graham by suchenfz

VIEWS: 3 PAGES: 13

									Interview with (sergeant) Graham Harris

                      The full times and transcribed extracts, slightly edited to cut
                       the quotes down.


0.49 – 1.24: “I joined the TA because a colleague of mine when I worked as a
butcher joined the TA, and he basically said it was a good laugh. They did
amazing things with, you know, weapons, erm vehicles, machinery. They went
out on exercise in places I‟d never even heard of, they went abroad and did
exercise and to be honest the enticement was that it seemed to be something to
do better than going out in Barnstaple for a few drinks, you know – you can do
that as often as you want but it‟s always the same thing – whereas with the TA
you‟re learning stuff, you‟re meeting new people. So it was more of a life-style
change and a choice to do something a little bit different beyond the normal
really”

1.38 – 2.00: [on peoples reactions to joining up] “It was basically - at the time, I
mean this was about ten years ago, it was kind of giggled at to be honest
because you join the TA because you want to do something different but at that
time there was never any emphasis, or never any thought that you might get
called up so it was all sort of like “oh you‟re just doing it to be a part time soldier,
just to do a bit…cos you can‟t be bothered to go in the regular army and things
like that” whereas for me I had a good life, I had a good job, um, I lived in a nice
place…and I just wanted to do something a little bit different without disturbing all
that”

2.00 – 2.14: [still on peoples reactions] “So people were – some people, some of
the older generation were very sort of “well done, it‟s a good thing to do” – cos
back in their day there was national service. Erm, whereas some of the younger
people were a bit like “ well…what‟s the point?” really. So mixed feelings to be
honest.”

 2.33 – 3.03: [on going to Iraq] Yeah, it was, it must have been around about
eight years into my service… I had a couple of years out at one point because of
my job – didn‟t give me the freedom to do TA – and I came back and there was a
letter basically asking for volunteers to go on a tour to Iraq. And we had a chat
amongst us at the squadron, and a group of us decided that we wanted to go, we
wanted to go together rather than one person go on their own or something like
that…we decided that a group of us from the Barnstaple detachment would – or
Barnstaple squadron - would go together – and we all volunteered… I
remember getting home from Plymouth after going down to see my dad and
funnily enough there it was - big A4 brown envelope just confirming that, you
know, I‟d volunteered and here were your dates sort of thing. And that was it
then. After that it was all, sort of hit home and then you had to sort of tell your
work that you were definitely going, and you had to tell your family you were

                                           1
definitely going and you started training ready to sort of deploy out to sunnier
climates, so.”



“The lads, if you like, your friends and that, think it‟s quite daunting but quite
exciting because underneath… I think in every person - you play, you played
soldiers and you play guns as a kid - all the lads, didn‟t they, all had your own
machine gun noise. And everyone sort of, I think, would relish the opportunity but
there‟s only certain people that will actually take that step. Family, erm, were
quite upset because, you know, at the time it was a very dangerous – well it still
is – a very dangerous place to go to. So you need to get all your affairs in order
– wills, erm, finances, you know, next of kin – all that has to be done even though
you, you hope and pray that nothing bad‟s going to happen – so you really need
to sort your life out before you go so it puts a lot of things into perspective. That
you, you sort of trolley along day-to-day life never really being prepared for what
could happen and then all of a sudden you have to make sure you are prepared
just in case, so. Strange time actually.

[what age were you?] Crikey, this is a bit of a question in‟t it – um, went in 2004,
must have been twenty… twenty four – twenty four years old.

It‟s something everyone should do, in‟t it. You don‟t know what‟s round the
corner, hit by a bus or shot in the back, you never really know what could
possibly be, er, the end of your life. And it‟s something that until you start
thinking that you‟re getting old, shall we say, that you start looking at. Where,
you know, when that sort of thing happens, you sort it.”

