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Authors: Dan Mills

Sniper one (9 page)

BOOK: Sniper one
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Just the sight of him put an enormous smile on my face. Oh yes, a big scary bloke like that is just what we need. He was with a team of four, who were all carrying belts of Gimpy ammo too. Excellent, we could fight for hours with that. I told the jock to take his team down to the other end of the alleyway to protect our right flank.

The Argylls' arrival had proved to be pretty timely. The sound of another big blast echoed out, but from a little further away. It must have come from the other side of the OMS building, and it was followed by repeated AK fire. Then we heard the slightly higher pitched firing noise of SA80s.

It was Ian's QRF being ambushed. He'd come the most direct way he could, which was straight past the OMS
building. That's exactly where they hit him, just as I had predicted. All my instructions to the Ops Room had been ignored. Ian wasn't going to get to us in a hurry now.

Then more bad news came over the radio. The Warrior armoured vehicles of the battle group QRF from Camp Abu Naji had finally been tasked to come and extract us. But they were still forty-five minutes away. What had they been fucking waiting for?

This was a problem. Even if the twenty of us could hold out against probably the ever larger number of enemy before the cavalry finally arrived, Daz wasn't going to last that long. We had a drip in him, but it was just saline solution. He had a lot more than one hole in him and he was slowly bleeding to death. He would need a surgical team to stabilize him.

It was time for Plan B. I told Sam over the PRR to leave us the VHF and drive like the clappers back to Cimic House with Daz. I don't think he's been happier to hear anything in all his life. As the Snatch wheel spun off down the street, you could hear rounds still pinging off it. As for the rest of us, we would just have to slug it out until either Ian's mob fought their way through or the Warriors turned up.

The Gimpy was up and running now, and spitting out fire when targets popped up in the street at the other end of the alleyway. The Gimpy team and Daz's departure had created a lull in fire from the OMS. I decided to take advantage of it, and rescue the sensitive radio equipment from Daz's burning Snatch. I spotted a doorway into the garden next door from the main road, and another out of it again next door to the OMS building. I reckoned we could get most of the way there out of the view of the OMS if we got into the garden next door and kept low against its lefthand wall. Then, we could leg it out to the Snatch, do a double quick smash and grab and be away with what we needed.

I told Colonel Gray my plan. To my surprise, he immediately insisted he would come with me. Someone as senior as him is normally stuck behind a desk and would hardly ever get the chance to get his hands dirty any more. It's not at all what COs should do, but he just couldn't resist it.

'Fuck it; this is going to be my VC moment. I'm going to be bloody H Jones and get shot trying to be a hero. I can't believe it. I'm supposed to be going home in seven days' time.'

It wasn't exactly the behaviour of a Glasgow school teacher either, but Ken said he was up for it too. Just like the colonel, Ken was also past his best years but he didn't want to miss the excitement either.

'Ads and I are in too,' Chris said. 'Some peacekeeping tour, eh?'

The five of us put fresh magazines in our rifles, pulled back the cocking handles, and flicked the safety catches off. We were ready for action. But Ken still had something left to do.

'Hang on a wee sec there, Danny.'

Just as I was about to give the word to go, Ken pulled a cigarette from a packet in his pocket, put it in his mouth, and lit it. He stood up straight with a smouldering Benson and Hedges stuck between his teeth, and stuck his chest out. Now he really looked the part. He inhaled deeply, then he let the smoke go.

'Right,' he announced, 'let's kick us some fuckin' arse.'

When you need a fag, you just need a fag I suppose.

7

We sprinted out of the alleyway into the main road and ducked straight back into the courtyard between us and the OMS building. They didn't see us. We spread out low and crept up in a line along the brick wall that bordered the main road up to the second gate. Daz's Snatch was just five yards away. My plan was for Ads, Chris and me to leg it to the Snatch while Ken and the colonel covered us.

I poked my head out of the gate. Unfortunately, a sharp-eyed little fucker on the OMS building's roof top spotted me immediately. He started shouting his head off. Thinking we were now trying to sneak up on them, the bastards directed all their fire on to the metal gate. The sheer weight of rounds began to shred it. Shit.

We all scrambled back behind the brick wall. How the hell were we going to get through that wall of lead?

I looked at Chris for inspiration. But he thought that was his nod to go for the radio. Chris turned round to look at Ads. They stared at each other in horror.

'Fuck off, Danny, I ain't doing that,' said Chris firmly.

'OK, OK.' My heart was in my own mouth now. 'I didn't tell anyone to do anything. Everyone just calm down.'

'We are calm, mate. You calm down.'

