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August 14 2012 16:14:53.
Today Wednesday 22 May 2013 13:36:42
He was wearing a long woolen scarf
known as a cap comforter that can be folded into itself to make what looks
like a Second World War commando hat. Mark had failed to tuck the top of his
hat in, and he looked like Noddy. He was peering through the bushes with a
serious expression on his face and he looked so comical.
"If we don't go now, mate, we never will," he said.
Still looking out as he spoke, he dug in his pocket for a boiled sweet
and popped it into his mouth.
"It's my last one. I might as well have it now: it might be my last one
All of mine had gone. I looked at him longingly.
"You ain't got none left, have you?" he smirked.
"No, fuck all left."
I looked at him like a puppy dog.
He took the sweet out of his mouth, bit it, and gave me half.
We lay there savoring the moment and psyching ourselves up to go.
In the end the decision was made for us. Four Iraqis came along the
bank, and they appeared to be well trained and switched on. There was no
shouting, and they were well spread out. They looked nervous though, as you
do when you know there are people about who might fire weapons at you. If we
moved they would see us. I signaled to Mark: if they don't see us, let them
go on; if they do, they get it. But they got so close there was no way they
were going to avoid us,so we dropped them.
Now we had to go, whether it was the right time or not. We legged it up
the ploughed field, parallel to the river. Further up to the right we
started to come over a gentle rise where the ground went down to the water.
There was movement, and we went straight down.
The furrows were running north-south so we were in the dips. We started
to belly crawl and worked our way the whole length up to the hedgerow.
Orders were being barked, and squads were running around confused. They were
no more than 80 feet away. We crawled for twenty minutes. The ground was icy
cold, and it hurt to put your hands on the mud and pull yourself along. My
clothing was drenched. Tiny puddles of water had frozen, and as we moved the
ice cracked. The sound was magnified a thousand times in my head. Even the
noise of my breathing sounded frighteningly loud. I just wanted to get
through this shit and get to the treeline, and then it would be a totally
different, brave new world.
There was still firing, shouting" and all sorts of confusion going on.
How we were ever going to get out of it I had no idea. In situations like
this you just have to keep on going and see what happens. It was so tempting
just to get up and make a bolt for it.
The Iraqis were still down at the bottom of the field. Maybe--I
hoped--they thought we'd gone further down the riverbed, heading east to get
to the other lot. I didn't actually care what they were thinking, as long as
they did it a good distance away. The one and only thought I had in my mind
was that we needed to get over the border that night.
We got to the hedgerow. It was a purpose-built field division, small
trees and bushes growing out of a two foot mound of earth. Our initial plan
was to cross the hedgerow that was running east-west, purely so that we
didn't have to cross the south-north one as well. We heard noises to our
right. Mark had a look. It was more enemy, behind the hedgerow. And beyond
that, further south, there was yelling and shouting and a profusion of
lights. Mark signaled me to stay this side of the hedgerow and move left.
We crawled along the line to get to the hedge that ran north-south. We
tried to find a place where we could get through without making any noise. I
started pushing through. My head emerged the other side, and I immediately
As the boy shouted, Mark gave him the good news. His body disintegrated
in front of my eyes. Mark gave it a severe stitching all the way along--from
where we were, all the way along west. I scrambled out of the hedge line and
carried on the fire while Mark came through. We moved east, stopped, put
down a quick burst, ran, gave it another quick burst, and then just ran and
There was high ground to our front. Below it were buildings with lights
on and movement. We didn't want to cross the open ground, so we had no
option but to use the obvious cover of a ditch. I had no idea what we'd got
ahead of us.
The fence line was above us. Because the fields were irrigated, the
roads and buildings were on built-up land to keep them above the waterline.