Desert Strom Part 18: Downtime

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

1st February 1991

The weather has brightened and was even a little hot today with a cooling breeze. The logistics are now getting sorted out and we’re back on fresh rations with so much water that we can now have bucket showers off the barrel again. We can also put our dhobi (laundry) in and get it back. All the home comforts are back on stream. We put on a towing demo for the Squadron today.

For the first time in four months Brad found out that he had been lugging around the wrong towing bar – as he’s a D&M Instructor it caused a lot of amusement! We’re a long way from the events in Khafghi and the ‘war effort’ as well. All we hear are aircraft overhead and the distant rumblings from the north which really must be bombing as the weather has cleared and it can’t be thunder. I have had a lot of letters about my appearance on TV following my interview with Martin Bell.

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Desert Storm Part 17: The West

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

25th January 1991

It was a bloody miserable day weatherwise. It rained so much so that it leaked through the bivvy and onto my bed. We had a Commander’s meeting. Martin Bell spoke to us for ten minutes on the press. I asked him not to ambush me if he was asking me questions on one subject and then sprang one on another. He said that it was not intentional and that I should just say that I’m not happy and he will stop. Not much news on the Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA). The CO said that we should be in no doubt that we were going in. My guess is 1st February. Intelligence: 16 Iraqi aircraft shot down; 6 Scuds launched – two at Riyadh, two at Dhahran and two at Israel, all were shot down, not one has had a successful hit in Saudi.

We had a brief on the press. There are 150 of them in Dhahran. Two Mobile Reporting Teams will deploy. Reports will be sent to a satellite at Div. A Lt Col will check all the film before it is transmitted. Martin Bell said that the US commanders of the operation were all Lts and Capts in Vietnam. They don’t want the same mistakes to be made. We were briefed on the move to the Assembly Area and the move through the breach into Iraq. Top cover as we take up the advance will be 40 A-10 Warthogs, an Apache Regiment and Spectre Gunships – converted C-130s with a 105mm belt fed gun and 5 x 40mm cannon – they fly in pairs. We will have air recognition panels for the back of the turret. The bypass policy is that we’re not interested in infantry, unless they might be a problem for A2, otherwise we’re looking for tanks. Two transport aircraft flew to Iran under a Combat Air Patrol. Saddam is claiming that we have used chemical weapons – this may provide him with an excuse to use his on us.

In the leaguer there was another briefing and an O Group to discuss the counter-attack operation that we are practicing tonight.

I took the Mossberg pump action shotgun onto the ranges, lined up three 55 gallon drums and put a hole in all three from 20 metres using the 1oz lead shot. I had an anthrax jab.

We heard on the news that a RAF Tornado bomber was shot down by a Patriot missile battery and the crew killed. Another Tornado was shot down during a low level bombing run on an Iraqi military airfield. It seemed like a suicide mission in the first place. Fly your heavy, bomb laden jet down the centerline of the enemy airfield at zero feet, drop your bomb over the middle, get even closer to the hard deck and max revs for your five star hotel in Bahrain. This time Flt Lts Peters and Nicholl came a cropper when, for whatever reason, the bomb didn’t fall off their plane when it should have done and the over laden plane became easy meat for the Iraqi air defence systems ringing the airfield. Luckily they had time to eject. Unluckily they were quickly captured. During their captivity they were tortured and forced to make on camera ‘confessions’ which were put on the TV by Saddam. It made us angry and even more determined to do our job.

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Desert Storm Part 16: The Move West

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

After up-armouring

After up-armouring.

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Desert Storm Part 15: The Air War Begins

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

11th January 1991

It was freezing on Friday morning. Made it difficult to force oneself up first thing. Father Sean came by to drop off a photo of me that he had taken during The Sun visit a few weeks ago. We had a service and communion in the leaguer. As Father Sean is Catholic we were absolved of all our sins. What a relief! Staff Smith has got some kind of nasty lurgie and is being casevac’d back home. James Moseley has taken over his Troop. An ND (Negligent Discharge) is now 14 day’s pay, it’s Brigade policy.

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Desert Storm Part 14: Five days from war

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

27th December 1990

We were back to work on Thursday. All decorations came down and were packed away. We did our Annual Service on the tank which involved a pack lift. I climbed into the empty engine bay and de-gunged it with a tank shovel. A filthy, oily, dust encrusted mess. It was the coldest day in Saudi so far. I didn’t take my jumper off all day and, in fact, I put a second one on in the afternoon. That night was the coldest one so far with a crisp north wind blowing down from Iraq. Even in my doss bag and bivvy bag I was freezing. It wasn’t helped by having really bad cramp in my left leg.

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Desert Storm Part 13

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

10th December 1990

On Monday morning, after a game of volleyball, we headed down to al-Jubail Airport which has been taken over by the US Marines’ attack helicopter unit. We had a briefing which was almost entirely given in acronyms we didn’t know.  We went out to have a look at their choppers. They’re as ancient as their tanks. The Super Cobra and the Huey have both been around since ‘Nam. The Marines really do seem to be the poor brother of the US Army. Something that really struck me were the piles of sweets and books and other stuff which was just lying around on tables. People could just take what they liked. I asked one of the Marines about it. ‘Oh that’s just stuff that the folks back home send through to us. Please take what you like we have tonnes of the stuff and you’d be doing us a favour’. Now that’s what I call public support and that’s what the Brigadier was talking about yesterday in the desert. I filled my pockets with candy. We also found a burger joint on the base so we headed off there for the full American experience.

At the evening O Group we heard that Saddam has released all the hostages he had taken when he invaded Kuwait and those who had been caught actually in Iraq. One of them was a brother officer in the 17th/21st Lancers who had been working in the British Embassy in Kuwait City and was captured during the Iraqi invasion.

I saw Piers in his Service Dress hat. I’ll get mine out tomorrow. Quite a strange thing to be wearing a Service Dress hat with combats but they wore them in the Western Desert so why not now. No mail from home as there’s snow on the ground in England.

Col Arthur came around with Sky News and The Observer. 4th Troop have been selected for tomorrow’s press call. The Sky reporter may be able to get a message to Hetty.

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Desert Storm Part 12

Capt Tim Purbrick 17th_21st LancersIt 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.

 

30th November 1990

On Saturday morning we were up at sparrow’s fart (early) to do some PT. Toby had an argument with the Camp’s PTI so we went for a jog under the auspices of the Squadron PTI. I picked up six months’ supply of razor blades and soap, an extra set of desert combats and a jumper. After doing a kit sort out I went off to the pool at US Camp 3 with Ed Smyth Osbourne, Alex Cormack and David Webb before heading back out to the desert.

Just as we arrived back we had 30 minute notice to move and we were straight into an exercise. The NBC alarms went off and we were in and out of NBC gear and respirators thereafter. It wasn’t helped by Saddam launching a test firing of 3 Scud Bs at an impact zone inside Iraq. The int says that two flew 520km to their impact area and the third malfunctioned and was destroyed in the air. Saddam is also developing the Al Abbas version of the rocket which will have extended range out to 800km and be explosive, chemical or nuclear capable – as if we weren’t in range already.

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