5.33 – 6.28: [on preparations before the tour] “Well the TA – because it was
the… I think it was probably one of the biggest mobilisations that our regiment
had as a whole - they decided that it would be a good idea, which I stand by and
I‟m glad I did it, that we all did um some what we call Beat Up training with our
regiment at a place called Bovington in erm, Dorset. So they got everyone from
the regiment – so it wasn‟t just our squadron – there was A,B,C and ourselves
which is D squadron. They took us all to Bovington and they basically re-trained
us. Because as a, as a Territorial Army soldier you do get continual training but
it‟s, it‟s in fits and starts, it‟s small bits of training every so often – so we were
there, I think we were about there, for around a month, being trained again, to be
perfectly honest, for the „big push‟ over to Germany where we joined our
regiment which was the Royal Dragoon guards, a tank regiment, out in Germany.
And we went out there and did their version of Beat Up training and again for
another few months. Er, so we got involved – it was good, a good exchange to
see how it worked from being a TA Yeoman to working with the Regular Army.
And I suppose really I was quite surprised at how little the differences were as
opposed to surprised how big they were. I suppose in any big organisation be it
a work job, normal sort of civilian job, or army, there‟s still that same structure,

                                          2
there‟s still a manager, there‟s still a team leader that, you know, and you‟ve still
got that within the regular army. But it‟s obviously stricter. And decisions you
make won‟t affect how much revenue you make or, you know, whether you do
the right amount of sales, it‟s all to do with whether your decision you make and
the action you take will risk or save someone‟s life or could put someone in
jeopardy. So, I suppose it‟s looking at life as we know it but much more intently
and putting a much more bigger onus on how important life is. So you learn, sort
of that and you integrate quite well with the army, the regular army because they
see you as the toy soldier, as you are because you are just a TA soldier that just
does Wednesday nights and one weekend a month but you turn up and because
you are – A you volunteered, B you‟re keen, because you volunteered to do it
and it‟s something that you feel is right, um, that you sometimes, we felt we
excelled more so than the regular army because we chose to be there. Whereas
the Regular Army had no choice but to be there. So it was a good experience,
an eye-opening experience to meet the regular army and I think we gained a lot
of respect from them – I think at one point they said that they couldn‟t actually
deploy their regiment without our numbers – because they would have been
under strength – so without the Territorial Army – and as is the case across the
globe now – without the Territorial Army the British Army would be in a really
poor state. So it‟s nice and felt quite privileged and proud to be in that sort of
position.”


8.45 – 8.59: “A lot of coach journeys to, er, airports. The longest coach journeys
in the world. With the last few text messages you can possibly get off to people
at home because you‟ve still got a little bit of signal in Germany. Erm, and the
waiting process at the airports was just horrible, you know. Cos you‟re waiting to
go into something that‟s totally unknown. You can see the videos and you can do
the training in Germany, but until you actually get out to Iraq you‟re never going
to experience anything like it. So we basically got our flight – I forget the actual
name, believe it or not I forget the name of the airport now – but we flew out, and
we had a stop-over flight halfway across, and then we flew into Iraq body armour
on, helmets on. No lights on in a big military „Hercules‟, horrible rickety big blowy
machine erm – and we basically landed to an exceptionally hot place with all this
kit, masses of kit…erm, into another airport waiting for the coaches believe it or
not to come and pick us up…as you would do in any civilian holiday – you get to
your airport and then you go on your coach. But our coach had blacked out
windows, we had to wear, again, body armour and helmets. And we had armed
guards front and rear protecting obviously the coaches… each individual coach
had, I believe, one front and one rear. Just a big line of coaches full of regular
and Territorial Army soldiers driving through exceptionally hot, sandy, dusty place
which is just alien to anyone to be perfectly honest. I don‟t think, of all of our
number, that anyone – especially from the TA regiment – had ever been out on
operations like that before. They may have been to Kosovo or Bosnia, which
would be another hot, dusty climate, but there wasn‟t much of a war going on



                                          3
there – that was more of a peace-keeping, and – Iraq was still a very volatile
place and it was all very strange to us all, to be honest.”

10.56 – 11.12: “I think to be honest with you, the only way you - it is exciting
because you know for a fact that anything can happen at any time. And at this
point we had no weapons, we had no um ammo – that was still on its way to
Shaiba Log Base or was possibly even there actually…so we had to rely on the
guys on the ground that had the weapons and that. So we were basically
defenceless, to be honest. So we were at the mercy of whatever elements and
you know, whatever possible insurgents could do. And we were sort of at the
grace of these guys who were looking after us.”


