The news of Iraq entering Kuwait was certainly unexpected, but of little personal concern to the Regiment as, at this stage, there seemed to be no real expectations that QDG would be involved. However, in September 1990 it was made known to QDG's Commanding Officer that the Regiment might be called upon to take part in the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait.
It was soon announced that 'A' Squadron were to be the medium reconnaissance for 7th Armoured Brigade:
'From then on, the main focus of the entire Regiment was to prepare the Squadron for deployment. This included training, maintaining and painting the vehicles, and resourcing the Squadron with both the correct equipment and sufficient manpower.'
There was a visit from the Defence Secretary and from an American officer - a big deal for a Regiment stationed in Germany - and it was possibly at this point that the affair suddenly seemed very 'real' for some members. Yet whilst it was acknowledged that deployment would surely happen, there was still the question of whether the Squadron would see war.
The Regiment was visited by the UK Defence Secretary, Tom King.
Deployment and Early Days
Journey To The Gulf
'A' Squadron's journey to the Gulf was made in three groups: the vehicles, the advance party and the main party.
The advance party departed from RAF Gutersloh on the 10th and 11th October and upon arrival in the Gulf, spent a week living in hangers in Al Jubail. Living conditions were rudimentary, showers being 'a jury-rigged affair of a hosepipe over an Arab lavatory.' The temperature was in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so 'A' squadron were undoubtedly relieved when the United States (US) Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance agreed to house them in Camp 5, with its air-conditioned rooms. (Camp 5 was a labour camp stationed to the north of Al Jubail). Although this was the first-time making contact with the Marines, they soon became firm friends of 'A' Squadron and lent the Squadron desert camouflage nets until the arrival of the British equipment.
The main party joined the advanced party on the 17th October, departing from Wolfenbüttel.
During this time, regular visits were made with the Marines to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Light Armoured Infantry in their headquarters. On one of these occasions the Squadron Leader came across Captain Richard Mannings, who became the Squadron doctor shortly afterward. Speaking of Captain Mannings, the Squadron leader reported that, 'His professionalism, innovation and sense of humour was a real bonus - the Squadron's health and medical expertise was to become second to none as a consequence of his efforts.'
Whilst waiting for the arrival of the vehicles, Staff Sergeant George Clegg organised a rugby match with the US Marines - a sign of how close the two parties had become. There were no goal posts so no goal kicks and the match ended with 'A' Squadron outrunning the Marines to score four tries.
Ready For Deployment
Finally, the vehicles arrived, having travelled by sea. Although they had departed earlier than any of the Squadron, leaving Bremerhaven on the 27th September, they did not dock in Al Jubail until the 26th October 1990. The party had been sailing on the MERCANDIAN QUEEN, 'a real rust bucket' which, it had quickly become apparent, was prone to regular breakdowns. Although the party was delayed as a result, the accompanying Captain Robinson (Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers) and Sergeant Jones remained strong. After arriving, all vehicle maintenance was completed within three days, the Squadron working through the night and resting during the day so to avoid the worst of the heat. By the 19th October, 'all vehicles were ready for deployment to the desert.'
Training with 7th Armoured Brigade
The vehicles being ready for deployment, on the 29th October they were loaded onto tank transporters and taken approximately 35kms west, from Al Jubail to Al Fadili. Here the Squadron would begin training with the 7th Armoured Brigade. The emphasis in this stage of training was small-group, Troop-level preparation and on developing desert battle skills. It began on the very first day with a 30km navigation exercise.
Each day Reveille was at 5am, with sunrise at 5:30. This structure allowed the Squadron to train for a few hours before resting during the hottest part of the day.
It was during this early period of training that the Squadron received their first issue of desert camouflage gear (such as Challenger nets) and, vitally, Magellan Global Positioning System (GPS) - 'a true battle winner.' In the featureless expanse of the desert, navigation technology could make all the difference to the accuracy of reconnaissance.
After the initial training period, which had gone well, Captain Christopher Shepherd-Barron and WOII Morton organised some 'Boeselager' battle runs.
On the 4th November the Squadron moved to the Devil Dog Dragoon ranges. Range firing ended up being delayed due to Saudi concern over the air space, so the Squadron continued training with Command Post Exercises and adjusting to NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) warfare by wearing full protective equipment throughout the day. This was important for the psychology of the soldier, giving confidence for when the land offensive would finally begin. Guy Fawkes night and Armistice Day both happened whilst the Squadron was leaguered by the ranges. To commemorate the first, some Troops lit bonfires and for the second, the Squadron gathered for a 6am Remembrance service.
After the Remembrance service, the Squadron had an afternoon on the JERBOA Ranges, preceded by a safety brief as this was their first use of live missiles. The practice went exceedingly well, 'like clockwork with plenty of cavalry dash and accurate shooting.'
Finally, 'A' Squadron's time training with 7 Brigade culminated in a two-day Field Training Exercise, which included a Brigade Level TEWT (Tactical Exercise Without Troops).
Having completed training, 7 Brigade remained to continue training other battlegroups. 'A' Squadron, however, were allowed to move northwards to train with US Reconnaissance.
