Britain's forgotten war in southern Iraq

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by hackle, Oct 16, 2004.

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  1. taken from

    Britain's forgotten war in southern Iraq

    BASRA, Iraq (AFP) Oct 15, 2004
    Fighting for survival in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, a group of British soldiers held firm as armed rebels pounded their base relentlessly with mortars, rockets and gun fire.
    "On the peak days it was intense, with rockets exploding on the camp. It was a miracle more soldiers were not hurt," said one private who declined to be named, describing about three weeks of little-known chaos here in August.

    Some 3,500 British troops in the south are due to hand over to a new brigade and return home at the end of October, having survived some of the fiercest clashes Britain's military has experienced since the Korean war.

    But the conflict, between the 1st Mechanised Brigade and fighters loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, was largely ignored as world attention focused at the time on similar mayhem involving US troops in the holy city of Najaf.

    "Individual units saw more fighting in August than individual units saw in last year's war," said Major Charles Mayo, spokesman for the British-led Multi-National Division South East.

    On one occasion, a British patrol came under rocket and small arms fire for one-and-a-half kilometres (less than a mile) as it drove through Basra city centre, soldiers said.

    Eventually, those on board were forced to abandon their vehicles, take over a nearby house and barricade themselves inside, from where they fought down to their last round of ammunition just as reinforcements arrived.

    The August uprising in Basra and the neighbouring province of Maysan, sprung from Najaf, where attacks by Sadr's men prompted US troops to launch a three-week assault on rebel strongholds that destroyed much of the city.

    Fearing the same destruction as the unrest spread south, Basra's governing council appealed to British troops not to follow the US lead.

    Instead, the army agreed to bunker down in camps and simply patrol surrounding areas to avoid antagonising the militia.

    But the fight was brought to them, with Sadr's so-called Mehdi Army firing more than 100 mortars at one British camp in Basra city, which also housed a special Iraqi police unit.

    "At one point, they were fighting on the walls of the camp as our soldiers tried to stop Moqtada's men from climbing over," said Captain James Grant.

    "Every day we were getting attacked and had to fight back," he said.

    British troops and rebels exchanged fire directly on 170 different occasions in Basra during some 23-days of fighting, officials said.

    In contrast, only 20-to-30 contacts were recorded in the whole of September.

    Despite the intensity of the violence, only four British troops died. There were no available data on Iraqi casualties.

    "We were getting pounded by mortars every night, there were some very near misses," said another young private, who also declined to be named.

    "One mortar landed right outside my window but did not go off," he said.

    The constant barrage forced hundreds of soldiers to move into a hotel on the main base in Basra city, where they spent sweaty nights in the height of summer crammed into the lobby on sleeping bags.

    Most projects to rebuild Iraq, such as training up a new police force, were suspended as movement by British soldiers and civilians was cut to a minimum.

    And the stand-off was only resolved when Iraq's most influential Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatolla al-Sistani, returned from a three-week trip to London and helped negotiate a peace deal between Sadr and the US troops in Najaf -- a move that had a ripple effect everywhere else.

    As a result, Iraq's four southern-most provinces under British-led military control, are much calmer, which is good news for the incoming 4th Armoured Brigade who are due to start work in the next two weeks.

    But the new homes for those based in Basra city bare the scars of the conflict with a smashed car, hit by mortar fire, still sitting at one camp and a cargo box with a hole gauged out of its side by a rocket at another.
  2. Its becoming very annoying that this government is keeping news like this away from the British public. We here on ARRSE know the truth about what happened but a lot of my civilian colleagues have no clue to just how bad it is!

    Then to find the 1 BW may go under US control and assist them has me infuriated. Why?? What happened to informing the House of Commons? My thoughts on our due political process was things of this magnitude and importance would be brought before the house for discussion and so led to the Press telling the country just after the house. Now it seems the House of Commons and HM Opposition are now seen by New BLiabour as secondary to the press :evil:

    George Orwell's predictions may become frighteningly close to reality :(
  3. I quite agree with you, a very dangerous precedent is being set.

    At the last count I thought we were a demoracy :twisted:
  4. I agree.

    Some consolation in the fact that it was in fact the leader of HM Opposition who broke the 1 BW/US request story.
  5. dui lai, I see no reason for Tony to go to the House, it's an operational issue, not a political one.

    All forces in Iraq are under US control. They (at CENTCOM) direct the whole operation.

    Wherever the Brits end up, they will still act in a manner becoming British Soldiers. All the talk about us using US RoE is bollox.

    I'm sure the BW are dead chuffed - we don't even know for sure that it will be them yet.
  6. But not if some get their own way :roll:
  7. The media are very much partly to blame for the biased slant on the reporting of this issue.

    In regards to the 'debate' over the use of UK troops in Baghdad they are making much of how the Brits are used to policing relatively peaceful zones and not being 'at the sharp end'.

    Utter twoddle. Our troops are taking a shed-load of incoming - they are just more experienced at this sort of war/police action and so dont respond in knee-jerk, US, gung-ho style - and so they manage to keep a better grip on the situation.

    The one good thing to come of this would be the Brits to go into an area of B'dad and slowly sort it, calm it down and show the septics how to conduct 'hearts & minds', police, peace-keeping type actions.

  8. Then the spams will make a film about it and the world will see a different story again
  9. sounds about right, damn i like a good realist :wink: :lol:
    as was said earlyier, sure we will show the septics how to do it, without recourse to precision air strikes :?
  10. Just a quick note on our so-called 'easy' deployment in Southern Iraq:

    US Forces Deployed = appx 110000
    US Dead = 1101
    US % loss = 1%

    UK forces deployed = appx 8361
    UK dead = 68
    UK % loss = 0.8%

    A difference of 0.2%.

    Real 'easy' tour that... :roll:

    Source -

    Rest in Peace - all of them.
  11. Nige, thank you, a lot of people will be surprised by those figures.
  12. Based upon the 130,000 the US actually have in Iraq their figure is around 0.8% also, lets not forget though, these figures are fallen commrades. We are not scoring against each other. :roll:
  13. That's absolutely right, see last sentence of Nige's post.

    Nige also said the 110,000 US figure came from the website, which states: "Beginning in late December 2003, the United States began implementing the OIF 2 troop rotation that would begin to bring roughly 130,000 Army personnel out of Iraq and deploy roughly 110,000 troops into Iraq as replacements."
  14. You know - I was just shouting out loud at the TV news today that they should look into the the figures proportionately......

    ...and what do you know. The figures seem to support what we all suspected.

  15. Arrse is brilliant. Until now, we thought it was just me who shouts at the telly when it overlooks important facts. I will have to print out Pompey_Jock's post for Mrs hackle. Maybe that will reassure her. :wink: