Desert Storm Part Six

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.


22nd September 1990

Saturday was a bit of a disappointment as we had gone up to the ranges to FIN commission the tank and, just as we had completed and passed all the pre-firing checks, the range was closed. That evening I went around to the SCOTS DG Mess and caught up with a raft of friends from Sandhurst.


23rd September 1990

On the ranges the next day things went badly wrong and we failed FIN commissioning. Hopefully, the tank will be fixed by tomorrow. Luckily, by Monday morning the necessary fixes had been made and we passed FIN Commissioning on Range 19. We drove round to Range 8B immediately for an FMX – Fire and Manoeuvre Exercise – and then to prep for a TOGS shoot in the evening. We hit all the targets but the boffins wanted us to go back and recommission the tank! This induced near panic as we were due to return back to Munster tonight – luckily we were allowed to go home. Unluckily I dropped my brand new Walkman in the mud which ended its short life and cost me DM48.


24th September 1990

It was sad, in a way, to be back in Swinton Barracks knowing that behind the hangar doors on the Tank Park were empty tank hulks. But it was good to be surrounded by our own kind again. I dropped in to see Recce Troop. I even managed to get some kit off Major Alan Woodbridge, our notoriously tight Quarter Master. I picked up a waterproof Walkman to replace the one I had trashed in the ranges mud yesterday. Lt Mark Cann, another 17th/21st Lancer, was attached to the SCOTS DG. But, he broke his collarbone in a Landrover accident on the ranges. Unfortunately for him that was the end of his chances of deploying. Lt Chris ‘Gungy’ Franklyn-Jones was stood up. Gungy was a thing. It was a very accurate nickname. But he’d been picked so off he went to join the SCOTS DG. Ann and Rosa Furstenberg came over to the Barracks in the afternoon. We went to the NAAFI then downtown Munster for tea before heading back to Glandorf for the night. I collapsed into bed absolutely knackered. After a day of country walks and good food I was back in Munster for the bus back to Fallingbostel the next evening.


27th September 1990

As we prepared for deployment to the Gulf, we had numerous visits from senior officers and politicians. On Thursday Gen Sir John Chapple, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) and the most senior soldier in the Army, visited with Lt Gen Guthrie and an entourage of Brigadiers and Colonels. In a successful attempt to demonstrate the presence of the 17th/21st Lancers everywhere CGS went he was met and surrounded by motto men. ‘My goodness,’ said CGS turning to Col Arthur, ‘what a lot of mottos you have with you’. We started painting the tanks in their puke yellow desert colours. It looked like a revolting colour. Col Arthur gave the officers a talk on leadership. We should educate ourselves, be professional, get our administration sorted out, be effective and adopt a leadership style. I sent the crews of 41 and 42 back to Munster for a 24 hour break. We’re going to get three or four days off next week as well. I went down to the Tank Park at 2230hrs to see the tanks being painted. My Troop was the next into the paint shop.