The Gulf War has started – 26 years ago

For many, you have just got up and its the same old same old. For Woody and I some 26 years ago. We have been in NBC category 1 since the early hours and then it all went bang. Woody and I stood there and watched the show from what we considered to be a relatively safe distance, though to be fair, it would have been nicer to have been in oh I don’t know, Cyprus.

This is just to lay down some thoughts and views of what it felt like to be under the air war on the nights and days of the 17th / 18th / 19th in the first Gulf War. I was serving with the Support Helicopter Force which was an amalgamation of various Royal Air Force and Army units. 4 Squadron,  21 Signal Regiment were in play. The game was on…

It had ramped up considerably since the start at 0330hrs on the 17th and following 72 hours were incredible. You could see shoals of B52 bombers flying overhead and then dropping their loads with the ground shaking as the rounds went off. It really came into its own though once the sun went down. It was like some macabre light theatre. Truly awe-inspiring and an immense display of power.

B52 dropping their loads in the Gulf War

The desert is a cold unforgiving place at night. Temperatures drop, sandstorms pop up quickly but this night was clear as a bell, almost serene and romantic. You had the prettiest and brightest stars you had ever seen. No light pollution at all and then all hell breaks loose. Over Baghdad it’s been well documented with lots of pictures to see.


Sadly this is one of only two ‘evening / night shots’ from the desert that came out. I guess I could have got a bit closer to open the lens up but the only thing that would have opened up would have been my bowels and possibly intestines. Best left alone. Not to ‘war snappers’. Best to keep the flash off.

Desert at Night - Puma on approach - Gulf War

Nasty feckers bombs are. Unlike the doodle bugs of yester year, today’s modern day widow makers don’t make much of a noise until the walls are collapsing and your organs have gone from internal to external. Plus of course at night, you can’t see them. The bombs are dropped and the enemy is plunged into an ungodly world of pain.


I vividly remember sitting on top of one of the RAF trucks and just watching the show. It was if a black blanket was having vibrant paint splattered on it then just as they had appeared, save for a glimmer of fire, they vanished until the next one hit home.

Night draws in at the beginning of the Gulf War

The explosions were huge and ground shook violently. At that point we were the last port of call for the helicopters prior to their attacks so in the scheme of things about 18 miles from the front line targets. So distance wise from Bath to Shepton Mallet. Now that sounds like a long way but in war terms, they were very big bangs. I was just so glad that it was them on the receiving end and not us.


You have to feel air ordinance to experience it, there is no way to describe it. It has to be felt…