Shat Al Arab Hotel,
06th Jun 2005
I am having to skulk around the hotel today as I am in trouble. One of my jobs is to control all routine movements in and out of the city. I have a fleet of vehicles and blokes with which to provide safe passage to these various moves. The vehicles are all armored Land Rovers called Snatch, yes I know jolly funny.
Every evening after I have planned all the moves and convoys for the next day I send an email (on the Army intranet) to everyone on the Coldstream Guards distribution list, so they can see what is going on the next day. Anyway, today we have the honour of Jo Guest (A famous stripper/ page three model/ porn star) coming to visit and cheer up the blokes with general displays of her fun bags, well she obviously needs moving around as well, so I had to account for her last night in my planning.
I thought it was jolly funny to send a special note about “Jo Guest’s Snatch being a little old and requiring special attention.” Apparently some people did not find it as funny as me!! No sense of humour. As a result, I am not allowed to meet her and have to stay in the Ops room on duty. I feel like a naughty schoolboy who got caught looking up girls skirts.
I managed to escape the confines of the Hotel yesterday evening, I was patrolling down the far side of the River, on the left-hand side of the road was desert as far as the eye could see only polluted by the occasional oil refinery burning its waste with large orange flames shooting into the sky, and if I am honest it looked rather beautiful and even dare I say it a little peaceful.
On the right-hand side of the road was the wart that is Basrah, sat there in all its ugly prime, bombed-out buildings, ruined industrial docks, half sunk ships all adding to the general effect of making Basrah seem as unpleasant as its overarching smell of raw sewage suggests. It was then that I realised just how depressing a city this is.
The feeling of just how close they came to being a joined-up place is quite overwhelming, everything is just so “nearly”. The Airport is so nearly a fine example of an efficient 80’s airport, the palaces are so nearly splendid in their own terribly gaudy taste, the buildings are all so close to being finished and respectable, the roads and motorways are so nearly efficient and effective. But sadly everything is just not quite there, Saddam could be in quite a different position if all those years ago he hadn’t stopped pumping money into his own country in order to fuel his desire for war with Iran.
Hope you all had a jolly weekend, I hope the weather is looking after you all (50 degrees in the shade out here now!), but I also hope it saves up a little sun for when I get home, but I especially can’t wait for the rain!
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.