Shat Al Arab Hotel,
08 Aug 2005
After three weeks of fantastic holiday, I have returned to the charming city of Basrah. For the last three weeks I have had more fun than I could care to have dreamt of, flying around the Isle of Wight in a Vintage Tiger Moth, water skiing on the Solent (with my clothes on!), playing drunken games of beach cricket, being late to my Godson’s christening, drinking, eating and smoking too much in France, dinner parties, drinks parties, long lunches that invariably roll into dinner, long lie-ins, making silly speeches at one of my greatest mates weddings, driving old cars, new cars, tractors, boats, spending too much money and seeing so many of you. I couldn’t have fitted more into the last three weeks and wouldn’t have wanted to, I can’t wait to get home already just so I can do it all again.
Landing at Basrah International airport was about as glamorous as my first landing here, the now-familiar pungent pong of poo rolled down the airplane to greet us all back. The temperature was a pretty cool 32 degrees when we got off the plane, but then it was three in the morning still, the sweat instantly started to roll unpleasantly down my back. I wasn’t quite expecting the heat to be as exhausting as it was on the first day, a steady 56 degrees showed on the thermometer that we now have to keep in the shade to stop the plastic melting!
So little seems to have changed, the streets still smell, Army food is still terrible, and groundhog day has already well and truly set in. The only change really being the baddies seem to have come up with new terrifying ways of attacking us, which they have already used to some pretty unpleasant degree of success. The one great change during my absence is that someone has installed a Portakabin full of porcelain loos!! Finally, the hideous portaloo experiences of the last three and a half months can be avoided and some proper relaxing moments can be enjoyed.
My desire to waterski down the Shat Al Arab river has increased tenfold, my only hurdle currently being acquiring a waterski I left mine at home during a rushed departure, and my barefoot waterskiing is simply not up to scratch! I have launched myself into the beach volleyball circuit with all the gusto of Maverick and Goose, I am trying to get a sound system wired up so we can have “Playing with the Boys” blasting out while we play, I am convinced this will bring a new level of skill to my game.
So as I continue to avoid doing any real work and try and make what is now, having been home, an even more depressing place a bit more fun, I hope you are all avoiding tubes and buses and working hard. I only have a couple of months left here before I am back for good, and have to start looking for real work!
Really hope you are all well.
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.