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The Arrival

The journey to the Middle East seemed an to take an eternity, a continuous roller-coaster to nowhere, yet the arrival at Al Jubar brought us all back down to earth with an almighty bang. Herded through wooden stockades the mind wandered and one could almost hear mooing sounds, bought on by the way we were herded to ‘n’ fro like cattle. Injections followed with once again the awareness of the same cattle like treatment. The reality of a war was still lost amidst the scurrying from place to place, yet we all knew a war was imminent.

My first duty out there was a stint in the main kitchen where myself and a few others were ushered to a man we were introduced to as “Gunny”. He was a tall, loud American soldier who had been put in charge of feeding the thousands of new arrivals to the port. He unexpectedly invited us into his make shift office, offered us coffee and gave us the regulation ‘new arrival’ chat. After twenty minutes of listening and not understanding a word we were ushered to our respective duty areas.

Being explained to that the American Army were proud of their troop feeding methods, we were honoured with the job of frying beef burgers. Not a hard job I hear you say; yet the truth was soon apparent. It was now 6am and the first burger (patty) was placed on the griddle ready for the evening chow. Twelve hours and twenty thousand burgers later, the last thermal container was full. I reckon in the few days we worked in that kitchen I personally cooked more burgers than every employee, of every fast food outlet in the UK had done since time began.

The worst aspect of the job was soon to become clear; as the shift ended we made our way out of the kitchen. The sun was still burning bright and our entrance proved to be more painful than standing in front of the griddle for the twelve hours. The fat build-up over our entire bodies was so much that we ourselves started to cook as we ran to our respective billets, the stench of cooked meat seeping from every pore The shower was a welcome sight but even after thirty minutes we still smelt like a greasy chip shop.

I shared my bunk with an American called “Joe”, and we spent the few days we were there swapping pieces of our own equipment and clothing with each other. It was also in these few days I realised that English might have been the spoken language but the Yanks bastardised it so much it was like conversing with someone from another planet.

Joe was a tall Marine, who much like the Gunny had numerous tales of numerous exploits from numerous locations around the globe. His chest was adorned with ribbons which he seemed to get a new one every time he crossed a new time line. When one makes a suggestion that the world is a small place it became only more apparent when it was found that Joe’s mothers, father was British and had served in the Army Catering Corps. This opened the floodgates of not only stories to be told but an obvious financial venture for us. Joe was only too willing to obtain memorabilia from his father-in laws ex Regiment and we were only too willing to sell it to him at an extortionate price. I swapped a brass cap badge for an American design Parka style jacket which had Radar reflective properties. Whether it did or it did not, I didn’t care but it was comforting to think I had just obtained a coat of invisibility and all for the price of a 50p cap badge. It also left me wondering if the other five cap badges I had were more valuable than gold itself. I had this vision that whilst the Military were searching for Kuwaiti stolen bullion they would come across a secret stash of British Cap Badges and leave the Gold behind!

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