But there‟s obviously adrenalin pumping through your veins. Over the past, you
know, three months, four months, you‟ve gained a huge amount of friends on that
one coach all of the guys that have – mainly the TS guys but also some of the
regulars. So, it‟s very mixed – you‟re scared, you‟re excited, you‟re anxious cos
you want to get somewhere where you know is safe where the walls are up and
the guards are on the posts so driving through Iraq in a coach – something like
Loverings or something like that – isn‟t the nicest thing in the world and what you
really want to do is to get there but you‟ve just flown for hours and hours and
hours and you‟ve just been asleep on a,on an airport floor that you‟ve only ever
seen on the news. It‟s a very strange feeling, probably one that is very difficult to
describe.




12.24 – 13.33: “We were going to a place called Shaiba Log Base which was the
big logistical British Army base. It also had, I know it had some Danes on there
as well and, um, I did actually see some Chinese at one point which was quite
strange. We were basically going to be there for 6 months, we actually ended up
being there for 7- through whatever reason, more important high-up people said
that‟s the way it‟s going to be so that‟s the way it was. We didn‟t really know
what our job was going to be…we knew that we went out with an armoured
regiment so there was the idea that we could be in armour (i.e. the Challenger 2
– the main battle tank). But when it came down to it we had a multitude of tasks
in the end that changed…we had to adapt and fit to the role that was needed. So
we were very open and versatile to whatever occurred. Um, the first job we did
when we were there was work in the DTDF, the detention facility. As outer
guards, as inner guards…as escorts for the, um, interrogation. We had to –
basically, we were basically to some degree prison wardens. We had to let
prisoners have visits, human rights etc, fair enough, um, so we had to make sure
that people coming in to the DTDF were searched correctly, and that - so
basically ended up as armed prison guards for the first couple of months, or first
month of our tour. Which was an eye-opening experience because by this point

                                         4
really we hadn‟t been out the gates a great deal. When you get there you do go
out o‟ the gates to, to shoot because you need to make sure your weapon is
accurate and that it‟s aligned etc and zeroed and you do need to acclimatise –
you can‟t just turn up and go straight to work because you‟re turning up to. er, an
environment where your body just is not used to. So you do have like a week of
acclimatisation where you do go for gentle runs and you do run in heavy kit just
to bring your body up to speed with what‟s going on. So you do all that and then
you‟re given your job which for us was the DTDF which was very interesting. I
actually met someone in the DTDF who I believe was from London who was a
detainee there. Um, because he‟d been smuggling arms. So but to go to him –
cos he needed to go to the toilet, or because he needed to be fed or because he,
you know, was going to go to be questioned – for him to speak to me in perfect
English with a London accent, was absolutely bizarre. So, erm, yeah, I met shall
we say British people that were Iraqi that were there for doing things to a country
they lived in – it was just unreal really, to meet someone. ”


16.00 17.00: [on duties] “They put us on a rota so that at one point you had a
night shift to looks after the DTDF and a day shift…but also within that you had
the QRF (quick reaction force) which would be stationed near the DTDF and they
would be on call to react to any problems…There were other squadrons doing
convoy duties which were „safe-guarding‟ water”

17.06 – 17.22: “one squadron was put onto tanks and he was actually out and
about in the „challenger 2‟ which was a fortress on wheels with a big gun on it –
so he was alright…”

You got to keep people occupied. I know it probably sounds silly but you‟d rather
be doing something than nothing. Because if something‟s happening time‟s
going by whereas on your down time all you can really do, if you‟re not down the
gym, is you‟re lying on your pit, getting some rest, cleaning your weapon, and
that‟s when you start thinking about home and that‟s when you start worrying
about this and you worry about that – when you‟re with the lads and you‟re
mucking in and you‟re doing a job believe it or not you‟re actually happier then.
There‟s no down time, cos the only down time you get is just think time –
sometimes it‟s easier not to think when you‟re out there.


