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Diary of Essex Yeoman in Iraq 2003

History - EY History

In June 2003 four Essex Yeoman were mobilised for service in Iraq. The following is a short extract from the diary of one of those men.

My experiences so far...

When we first arrived we went for a week of acclimatisation in the Kuwaiti desert. It was hot, very hot, but it was a dry heat both at night and during the day. The day we left it was 56c. We were told to drink a 1 and 1/2 L bottle of water every hour and account for the hours sleeping a make up for that. I couldn’t do that but was drinking 10-15 L of water a day. Acclimatisation consisted of waking up in the morning breakfast, watching DVDs screened in a tent, watching sport on TV in a tent or talking our accommodation tent. The tents varied in size but were 20 - 40 meters long. Acclimatisation is usually 7 - 14 days, as it was hot and getting hotter the Troop Officer made arrangements for us to leave early. Thankfully! Daytime in Basra normally peaks between 45 and 55c.

It's sunny here today.... like everyday. Although on 29 and 30 July we had a sand (dust) storm. That was fun! But it did mean it was a bit cooler - blocking out the suns heat (tanning time disappeared) and a much cooler night. The second week of August we have endured 90%+ humidity. In our air con room (when it's working and the power is on) it is drops to 30c at night. And when it's not 35c+ and the humidity rises.... our room is right next to the river! You might be thinking there would be lots of mosquitoes...? Fortunately the 'Shate Al Arab' river is tidal and the marshes on the opposite bank are salt marshes so the mosquitoes find it very difficult to survive. The Euphrates and Tigris meet in Basra and become 'Shate Al Arab'. The gardens of Babylon are somewhere in Iraq. Although I don't think there’s much chance of me being able to go and see them.

I finished my last job recently, which I had for 3 weeks. I instructed and escorted 10 LECs (Local Employed Contractors) their supervisor (chief) and translator around camp. The hours were good 8am-1.30pm when I went for lunch, and then at 2pm they went for lunch until 2.30. The afternoon was just until till 3.30/4.00 depending on work. I told them and point out what they should do. This included brushing and moping, moving boxes of water bottles, moving rubbish and occasional other tasks. On my first day with them we were given the task of moving a billion Iraqi Dinar as part of the days work

Two of the Iraqis that worked for me have been very helpful - the translator, who's English is 'ok' and Hussain who was the best worker and asked me to read my Arabic/English phrase book during each break. Three were doing exams (all 21yrs), but have finished now. Some of them were in the Iraqi army

Arabic is improving everyday most talk pigeon Arabic and I try to tell them everything I want them to do in Arabic. They like my keenness to learn their language this and were very keen to teach me more. They constantly correct my pronunciation. But I got by nearly talking entirely in (pigeon) Arabic. When one of them tried to teach me something rude the others frown and tell him off, which was nice. I now have 7 pages of A5 notebook with words and phrases.

We have got satellite TV here so hopefully the power will be on during the main games of the Rugby World Cup. There are numerous generators but only for essential buildings - Brigade HQ, cookhouse, communications, medical centre, etc., but not the accommodation. The rest of the power comes from the local power supply. There are some large generators en route to be permanent back ups for the mains power, but are due to be up and running for some time yet.

The power goes down frequently for a number of reasons.

The locals have RPG'd (rocket propelled grenade) a substation - that took 3 days to repair.
The locals have stolen the power line - for the copper wire. That's the LIVE power cable!!! This is quite a common problem.

There should be 3 main power lines into Basra. There is only one so problems arise easily.

We get 'Shot reports' every night and through the day - Iraqis shooting each other, to settle old scores.

A BBC film crew was here in August filming the boat patrol, which is made from signal squadron Personnel. We patrol the bank the other side of the river from the Palace and do random river bourn boat searching - oil smuggling is very big here. Not many volunteered, as it is believed there are mines in the 1km strip of marshland beside the river. This has since been proved untrue - no mines have been seen (or found the hard way).

I'm enjoying it all so far, well apart from the heat, but I'm getting used to that and ensure I drink enough water during the day.
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