Iraq – A long way from the bus station.

Lying on the ground in the dirt next to the tracks of my Warrior armoured vehicle. Blue grey sky overhead. Covered in dust. Rats. Everything smells of shit. Everything smells of smoke. Burning. The sound of engines. Occasional shouts. Can’t remember my last shower. Hungry. The brews are on.


An abandoned bus depot. ‘Bridge Four’. ‘Route Red’. Basrah. Iraq. A shout goes up… “Incoming”. Rocket fire. Lands 20 metres away. Shrapnel peppering the vehicle. No injuries. Weapons cleaned and ready. Orders group. H-Hour and timings given. Brief the lads. Keep them informed. Keep observation across the river. Reports of enemy. Dark figures moving around between the buildings. My first fire mission called in. Brought down on the Fedayeen in the technical college across the canal in front of us. Buzzing. A relief to get the first mission away. No feelings for those under my artillery fire. They know how it works. They didn’t run so fair play to them. Ready to do more. That chance comes. Many times.

Preparing to drive out. Hot exhaust fumes blowing in my face. Heading up Route Red. Towards the College. Again. Third or fourth time of trying. I forget how many. Strong resistance. Each time getting further up the road. Mines either side in the ditches. Bunker positions. Dark figures flitting across the streets in the distance. Reports of ‘contact’. Tanks firing. Shock waves sucking the air from your lungs. Enemy soldier evaporating in a mist as a tank round passes through him. Kinetic energy unleashed. Machine guns chattering. My turret scanning through my arcs as we more forward. Empty cartridge cases rolling on the metal floor of the turret. Sit-reps passed over the radio to my Commander. Listening to three different frequencies on a sweaty radio headset. Helmet squeezing my head. Sweat running into the eyes. Keep the vehicle moving forward. Gaz the driver is doing really well. Give the lads in the back a brief. Tell them what’s going on. Send another sit-rep.

Three of our turrets all swing round together. Guns pointing at an outbuilding. Responding to a ‘contact’ report on the net. Floor peddles pressed. Machine guns burst into life…and death. Four more down. Clear to move forward. Progress made. A car rolls towards the vehicle in front. How come he doesn’t stop? What’s he playing at? Engaged from the side by another call-sign. Car doors dancing. Axle twisted. Limping forward and comes to a halt. A Guardsman runs forward to take a look. Hoping to administer first aid. Ironic. Part of life. Door pulled hard to open it. Twisted metal sticking. A flash of red. A large lumpy splash of colour bursts over the grey tarmac. Driver evacuated to aid station. He dies. We roll forward.

‘Contact’ right! RPG round launched. Seen in my peripheral vision. Hits the side of my warrior armoured vehicle. Doesn’t detonate. Bounces off. Happy days. The crew are ok. Crack on. Tanks firing. Dust and smoke obscuring the road ahead. We move forward and through the gates. Into the college of Literature. Defensive positions….all round defense. Keep ‘eyes on’. Get the brews on in the back. Everyone ok. The crew did well. Amazingly well. Grab some food while you have the chance. Vehicle is ok. Weapons are good to go. Work out a ‘stag’ so the guys can try and catch some sleep. Keep switched on. Be dark soon.

A long burst breaks the silence. Tracer leaps and dances. Rounds strike the wall above my head. Three or four foot? Fucking close. Wankers. Guns ready. The radio chatters. Adrenalin filled voices fill the radio. Confusion. Unknown. Attack on another vehicle. Two men down. Insurgent still active. Snipers deployed to try and locate him. Using our night vision kit to try and find him. Everyone on alert. A dark figure comes crashing towards us through some bushes. Running hard. ‘Hold your fire!……Don’t shoot till you can ID him!’…I shout at the crew. I don’t know what’s happened and don’t want one of our own blokes shot in error. Our guns are following the shape through the darkness as he gets closer. Safety catches off. Adrenalin buzzing. Control. Think. Concentrate. He bursts through the bushes towards us.

A young guardsman. Forced to flee from the vehicle as it was attacked. No kit or weapon. Scared shitless and jabbering. Poor bastard. Shock, adrenalin and fear fucking with his head. Get him in the back of the truck and have a sit down. Calm down mate you’re ok now. Have a fag. Any more casualties mate? What’s the score? Are you injured? What call-sign are you? Sit-rep sent on the radio. That’s all that crew accounted for now and all personnel are now accounted for and in the cover of their vehicles. Anyone seen walking around from now is to be engaged. We didn’t find him. A long night.

Sunday April 6th, 2003. Two Guardsmen died tonight.


……Lying on the ground in the dirt next to the tracks of my Warrior armoured vehicle. Blue grey sky. Covered in dust. Everything smells of shit. Everything smells of smoke. Burning. The sound of engines. Occasional shouts. Can’t remember my last shower. Hungry. The brews are on.

Another day.

Orders group.

Timings and H-hour given.

We move forward.




 My shooting map from Iraq. The diagonal road moving across the map is ‘Route Red’


March 22nd, 2003 at 12:22 – We cross the border into Iraq


The map I used for the break into Basrah


During a quiter spell my Warrior armoured vehicle in ‘over-watch’ of Basrah ready to call in Artillery Fire.

Published by ian forsyth photography

Press and Documentary photographer covering the North of England. Stringer & contributor for Getty Images News. Prints are available to buy on my website.

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