18.33 – 20.00: “I remember one day the artillery were going out on „ground
dominance‟ just to basically have a presence on the ground, go around the local
area, meet and greet the locals…and just to get a bit of PR if you like, little bit of
goodwill going between the locals. I volunteered to go on it (they were one man
short). I was the only yeoman that went. We went out off the gates in land
rovers…we ended up stumbling across firstly a humongous, humongous „drop
off‟ basically of arms – of unexploded ordnance, unexploded bombs, unexploded
rockets…huge, huge amount of stuff that needed basic cleaning up and

                                          5
destroying. I‟d never seen, as far as the eye could see as the sun was going
down,you could just see bombs – everywhere, all over the floor, I‟d never seen
that before because again I‟d never really been out of the base. There‟s pockets
of it everywhere…just driving through the streets…not even a street, just driving
through the wilderness if you like, you‟d see destroyed tanks, like a destroyed
bus, destroyed cars…and then the car that you thought was destroyed would
actually be moving because it was just the way that – you know, there‟s no MOT
over there, there‟s no governing body that really cares if your car‟s in a
roadworthy condition or anything so it‟s just – you see this car come past you
with – just on its rims with no lights and a little man waving at you – just bizarre. ”

20.13 – 20.40: “We stumbled across a house, basically built of mud but with a
sky dish on it. I didn‟t even have Sky at home, and they had a sky dish, which
must have been getting a signal for their TV which they had inside, lashed onto a
mud hut! It was a family…a man and a woman and a couple of little kids…and
they were really pleased to see us, really friendly, and they brought out some tea,
chai I think they call it, and I got to be honest, it was horrible, and it was in a
horrible little type shot glass and it just looked like brown tea no milk nothing, and
it was really, really sweet and obviously you don‟t want to be rude because
you‟re , you know, in another country and it‟s other people‟s country that‟s got
their own habits, they got their own tea the way they like their tea and you just
got to get on with it. You can‟t take a sip and spit it out. So I pretended I liked it.
And it was vile. And I was yeah, very good, very nice, and he filled it up again.
And I had about three cups of this horrible, horrible tea before he invited us in
and we sort of got into his house and there was a rug on the floor so your boots
had to come off ideally, but with army boots, I mean they‟re on to stay on, it‟s not
like Velcro straps, I mean they‟re really on there. It took a long time to get me
boots off and I sit down with these people and we had guards, people patrolling
outside and that, it was good experience. But they all lived in this one – basically
one room. And they all seemed really happy and content – they all wore rags
and – but that‟s just the way they live and they don‟t know any different. ”

22.13 – 23.25: “I came away from Iraq with a huge change of thought in how
people are and what people want. The people in Iraq are happy to see you (I felt)
as long as you‟re doing something for them. As soon as you stop doing
something for them, or you ran out of water or you ran out of sweets to give
them, they either didn‟t want to know you or they got hostile. I suppose trying to
think back on it, remembering…we have gone into their country, we have
upturned which was, you know, a cruel dictator at the time thinking it was for the
best…and I still think it was for the best, but some people didn‟t. And we were
still „invaders‟ if you like in their country. We were still not their people and we
were in their country. And we are to a certain degree - we were protecting them,
we were helping them, we were putting up electricity pylons, you know, the
engineers where we were - making sure there were no arms dealers out there…
we were making sure there were no insurgency bombs around for kids…and
things like that. But, you can‟t explain that to people…we‟d find that very difficult

                                           6
in this country if people came across and dethroned someone at the minute, we
wouldn‟t want them here.

