They were being slaughtered up there, in Baghdad. The Americans were losing blokes every day. While the Americans and the Iraqi
Army took on the insurgents in Falluja, we had The Black Watch up by Camp Dogwood, which was just south of Baghdad. They lost blokes within the first week to suicide bombers, and this just showed you how hostile the area was. We thought Al Amarah was dodgy and it probably was before we turned up in October 2004, but at the moment, thanks to the previous Op TELICs we had a relatively peaceful time. I was happy with that – it’s not big and hard to have your mind messed with. I don’t care what people tell you, but the mind is a fragile thing, no matter how big you are. At the expense of the Government? No, not this callsign – I’m not expendable. No fucking way.
At 7am, we left the accommodation camp, waved to the guard and stood by the road. Opposite us was a stinking ‘Pizza shop’ with this mad fucker on a motor bike whizzing around like his life depended on it. To the right of that was the EFI and I swear to god I don’t know why people went in there – daylight robbery. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask. Not sure what EFI stood for, Expeditionary Force Institution? Or Extremely Fucking Ixpensive.
The bone rattler of a minibus came trundling along and we mounted. Me, Del, and about 9 others, some from our office and other Staff Officers. These buses had a musty smell, warm, and the seats were very soft. You sank in them and had to pull yourself out of it like they were quicksand. We began the 2km journey to the Hotel that was nicked and turned in to Puzzle Palace during the invasion.
The bus pulled in to the sidings. We’d only gone 700 meters.
“What the fuck?” I exclaimed to an equally surprised Major behind me. He shrugged.
The driver got up and brought a matt with him. He picked up an idle rucksack in the corridor and handed it to a shocked Lance Corporal. The driver then laid the matt down and began to pray.
“Wrong way,” I said. “He’s pointing the coach in the wrong direction.” I got up and someone ushered me to sit. “But it should be pointing to Meccca and that’s in that fucking direction! Complete waste of fucking time – he’s praying to some pagan temple in Africa!”
“Shhhhhh,” the Major behind me whispered. A finger to his lips.
“Yeah, I know Sir,” I whispered back, “I think someone should tell the lunatic.”
He smiled at me, “Ignorance is bliss, my friend.” I nodded in agreement and sat.
I stared out the window. I looked back. He’d been at it for a minute now. Someone should tell that fucking lunatic! I got up and a hand gently gripped my shoulder. I sat back down and stared out the window. Meccah is in that fucking direction.
“It’s in that direction,” I whispered to the Major, pointing out the window.
He nodded in agreement. “I know.”
Soon we’re off.
As I disembarked I stopped by the driver and said, “Masaa il’Khayr.”
He grinned and I wished to God I hadn’t greeted him. This fucker could eat an apple through a fucking letter box – the gnashers on him! “Masaah in’oor.”
“Mecca’s in that fucking direction muckah,” I got on my haunches and pointed in a South-Westerly direction with both hands. The driver grabbed my shoulders and hugged me.
“You’ve made a friend for life there, Corporal,” the Major said to me with a chuckle as he left.
“It’s Bombardier, thank you very much, Sir,” I said as I manhandled the crazy driver off me, clearly the fucker got the wrong idea. The driver smiled at me and waved, laughing all the while. Cheeky fucker was taking the piss.
“Did you get his phone number?” Del asked.
As I walked in to the Headquarters, I passed a gentleman who was on his way out. “How you doing?”
“Not three bad mate.” I said back to him. I met him in Beaconsfield while on my Arabic Course. He was doing the exam at the end of the 10 week course. I suspected he was a spook from MI6 or an Agent Handler from Chicksands.
“Catch you later,” he said, and with that he was gone, never to be seen again. I shrugged and carried on.
I got in the office and made a round of brews. Captain Alfonso stopped me as I was placing the trays down. He was a tall fellow, mousy hair gelled hair, friendly-mischievous eyes and he had the charm of TV show host. “Special mission time – are you ready?”
“Do I have to eat something or chuck something that’s about to explode, in the bin?”
“No, nothing Mission Impossible. It’s more of an escort duty.”
“Oh, Dougy’s into Escort duties! He only tried it on with the minibus driver,” Piped up Del. Trust that fucker to come out with that.
“Fuck off,” I said to Del with a grin and then to the Officer, “I’m not into any kinky stuff, or dressing up as a baby, or being a dog.”
“I assure you Bombardier Douglas, this mission will only test your linguistic skills. You went to Beaconsfield?” I nodded. “Then this should be a piece of..” then in a german accent, “how do you say this in English? Piece of pie?”
“No. Piece of piss,” I said.
“Indeed,” he replied. “A Police Chief requires an escort to Baghdad.”
Fuck! Baghdad. I hadn’t been there before. Something bloomed in me and it was a desire to go there. I guess it was the fundamental reason for me joining the Army in the first place. “When do I go, sir?”
Let’s hope the Hercy Bird doesn’t crash.