Manifa Bay & US Marine Corps
On the 18th November the Squadron made the 120 km journey to Manifa Bay, a beautiful place which was to be their base for the following weeks when training with the US Marines.
Fitness training involved both on-land exercises and swimming in the sea, whilst tactical training began with 'advance to contact exercises by day', which 'developed into short 24hr exercises… concentrated on night operations.'
A raft in Manifa Bay
Preparing Zero Charlie for USMC Super Stallion Heli-lift
MG 'A' Squadron SHQ CH53 Lift Exercis
Another Match vs. USMC - in the desert this time!
MG 'A' Squadron SHQ CH53 Lift Exercise
MG 'A' Squadron SHQ CH53 Lift Exercise
Finally, the Squadron began cross-training with the United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Force. Between the 15th and 19th November, exercise 'Hide and Seek' was in action, beginning with air-lifting squadron vehicles by CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters.
Following the success of this exercise, at the beginning of December the Squadron Leader designed another exercise which 'consisted of a 75 km night move under NBC conditions through a series of replenishment tasks and culminating with a dawn raid on the coastline to the SE [South East].' Although this was another great success, after accidentally breaching the screen of the 1st Marine Division, Squadron training focussed around helicopters for a while!
The final stage of cross-training with the Marines included an exercise from the 11th -13th December against the Light Armoured Infantry and a day of ranges, testing land and air coordination.
After all the hard work of the previous two months, this stage of action was celebrated with a (victorious) rugby match and a beach party on the 16th December.
Steve Jones on Manifah Bay
"Yes, so we moved up to an area called Manifa Bay, which is north of Al Jubail… some of our lads went off to work with the Marines, some of the Marines came onto our vehicles for a short period to get an idea of how the other organisation operates… the guys were going out practising their skills at all times or some exercises, you know just to get used to how we operated then. Don't forget we were used to hiding behind trees and in hedgerows in Germany, you know, and our tactics needed to change… there was a lot more room for manoeuvre, it's a lot more prairie like, similar to Canada exercises than anything else… One of the things there was to get used to desert living, you know, the simple day to day sort of things of living on our vehicles. We did numerous navigation exercises to get used to manoeuvring around in the desert; it is pretty featureless, hence the name, it's a pretty featureless terrain so things like GPS were in their infancy then. You couldn't enter in your favourite restaurants and your favourite golf club, you know, it was a grid reference one, so you had to relate it to the map. Some of us had them, they were in fairly short supply. But also at that time, there were not that many satellites, I mean, staggering to think. But you used to get what we call 'low horizon problems', sort of 2.30 to 4.30 in the morning, you'd lose satellite coverage and most military operations… shake out for a dawn attack. We had one of the areas where we were superior to Saddam's forces was in night observation devices. We could fight a 24-hour day war. They didn't have so many, so clearly, we needed to use that to our advantage with our thermal images and image intensifiers. To make our force more effective, we needed to take them on at night and so night navigation and stuff like that was key."
Away From Home For Christmas
Away from home in a foreign country, Christmas was at first approached with some apprehension. Yet it ended up being 'a memorable, lively and happy affair.' Festivities began on the evening of the 23rd, with a traditional carol service by the Arabian Sea. This was followed by a 'Squadron Review' - an opportunity for the Troops to show off their sketches, comedy and acting skills, as practiced for some days prior. 'A stage was built in a dune and flood lit with a mobile US lighting unit,' and the event was supported by music from the 13th/18th Hussars Band. Christmas Eve was a time for Troop parties and high-spirited festivity, the night culminating with an impromptu show of fireworks launched between Troop locations.
Christmas Day itself is remembered as being 'special'; it was a time of coming together, of peace and of fun. The Squadron day began with the Officers passing out mince pies and tea to the Troops, and the giving out of gifts donated by the UK public. Then, gathering by HHQ, 'A' Squadron was able to watch, 'a spectacular low level (70ft) fly-past by 12 x Jaguar aircraft from the RAF base in BAHRAIN.' 'There was much hooping and hollering as these aircraft roared by.'
The next item on the agenda was an 'infamous' Squadron raft race across the Bay. Each troop formed a team to build and race a raft, 1st Troop eventually emerging victorious and being awarded a bottle of 'cold tea' for their efforts. Support Troop had a slightly different experience - finding a rowing boat nearby, they chose this as their vehicle of choice in place of a self-made raft. In the spirit fairness, the Squadron Leader administered a handicap of a few .357 Magnum holes in the bottom of the vessel.
The afternoon proceeded with a 'fiercely competitive' baseball match, before the Squadron Christmas Day finally ended with the Warrant Officers (WOs) and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) being invited for drinks with the Officers. 'It was a fantastic day and was truly representative of the spirit that had been generated within the Squadron.' However, the festivities were not quite over as Boxing Day brough a 'long awaited rugby match' between the Squadron and the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars. 'It was a hard fought, competitive and fair match' and although the crowd was largely Irish, the score ended very fittingly with a 9-9 draw. Christmas really was a highlight in the midst of War.
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