War Hero
News articles on BFBS are out.


March 07, 2003

Good morning, Kuwait, this is your desert DJ
From Daniel McGrory at Camp Arifjan

THE Americans may have more tanks than us, a lot more troops and more burger bars to feed them, but at least the British contingent has brought its own entertainment to this desert coalition.
Every morning, thousands of US troops are roused from their sleeping bags by two British DJs broadcasting from a makeshift studio in a metal cargo container, parked on the edge of one of the biggest and busiest camps in Kuwait.

While the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) is willing to rough it in the desert and broadcast with their gas masks to hand, their American counterparts are holed up in a safe, air-conditioned complex thousands of miles from the front line.

Modesty and military protocol prevent the Britons boasting about this in their daily broadcasts to a captive audience of 200,000 troops bedding down in the sand, but their presence has not gone unappreciated. Chris Pratt, the station manager, says: "When we bump into Americans in the queue to dinner or to the toilet, they tell us they listen to us rather their own American Forces Network because they not only prefer the music we play, but they respect the fact we are out here mucking in with them."

Ask the Americans why they are not here, and a senior officer will mumble something about "force security issues" and change the subject.

Several British entertainers have already been on the telephone offering to put on a concert for the troops. From Hollywood has come a deafening silence.

If the British forces should end up in Baghdad shortly, then Mr Pratt, 47, a former civil servant from Angelsey, and his co-host, Sean Ridley, 35, a former Army officer, won't be far behind with their record collection.

"We're not being foolhardy or trying to prove how brave we are. It's just that British forces out in the field regard us as a way of staying in touch with home," Mr Pratt said.

Spend half an hour listening to the rival networks and you realise in this coalition there are two armies, living side by side, who barely speak the same language.

While BFBS pours out messages from families, friends and pets, and the football results, the American Forces Network laces all its programmes with a liberal assortment of propaganda and embarrassing tips about personal cleanliness.

In the space of ten minutes yesterday, an American presenter droned on about the need for troops to take time to meditate — "Make your mind your ally" — how not to choke your children by feeding them peanuts and more than you should ever need to be told about washing your "private parts".

The American output is censored by the generals; the British output is not. Mr Pratt said: "We are civilians, not enlisted like the Yanks, and while we work closely with our military, they don't give us orders because they trust us to do and say the right thing. We inform but we should also entertain."

The two men were in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Kuwait before the vast majority of British troops arrived. Their experience is reflected in the expert way that they have decked out their grey container that is both a studio and sleeping accommodation. They even nipped into a local department store to add furnishings and fittings.

While public opinion is as divided as ever in Britain about whether this force should be here at all, the broadcasting community has already lent its support, with Virgin Radio and the BBC running special broadcasts for troops in the Gulf which are relayed through BFBS.

The goodwill messages from home that they have been asked to broadcast have nearly totalled six figures already.

We are doing things with Virgin Radio on saturday lunchtimes and with BBC Radio 2's Steve Wright on Sunday PM's, in addition Richard Allinson every week night on BBC R 2 will also be doing messages from the sandpit.
This is only me keeping you all informed, a lot of our people are working v hard to provide some sort of entertainment in theater and the max publicity of requests helps us no end.


And we have Phone request lines to call to leave a message

Germany 052221 98 3456

UK  01494 87 88 77


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