Home comforts in Patrol Base Clifton

Lance Corporal Hylands at PB Clifton

Lance Corporal Hylands at PB Clifton

LCpl James Hylands (39), from Shaw, Oldham is a TA soldier who is currently serving with 8 Troop, 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) on Operation HERRICK 17.  He deployed along with the rest of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Engr Regt) as part of Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, at the beginning of September 2012. Whilst on tour the squadron is know as Engineer Close Support Squadron 1, which covers the northern areas of operation of Task Force Helmand (TFH).

Change of scenery

The troop requirements at Patrol Base (PB) Clifton have taken a different turn of direction within the last week. Task requirements from further afield in Helmand have been made, and the original group of 28 men has now been reduced to ten to continue with PB jobs. For some members this will be a look at life in other Check Points (CPs)/PBs, and a change of scenery, which will break the monotony up of a six-month tour nicely, for others it will be the challenge of a new task albeit in a new location. Certainly up to Christmas it looks like troop movement to other areas will be happening, some members have been ear-marked for larger projects taking them into 2013 before we will see them again, they have already packed and gone.

PB life is a mixed bag of events to be honest; you have to experience it to appreciate the effects it can have. The full spectrum of emotions which humans display are touched in one way or another, from the highs of completing a task or being a dangerous environment to the lows of missing friends and family at home, all are experienced from one day to another here. The sight of poverty in the surrounding areas is evident and it often reminds you how lucky we are back home, essential basics and sanitation to locals are in denial but life just continues as normal.

Life and luxuries

As a quick insight into PB life, the run of the mill pace of life we have (excluding large tasks and projects) the days normally starts around 6.30am.  Your own physical training is the norm most mornings, which lasts around 45 minutes followed by a shave and shower. The shower facilities consist of a tent with shower heads dotted around inside it. Water is pumped from a bore hole well (deep in the ground) through a series of filter units (Stella meta units) into two 5000 litre water holding tanks (pillow tanks), from here it is feed into a kerosene heater which provides heat to the water. Outside the shower areas, directly to one side is the wash sinks. These are like large trough tubs with a number of taps attached providing warm water, it’s clean enough to drink but people choose not to.

Warm showers are a luxury.

Warm showers are a luxury.

The site has been winterised so is covered by large aggregate to aid in drainage, this in its self is a struggle to walk in from one area to another and can only be compared to walking in deep snow back home. The accommodation on camp consists of a row of ten-man tents located behind a series of blast walls; these provide ample room for cot beds which come complete with fly nets surrounding them. The floor is a plastic based surface which sits about 25mm high consisting of a flat surface with slots on top followed by a honey comb base underneath, this design in its self keeps it clean and any dust on the surface clears away quickly.

Home comforts - a proper toilet seat.

Home comforts – a proper toilet seat.

Electricity is supplied on site through mobile units 415v, 240v and 110v is available so electrical products can be used and charged up for personal use in the accommodation areas.  Toilet facilities are in the form of a wooden hut complete with a toilet seat inside; a chemical type bag is presented over the top of it which is later disposed of in a burn pit once used.  A ‘desert rose’ (urinal) is used frequently which is a deep hole with a drainpipe embedded in it, to which ‘wriggly tin’ roof sheets are used as a urinal draining away into the pipe, this in itself is adequate and clean enough for the usage it gets.

The cookhouse

The cookhouse

Finally the cookhouse which co-incidentally is the lad’s favourite place is a tent housing a choice of food served daily on paper plates with vacuum packed sealed cutlery provided with every meal. Served three times per day there is plenty of choice and the standards are similar to a good hotel back home. I hope this has shown a light on the way we live until next time.

Read about James here: Lance Corporal James Hyland

3 thoughts on “Home comforts in Patrol Base Clifton

  1. Thank you for sharing. It’s enlightening to read and hear about life on deployment, particularly where you are. I once had to go to Islamabad, Pakistan on a business trip (1990’s). Back then I was fearless, I took the advice from the office and wore appropriate clothing, but even that wasn’t enough and I drew attention at the airport. A white young woman traveling by herself was not normal and so I was interrogated by what seemed all branches of their military. They searched through my belongings, re-searched several more times, then I went through screening four times, was whisked to another office. I didn’t think I would make it out of the country, much less alive. I remember the poverty there still to this day with my photographic memory. The tents on the sides of the roads, the sandbag watch posts with men and machine guns, children and adults filthy, their clothing a tell-tale story of their impoverished state. Since I had lived amongst it in the Caribbean, it wasn’t new but it was worse. I felt as any westerner would, a stranger to the lands. My presence was obviously not welcome. Men stared, women glared. Children clung to their mothers. I was an intrusion to their otherwise normal life. Sitting back on the airline headed back to Gatwick, the stench was obvious in those confines. Men were allowed to smoke cigars even in first class, other smells lingered – someone had thrown up. I should have never eaten a meal but I took one bite of a rice mixed with who knows what. I spat it out into a napkin. Within minutes I developed a rash, my neck and face itched. Something in the food was wrong. I looked at the steward…… suspicion arose, were they trying to poison the stranger…. I went to the bathroom and washed my mouth out. When offered a drink, I asked for a sealed can, yet it came open, so for that long flight, I didn’t eat or drink. I ended up keeping a blanket over my head to try and breath from all the smoke and stench, each second seemed to tick by slower. No one knew that the company I worked for was building a power plant, bringing them much needed services and I was delivering the final document to seal the deal with an investor/government member. I am very glad for a different life, where we have the modern necessities to live comfortably.

    Stay safe and vigilant and God Speed Home. – Rachael Wren Grout

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  2. I have often wondered if there is anything any of you guys need and how I could send it to you. Especially anyone with nobody at home.

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