Shat Al Arab Hotel,
12th May 2005
Before we all left England to come to this charming city, we were each given a reasonable sized box to pack with what ever we liked. They are called “Comfort Boxes.” In our comfort boxes we were advised to put a few luxuries that we might enjoy during a six month stay away from home. Suggestions were varied from Duvets to four way plug adapters, as boring as soap to as exciting as TV’s, for months prior to deployment conversation was concentrated on what was going in our comfort box. No one agreed, in particular no one agreed with me. Perhaps this should have been a warning, I shall explain.
I packed a wooden loo seat.
It didn’t fill the box but when you spend £45 on a sodding loo seat you get a lot of packaging. My theory was to install this “throne” onto a suitable porcelain loo near my room, so that at any stage I felt the need I could at least have a comfy place to sit. It turns out the Shat Al Arab hotel has no functioning porcelain to speak of.
In fact the only similar appliance is row upon row of over used portaloos, all of which are without working loo seats. I tried to convince one of the locals to crawl inside and see if he could fit my loo seat, perhaps the language barrier was too much for him, but he left very confused as I kept miming for him to jump in. I won’t go into too much more detail as to how I have overcome this particular problem, suffice to say I have thighs of steel now.
Sadly my loo seat has now left me, as I discovered friends of mine in Al Amarah had porcelain loos that would welcome the luxury of wood. So dispatched by helicopter my loo seat has flown 2 hours North of Basrah to be crapped all over by a load of people I have never met. What a disaster.
The sodding wooly pully I packed on top of my throne was a mistake as well.
My great plan for waterskiing doing the river is developing, very slowly.
It appears that in order to pull of this great stunt I am going to have to convince people to build a water sports centre in Basrah. Now as ridiculous as it sounds it is possible. There are elements of the Army who specialise and focus on improving life for the locals so they like us more and stop trying to shoot at us, I just need to convince them to stop building hospitals and schools and turn their attentions to the water. As you can imagine it’s not going well, but I am not giving up hope yet.
We got attacked the other day for the first time, twice in one night, very antisocial. First at about 9 at night we were mortared, then at half six the next morning they fired a Chinese Rocket at the Hotel (Not a firework, but a bloody large rocket packed with explosives, that was made by the Chinese.) It made a serious mess of the front of the hotel, and a fair bit of damage on the inside, but no casualties. A jolly loud bang though, perhaps the least pleasant wake up call I have ever had. We all hope they don’t make this a regular occurrence as they seem to be getting more accurate with time, that was the first direct hit the Hotel has taken for over a year.
My days will hopefully continue to be filled with trying to find ways to entertain myself, trying to stay out of trouble and avoiding anything that sounds like serious work.
Take care, see you all soonish.
All my love
The letter above is part of a series of letters I sent home from Basrah, Iraq in 2005 republished here for the first time since they got sent exactly 15 years ago (I will try and sync them with the real dates sent)
I suppose this was my very first attempt at blogging, before blogging was ever a thing!
I was a Captain in The British Army at the time and was in the middle of an unremarkable 7 month posting to Basrah surrounded by the remarkable men of the Coldstream Guards, my regiment for 7 years. I loved and adored my time in the Coldstream and look back at all the fun and silliness with incredibly fond memories. I hope these letters go some way to show the amusing side of our tour, they are not designed to be a factual representation of the hard work, pain and suffering that so many endured. They do not talk of the ultimate sacrifice made by too many of our soldiers during that extraordinary year.