So I remember one day we were on an „op‟ and we were the outer perimeter
guard in our Land Rovers. We had plenty of water…it was to be a long day, it
was an all day event, an all day Op shall we say. And as the op grew on we
ended up getting a big following of children. And every so often when we could
we‟d chuck some water out the back for them and give them water and things.
And as the day went on obviously we started getting low on water, low on the
Crunchies, and you know, some of the finer things that we had to give
away…near the end of the day when the Op was being, um, run down these kids
again were following us, and we had nothing left, you know, we told them so, we
got nothing we have nothing left. Then we carried on, and we drove
around…there was some gunfire which we found out later was celebratory – so
we‟d left these kids behind and all of a sudden as we were going back onto the
line to leave, these kids, big gaggle of kids, came out from these two buildings
with these hugest rocks and started pummelling us with rocks! Luckily for me, my
visor was down on my, on my helmet – and I got hit in the face – or on the visor –
with this massive rock…and it was a kid that half an hour before I was standing
with, you know, having a photo taken cos I‟d just given him me last Crunchie.
You know, this Crunchie in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other hand and
he was happy as Larry, you know, bit of time later, there he is chucking a rock in
my face.

Very strange position to be in really. You never know whether to trust someone.
So you ultimately tend to distrust everyone, or I certainly did because if a kid can
turn around, you know, who, you know, throw a stone at you after only half an
hour ago being , you know, polite, and, you know, wanting your services, what
could a human being, a fully grown adult possibly have the capability to do if
they really thought about it? With bombs, with weapons, you know, so, traps
etc, booby traps – it sort of, I was quite distrustful after that, even of the locally
employed civilians that worked on the base. Cos again, you know, they
obviously were vetted by the army and, and that, and they were there to be given
jobs so they could support their family - so the British Army and the army base
basically gave them jobs to do the cleaning and to do the moving around of
equipment and, you know, they were lower end jobs with no real scope for
gathering intelligence on us but at the end of the day they were still walking
around our camp which we couldn‟t, couldn‟t lock our tent there was no door –
just a zip – you know all our personal belongings were in there and I even caught
one of them once - I chucked my trainers away cos I‟d run through some of the
most stickiest mud in the world, um I caught him wearing my trainers a day,
couple of days afterwards cos I just thought they were far too dirty to go off to
clean and bought a new pair and, um, you know, two days later he‟d gone
through the bins and there‟s my trainers so you got to wonder what, what was he
doing in the bins. Things like that.”



                                          7
27.15 – 28.29: “during the elections we were there to help. We weren‟t there to
police it ourselves, the Iraq government had police in place. We were there to
support them. We weren‟t there to take control, it was their country, their election.
It was strange, it was like we used to do in this country…everyone actually came
out in their smartest clothes to vote…it was a momentous occasion to be
involved in. We had to stay overnight that night in a police station. Wandering
around at night before the elections was daunting because you never knew what
to expect.”

30.45 onwards till end: “We got asked to transport supplies up to Al Amarrah the
majority of the TA multiple which I was lucky enough to be in, which was the 5th
multiple, all TA…we were crewing some of the vehicles that went out alongside
some of the regulars…and I suppose about 3 quarters of the way to Al Ammarah
you get a little bit, you start off you‟re on edge, you‟re ready you‟re going, but
after such, I mean it was hours and hours and hours of driving we were nearly
there and I remember my sergeant at the time looking down to me and saying
“oh look we‟re here” we had this new bit of kit…you know we‟re at so-and-so and
so-and-so and he mentioned this name of this village which I didn‟t hear the end
of cos as he said it a bomb went off on the right hand side about three vehicles
up from us. And it went up like a big mushroom cloud. And you could feel it but
you didn‟t hear it straight away. It wasn‟t till the mushroom was like right up in the
air that it suddenly went boom and this truck got absolutely ripped apart …all of
the wheels, every single wheel on it – I think there were probably eight – got
absolutely torn off of it…the poor lad who was driving, erm, was injured because
he had blast damage to his ear which had caused some damage there and all of
a sudden, all this happened kind of in slow motion but one minute it was
happenin, and the next minute the left hand side of our convoy got opened up on
with gun fire. And we couldn‟t drive off and leave this vehicle because it was
stricken and obviously there were people in it…so we had to get out of the
vehicle, take cover . I took cover in the actual site of where the bomb went off.
Which was a massive crater which maybe I shouldn‟t have done, but it seemed
like a good idea at the time. And, you know, you‟re looking out and there was so
much confusion, you know, there‟s rounds coming down you can hear rounds
whistling past your head…but it was so much going on, it was my job as the
driver to make sure that when it was ready to go I had to be ready to go. And I
couldn‟t pinpoint any enemy at the time because we were a bit further back but
there was gunfire going off and then smoke flares started firing out and then
these warrior tanks come charging down the road and took up position so that we
could all get back into our vehicles so that we could carry on. All the stricken
crew had been placed into another vehicle all the kit that we needed off that
vehicle was gone some of it is kit that we weren‟t … that we shouldn‟t be allowed
to fall into enemy hands because it‟s sophisticated kit and helps defend us, or
should have done, and erm, and next thing we‟re off again and we got tanks
firing behind us ,and you know, as we‟re pulling away. And the weirdest thing of
it all was while we were in this position, this fire-fight, people are being shot at
and I know that some Iraqi insurgents were killed during that exchange- just up

