It is 25 years since the 1991 Gulf War when British troops contributed (OP GRANBY) to the successful Allied operation which prevented Saddam’s invasion of Saudi Arabia (DESERT SHIELD) and then liberated Kuwait (DESERT STORM).
Capt Tim Purbrick commanded a Troop of Challenger Main Battle Tanks during the 1991 Gulf War. This blog is written from his diaries, notebooks and a tape recording he made during the war.
The blog will follow his work up to the war and then the war itself, day by day 25 years on.
19th January 1991
We needed to up-armour our tanks. A Henry Ford production line was set up in the desert and we drove our tanks through the day long programme to fit 80cm deep boxes of Chobham plates onto the sides of the tank. They were like Meccano sets. We continued working into the night under arc lights. Not very tactical at only 150km from the border, we are well within Scud and bombing range. It is rather ironic since we practiced so hard during the ‘peace’ to be tactical and now that there’s a war on we’re firing up arc lights at night and making a huge noise. Al Beveridge, the QM(Tech) of the 14th/20th Hussars was there. I had last seen him on the Prison Guard Force at the Maze in Northern Ireland, a tour that they had finished without incident. The additional tonnage of armour seemed to have only a minor performance delta for the tanks, so we were quite happy to feel even more secure than we already did and still belt along at 40km/h.
The Doc, Capt Andy Fernando, came around for a talk on the pills and jabs we are taking and getting. Apparently we are going to be immune to anthrax for two years after we have had all three jabs. We practiced with IV jabs. I missed the vein in the plastic arm three out of four times.
We also got a mod to the twin 55 gallon barrel mounting. Another bright spark had come up with the idea of fitting long range fuel tanks to the tanks. Essentially, this was just stealing the Soviet idea of tying on a couple of 55 gallon drums to the rear of the vehicle to add range, in particular in case the logistical tail was not able to keep up with a fast paced war. To refuel the vehicle, we had to unhitch a latch, swing the drum in its bracket up onto the rear decks of the tank, and let gravity pour the fuel into the Challenger’s fuel tanks via an attached nozzle and hose. The new mod included a better lock for the drums and a decent fuel-to-tank hose which meant we didn’t get covered in diesel when fuelling. We buttered up the welders and they put another water jerry can carrying bin on the side of the food bin. It might look like a mobile tinker’s camp but it was going to do the job for us. Anyway, additional bins were like stand-off armour – surely.
O Group points. Coalition SF launched attacks at 0100hrs on strategic targets. Iraq launched 8-12 Scuds at Israel – 1 at Haifa, 2 at Tel Aviv, 1 in the sea, 1 in unpopulated areas, 1 at Nazareth, 1 in Iraq and the rest unaccounted for. 3 Scuds were launched at Dahran – 1 hit the airfield, 1 was destroyed by Patriot and 1 went AWOL. When the Iraqis shelled north east Saudi, US A-10 Warthog tank killers went in and took out the whole of the Iraqi artillery position. It was reported that Syria had permitted Israeli overflights on bombing missions in Iraq. All quite odd. Start taking NAPS – Nerve Agent Pre-Treatment Sets – tablets. Expect a slight rash and the runs. Check armpits.
I wrote home and asked for a replacement Swiss Army knife with two blades and a can opener to be sent to me after the one I had got lost in the desert somewhere.