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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I had to leave him behind in the desert...


During the training phase of Op Granby in Saudi Arabia I was towing one of my JCB's from one gun position to the next. However, the combination of the weight and the soft sand meant that it was difficult to tow, in fact we got bogged down several times.

I decided that I would ground dump the JCB with its driver and return later once I had off loaded some of the weight. Ensuring he had enough supplies for 3-4 days I left with my driver Scott. Jim the JCB driver was experienced and I felt confident that he would be ok.

As night fell I managed to locate our FDC (Fire Direction Centre) which was not easy given that there was so much activity around, in terms of vehicle numbers and that my map was quite simply a sheet of graph paper, so I needed to up date my Northing’s and Easting’s on a regular basis.



I met with one of our armoured vehicles who guided me to the gun position and on arrival I declared to the BSM (Battery Sergeant Major) that I needed to return to collect my bloke at first light. He refused to let me go, which did not best please me and he tasked recovery to go and get him instead. I briefed them on his location and of they set returning at night fall minus one JCB, they said they could not find him.

The next day I attempted to go again and the BSM refused to let me go, tasking another vehicle to find the JCB and they too returned without my driver. By day three I was now getting worried, as Jim’s rations would be getting low although he had more than enough water with him, so I tried again and I was once again I was refused.

It was late afternoon and I had, had enough. I told the BSM I was going and that he could not stop me I needed to get my bloke back, so off I went with the BSM shouting that he will jail me. I thought to myself nice choice, do I go for the roof over my head, three square meals and visitors or the desert being shot at and shouted at by the BSM. Well of course I choose the desert. Anyway, we set off and very soon afterwards a sand storm kicked off.

Scot and I drove for a few miles using graph paper (map) and compass then it became dark, in the desert night fall is like switching the lights off. It was obvious to me that map and compass would not serve me, so I tossed them to the back of the cab and trusted my intuition, ‘mad’ I hear people say, maybe? I guided my driver to where I believed we had left him, we drove along a ridge trying to locate him but could not, so I decided we would bed down until first light and from there we would locate him.

First light came, we drove up to the ridge and there he was, the night before we were no more than 50m from him, even tough we had put our lights on and were sounding our horn he did not see or hear us. I can tell you it was a great relief to find him and I was pleased that Scot my driver had trusted me to get us there.

As we were hooking the JCB up, Jim was telling us what plans he had made to affect his own recovery, we where quite close to some pylon lines which were used as a land mark. He had decided that if no one came that day he would walk to the pylons and wait for a vehicle to pass by. To that end some days earlier he said a land cruiser with British Officers on board had stopped to ask him for directions, which was a joke apart from the pylons lines he had no idea where he was in relation to the battery and they had failed to report his location after he asked them to let people know where he was and that he needed recovery. All I can say to the officers concerned shame on you.

So after three and bit days I was able to return with my guy safe and sound, the BSM was still ranting. I have to say, I just did not care I got what I wanted my bloke safely back.

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