                                          8
the road were the police, in their - with their police cars doing absolutely nothing,
just sort of watching on almost as if – and again this is your mind playing with you
– almost as if they already knew it was going to happen and they were there to
see what was going down – you know – they didn‟t get involved, I mean they‟ve
got weapons they‟ve been trained, they just stood there and er that was at the
time not frightening, exciting - definitely, adrenalin was flying I mean you got
these radios called PRRs which are personal radios tuned in to everyone else‟s
radio signal and that was just going manic, you know, everyone was shouting,
people were pointing out you know, firing positions and things and that was
strange it seemed, in a weird way it seemed to last for ever but it was over in an
instant and the next thing we know we‟re all at Al Ammarah, you know, the
adrenalin‟s starting to wear off and everyone‟s whooping and patting you on the
back for making a good job and getting out of it. One vehicle yes was… was
damaged but was towed back by another vehicle. So we – everyone got back.
No-one, none of our British soldiers were killed or er – you know, one was injured
but no-one was killed and that was I think the first big engagement that the RDG
definitely had had. And the strange thing about it was that the majority of the
people in that engagement were TA. And that brought us even closer together
but that was a strange day.




They teach you when you shoot to aim at a target – obviously – but that target is
usually a number – a figure eleven and it‟s there and it pops up and you shoot it
and it falls down. But then when you‟re out on the ground they teach you to aim
at people not for shooting practise obviously but when you‟re out there if you see
– if you think something‟s going down you have to aim at an actual person and
there‟s a big difference between aiming at a person, obviously, and pulling the
trigger, but I have no doubt in my mind after that engagement – and during that
engagement – that if someone was endangering myself or – well, one of my
friends – that I would have no hesitation in pulling that trigger. And that I think to
me brought it home a little bit as to how severe you know people can be to each
other. Cos I wouldn‟t have thought twice. Sort of been gone like that - oops. Oh
well, never mind, he was going to do it to me if I didn‟t do it to him kind of thing,
you know So, it was a strange experience. And one that I suppose I‟m glad I‟ve
been through but also something that you never recommend you put your loved
ones through. Because you wouldn‟t want them in that sort of danger. And we
were all very, very lucky to get out of there with no deaths on our side. Very
lucky. Kind of proud as well you know. You see it on the movies and you see
this happen and you go… and now I‟m very critical – if I see something on a
movie and it doesn‟t look realistic about you‟d never do that, that would never
happen because, yeah, movies portray a certain amount of – you know, it‟s all
that va va voom in‟t there about being in a fire-fight, there‟s all that hype. But
when you‟re really in one, um, even outside looking in, truly amazing really. Er,



                                          9
suppose I wish I had a bit of time to take pictures but wan‟t really the first thing on
my mind really.

It became frequent that we were being fired upon. You would, you would hear
the rat-a-tat-tat if you like of fire and as long as you didn‟t hear the woosh or the
ping you were alright. You just carry on. because you get it all the time. It was,
it became normal to be shot at. And a lot of the time it‟s celebratory fire but the
thing that they don‟t appreciate – and I didn‟t really appreciate it – is if you fire a
bullet up into the air it has to come down - so, you know, the British Army was
stopped from warning shots – because again, if you fire a bullet above
someone‟s head there is a possibility that it lands in someone else‟s – and you
don‟t think of that. I think there are thousands of deaths a year from celebratory
fire. And you just get used to the noise of bullets and the noise of fire unless
you‟re on a specific op at, you know, a really late time of night or you know you‟re
going for around a certain area that you‟re not used to it and it kicks off then it
sorts of brings it home again but otherwise you actually get used to it.

