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The Slow Trip Home

by Sgt Adrian Jenkins

On 2 May, Y Sqn (minus those who had decided to extend their period of mobilisation) assembled at the main British support base, Shu’aybah Airfield, southwest of Basra. There we began preparing our vehicles and ourselves for the return to the UK

The entire squadron was parked up in lines, flags flying: the Welsh, the Saltire, the Union and the St George's cross, among others. The other sight of interest was pizza boxes and burger wrappings – lots of them. The Americans had placed two field outlets of Burger King and Pizza Hut in the base. After almost ten weeks of compo diet, it was a welcome relief from the tedium of boil-in-the-bag and melted issued chocolate.

Over the next few days, we cleaned the vehicles, restored and counted the equipment and stocked up on ice creams, Pringles and soft drinks from the EFI. We also had access to e-mail for the first time since arriving in theatre. The last of the goodie parcels sent from home caught up with us

We drove the vehicles down to the port of Doha, near Kuwait City, where they were parked up to await loading. 

After that, it was back to the desert – to Camp Eagle, a collection of tents previously inhabited by the Paras. During the day the temperatures inside the canvas reached the high 40s. At night, some of us chose to sleep outside as we had been used to doing for weeks, where it was considerably cooler and fresher.

The dates of the flights were uncertain and we had few duties to do. The CO subjected himself to listening to the views of each person in the squadron (in private interview, so they were frank), while everyone else dozed, chatted, watched films and wrote. Finally, on 11 and 12 May the squadron flew out of Kuwait. By stepping into the clean, air conditioned world of the RAF although we were still in our crusty, hand-washed desert combats, we were taking a leap back to civilian life.

Demobilisation at Chilwell took only a few hours. By 1500 on Sunday 12 May the last of the squadron was on the bus heading back for London. We arrived at Duke of York's just after 1900 and were met by a small welcoming committee, several parents/wives/partners and a camera team from London Tonight. We agreed to meet up at the Orange Brewery, the place where I had had my last pre-war beer some ten weeks previously, for our first Ice Cold In Alex drink.

During the confusion no one had turned up but that was no great loss as it was lovely to be alone with my wife: at that point I had spent more of my marriage with the Army than with her. Soon we were on our way home. We flagged a black cab. Initially, the driver was reluctant to take our fare as it was a long trip. Then he saw my heaps of kit and my healthy glow. Seconds later we were on our way to North London. And when we got home, he declined to take the whole fare.

The WDs, plus RLC attachments and a couple of RY strays, show off their tans and new uniforms at Shu’aybah Airfield
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