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British helicopters in Iraq - from Hugh Sykes.

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Eddie Mair | 10:51 UK time, Friday, 17 July 2009


"In southern Iraq, when the British were there, as many 'movements' as possible between the airbase five miles out in the desert and bases in Basra city were by helicopter, to minimise attacks on the roads. This was my view out of the open side of, I think, a Sea King over the southern Iraqi desert.


"Hitching a lift to Basra a troop carrier Chinook - I was on my way to meet some Iraqi police trainees and their British 'mentors' at the 'Basra Palace' base by the Shatt al Arab."

q3.JPG But I did have to travel by road sometimes. Once, the 'snatch' Land Rover I was travelling in broke down in the desert in the dark. The headlights stayed on, and we would have been an easy target. Another Land Rover had to tow us into Basra.
This is the poorly Land Rover being pushed out of the way when we'd reached the Shatt al Arab 'hotel'. Another day, one of my military escorts became extremely angry and distressed in a Discovery Land Rover near the Shaiba logistics base, when he couldn't open his front passenger door. Wearing full body armour and kit, and carrying his rifle, he climbed head-first out of the window. "What if that happened in an ambush?!" he screamed. The air was so 'blue' I couldn't even attempt to use the recording. It turned out that the Discovery had been in a road accident, and a dent close to the door hinge had not been properly repaired."

q4.JPG"Important message on the wall in a lounge in the Shatt al Arab hotel base. At least fifteen of the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq died in road accidents."


(PICTURE BELOW) "Hard to believe now - travelling near Basra in an open-topped Land Rover in 2004, after serious attacks by the militia had begun. That's my press officer Lt. Commander 'Aj' Ajala - who was busy learning Arabic whenever he had any spare time."


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