.[Coming home] I think that was the longest couple of days in my life. Obviously
we had to be shipped. But at this time we were down in Al Faw which was a
forward operating base where I was , ha, I was lucky enough to be in a movie
called The Amarillo. Did you ever see that Amarillo thing? I was in that – which
was like an amazing morale boost for the army and I was on telly and I was in the
papers, and it was amazing. We were shipped up from down there after doing
our, erm, our little movie and put back up to Shaiba again where there, the
waiting around was endless. To get us back on the coaches again, the dark
coaches again. No weapons at this point. It‟s a trip back to the airport which
we‟d been to hundreds of times in our land-rovers and that just seemed to go on
forever. And then flying out of Iraq in the big Hercules massive planes that I think
were probably used during the Second World War back to our stop off point – I
forget where that was cos it was all in the dark – and then back to Germany, er,
where we had, had some time to, I suppose settle back in to life – normal life with
normal roads, normal traffic , normal people – but still in a foreign country. That
was strange trying to acclimatise back to being home – but not home. And we
had about five days in Germany where, I got to be honest, we just lived it up for a
little bit. We had a dry tour – so we had no time out there to have a beer or to
really relax so when we came back we, really relaxed. And drank a lot. And we
weren‟t used to it so there were some hangovers and some good nights and
then, um, the journey home and I think when we got to the airport in Germany to
come back to Brize Norton where we‟d flown from initially, erm, one of the
engines wouldn‟t work, I think it was, and we were stuck there for nearly a day- I
think we were stuck there for something like twelve hours – in this airport with
nothing except for a really crummy video. Like one, played over and over again
– it was awful – and there was nothing to do, you know, a few vending machines,
we run out of Euros by then and we‟re just waiting to come back to England, you
know, and then the journey back. The journey back I was gutted because the
plance that they finally got us, we were able to fly back in, you faced the wrong

                                          10
way, you faced the back of the plane, and I was really excited about the whole
take off experience because I wanted to, I‟d never taken off obviously that way
before and I said oh brilliant, I can‟t wait, then I fell asleep, before it took off and I
woke up in the air and I was like super-gutted that I‟d missed this back take-off
thing. And then we, erm, we landed back at, in England, at Brize Norton, and, er,
our TA Sergeant-Major was there to greet us and, er, put us back in our TA mini-
bus back to being TA soldiers again after being out with the Regulars for all that
time for nearly being a Regular soldier for nearly over a year. And then we, er,
drove back down and we hit the link road which I used to hate and we saw the
green fields of the link road on either side with proper cows and proper sheep
which again you took for granted initially – and even got Friesian cows in Iraq
believe it or not – which spun me out something chronic – when we, obviously,
held Iraq back in, well, a long time ago, we put cows over there but Friesians.
And then the journey down the link road went on for ever and I got back to my
house at about 5 in the morning and I walked in the front door with huge amounts
of kit and put me kit down I looked in the front room and my brother is there so of
half awake half asleep on the sofa and he just looked up and he said, oh, put the
kettle on bruv. That was it. That was my big welcome home. I ended getting
back from being away for a very long time and er made the first cup of tea.
Didn‟t have it made for me, I was quite gutted. And I think by six 0‟clock I had a
pint in my hand anyway. Cos we had a, we had two months off. From work –
before we actually had to go back to work. Then again we were still being paid
by the army so we didn‟t need to work. But you needed to get back to living like
a proper human being again. Buit the thing was I was no longer in control of the
remote control. And I no longer had my chair and I no longer dictated what
happened Saturday nights and what was watched on the tele. I had to sort of fit
back in to the way that, you know, my friends who I lived with at the time had
worked their lives. So I‟d gone, left a gap, they‟d filled it and I‟d come back and
there was no gap anymore for me to slot neatly back into – so coming back was
really quite strange and quite hard and I was quite an angry person when I got
back for quite a while – possibly shouldn‟t have drank quite as much because,
you know, you reflect on things sometimes when you‟ve had a few beers and
there were a few nights when I just sat on the edge of my bed, on my own, for
the first time in God knows how long in my own room without eight,. nine other
people in the room all waiting to go out and do the job or waiting to go on guard
duty or watching a DVD. I was on my own for the first time in ages and it just felt
surreal. So, coming home was probably weirder than going out. Because you
had no real support because the people in your household had no idea where
you‟d been really, they‟d no idea what you‟d been through, what you‟d seen,
what you‟d heard, you know, what you‟d been involved in. And when you‟re
away with the lads you can always talk about it, you can say, when that bomb
went off I crapped myself a bit did you? And they say, oh yeah, I did. But to say
when a bomb went off I pooed - your brother‟s going to say Oh that must have
been awesome, a bomb went off – well not actually awesome, cos it was a bomb
– it was there to kill us. So getting back and having – there was support if you
wanted it but, you know, the army said if you need help, if you need support you

