Tuesday 18 November 1997
Gulf troops take on desert vipers
By Tim Butcher in Udairi, Kuwait
THEY might be the spearhead of any Western military
action against Saddam Hussein but, for the time being,
the threat facing the 800 British soldiers recently
arrived in the Kuwaiti desert does not come from Iraq.
Snakes and scorpions were the first unwelcome guests at
the camp in northern Kuwait that is the new home for the
1st Battalion, the King's Regiment.
"One of the blokes found a viper in his tent on the
first night," said one officer. "He killed it
but the next morning one of the sergeants had to deal
with three scorpions." The mood in the camp was
relaxed and there was little tension. Information was
scarce as there were only a few radios and no television.
The soldiers were taking advantage of training facilities
which were considerably more generous than those at their
base on Cyprus.
One soldier said: "We are an infantry battalion and
out here we can actually do the things we are supposed to
do. The space we have been given for live-firing is just
enormous and, with our engineers, we can go out and build
pretty much any scenario we need, such as a bunker or
Recruited mainly from Liverpool and Manchester, the men
showed their priorities within hours of their arrival.
The engineers had only just finished sinking the goal
posts into a makeshift soccer pitch before the men were
queuing up to play. The four-week exercise allows them to
use their weapons, day and night, with relatively few
restrictions. The Iraqi border is about 30 miles away and
there are few buildings or people around.
Near the approach road to the camp an enormous pile of
military scrap could be seen, Iraqi weapons destroyed
during the Gulf war. The old tanks, troop carriers or
guns can be dragged out into the desert for use as
targets. One officer said: "We did one of the best
night exercises I have ever been involved with just
because of the freedom and space."