hotel one night we saw what looked like a fire works display in the distance. We realised that it was Patriot missile that had been launched at an incoming Scud. Yet everyone carried on driving as if nothing was happening. God only knows what would have been the outcome if it had been carrying a chemical agent.
One good thing did come from the war - my son was born 9 months and 3 days after I returned!
Note - Ali Al Salem was later used as the base for RAF Tornadoes flying in support of the UN embargo on flights by the Iraqis under Op Bolton / Resinate.
Ali Al Salem - 1991
All photos - (c) John Belcher