                                           11
can speak to someone back here but the person back there might not
necessarily – they don‟t know you, they‟re not your friend they haven‟t
necessarily been through what you‟ve been through. So it‟s difficult – settling
back in is one of the hardest things I‟ve ever had to do. Harder than going out –
cos you know, you hope that obviously you‟re going to come back. So yeah.

In a weird and wonderful kind of way it‟s a little bit infectious – cos you do meet
some amazing people, you do go through some amazing events and see
amazing things that you‟d only ever see on the news as a civilian because you
don‟t – when you sign up for the army there is a certain amount of know that you
are possibly going to end up going away. When you sign on the dotted line for
the TA, you know, it‟s a toy-soldier, innit. You‟re a part-timer. You‟re here to
defend this country if we get attacked. You‟re not going to be sent anywhere.
But what an experience. It‟s a bit like getting a tattoo. You get a tattoo once and
you never meet many people with only one. People who‟ve got tattooed
generally got one or three. You know, I‟ve got seven. So I‟d love to go out
again, but the one thing people forget when they‟re on tour, because you‟re so
focussed on you, your team, the job in hand, is you forget everyone at home.
And you forget what it must be like for your brother to be watching the news or
your mum to be watching the news all sat round together eating tea and then
suddenly six die in Iraq from a roadside bomb. And you forget what it must be
like for them at home and they‟ve got to try and stay upbeat, they can‟t get upset.
It‟s not like you can write a note to the army, your mum can, and get you sent
home again. They‟ve got to – they‟re there, and I suppose really they‟re in as
much, if not more, pain and loneliness than you are because there‟s nothing they
can physically do about your situation. They can‟t come and visit – yes you get
mail but – you get your phone calls – but you can‟t say anything in the phone
calls because you‟re on ops and it‟s not secure so you can only tell „em you‟re
OK, the guys are OK and you‟ve only got four months, three months, two
months, two weeks to come until you‟re, until you‟re actually going home again.

So that, that, erm, surprised me a lot as well a little back about quite how – not
selfish you are when you‟re out there but it‟s all about self-preservation, isn‟t it,
and looking after the guys. So you forget that when you make a decision to
volunteer, yes you‟re volunteering yourself to go out there but you‟re also
volunteering for your family and friends left behind to have to go through a certain
amount of difficulty as well. In my current polsition where I am I‟ve got a beautiful
fiancée, erm, I‟ve got a fantastic job, I‟ve got a mortgage which I‟ve never had,
and I‟ve got a dog. And to volunteer now would be harder, for me. Because I‟ve
got all that that‟s so good at home, you know, to be mobilised, to be called up, I
would not have a problem, I would not say no. But I wouldn‟t volunteer. Not a
second time. My friend, who I went out with, has just come back from his third
time. So that‟s his third tattoo. I just hope he don‟t do anymore cos I think you
can push it when you‟re a volunteer and I just hope he sort of gets it out of his
system and is happy to stay home. Be a hairdresser again.



                                         12
13

								
To top