Ads turned to Chris. 'I ain't going to get that fucking radio, Chris.'

'Don't worry Ads, neither am I. No fucking way.'

Screw the radio, it's not worth three dead bodies.

'OK, OK. We'll bin the fucker. Everyone back the way we came.'

'I think that's a rather sensible decision, sergeant,' agreed the colonel. And we sprinted back to our alleyway.

There was a reason why the enemy had gone quiet. They had been pulling a flanking manoeuvre, and a load of fighters had now sneaked up behind us. Just after we got back, a grenade came over the alleyway's back wall and landed just a few metres behind our firing line.

Oh bollocks. We're going to get some of this.

Everybody stared at it. There wasn't any time to do anything else but throw ourselves to the floor. It exploded with an enormous bang, spraying shrapnel out in a wide circle. Because of its design to plant metal into people at waist height, amazingly nobody was hit. We'd all got down in time. But we all went deaf for a minute. Ads thought it was hysterical.

'Fuck me, how the hell did we get away with that?'

Even I couldn't resist a smile in relief. But as I was standing up, I heard the very loud whoosh of an RPG. It sounded like it was coming fast from behind me, so I instinctively ducked down again. It turned out to be a wise move. The rocket swept right over my head and out over the alleyway wall beside the garden.

We now had enemy rear. I got Colonel Gray to put his men and mine in an all-round defence. We now had a line of guns against the back wall of the alleyway as well as the front. The GPMG was still on the right flank. But we were suddenly very vulnerable because we were in a crap position to engage the threat from the rear. We couldn't even fucking see it. We had to move.

Ten yards up the alleyway on the rear side was a much smaller alleyway. Halfmoon-shaped, it lead from ours back
onto the main road further away from the OMS building. With its hard concrete walls 10 feet tall on either side and partially covered by scaffolding, it would give us far better protection. So we withdrew into it. I put a couple of sentries at each end to engage opportunity targets. Meanwhile, the rest of us reloaded our magazines from the bandoliers we were carrying.

Almost as soon as we had vacated our old positions, the enemy started to move into them. Gunmen took up positions on the lip of the first alleyway where my Snatch had been. And rounds smacked into the other end of our new alleyway where it joined the main road. One RPG after another screamed over our heads. At the moment, the angle was still too tight for them to plonk one in on top of us. But it was only a matter of time.

'Danny, come in.' It was Ian Caldwell of the QRF on the VHF. He asked me how we were.

'Been a lot better, mate. I take it that was you getting into a little bother on the other side of the OMS building then?'

'Yeah, that was us all right.'

'Why the fuck did you come down that way?'

'It's what the Ops Room told us to do. Why, did you tell them differently?'

Great. Why had I even bothered getting on the radio to them?

'Look, I'm sorry, Dan, but there's no chance I'm going to get to you right now. We're getting hammered here. I hate to ask this, mate, but, anything you can do for us?'

The first of Ian's two Snatches had got smacked straight on by an RPG as they approached Yellow 3 on Tigris Street. They debussed, but were immediately pinned down by a wall of small arms fire. They fled to the only cover
available, a bit of metal fencing under a bridge. They were still taking heavy fire from three different sides with just the river behind them. They were in a very bad state, and Ian knew it.

''Fraid not, mate. We're still in the shit pretty spectacularly down here.'

There was a silence.

'OK, well I guess we're both on our own then.'

We both knew what was going on, and it was a bit of an emotional moment. I tried to keep positive.

'OK, mate, well I'll see you when you get back in. Keep your head down.'

'Yup, same to you, mate.'

It's the sort of lofty optimism soldiers exchange when things are looking pretty bleak. Actually, I wasn't sure that I would ever see him again. But he certainly didn't want to hear that.

Then the worst news yet from the Ops Room. The Warriors weren't coming to us any more. They'd been retasked to help Ian's QRF as well as another battle group call sign who had also got themselves in deep shit while trying to get through to us. Both were now in a worse state than us so got the priority billing. That's how it goes.

The other call sign was my Commanding Officer's rover group.

It's not often that a lowly sergeant gets the chance to have not one but two colonels fighting for him. But it was that sort of day.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Maer was in Cimic House on a visit when news of our contact came over the net. Then Ian's lot got hit too. As the nearest available troops left with working vehicles, Colonel Maer had nobly decided it was his responsibility to see what he could do for us too. Also,
his boys were as keen as any of us to taste a bit of action.

The RSM, 'Chalky' White, acts as the CO's bodyguard when he's out and about. Chalky was in the barber's chair having a haircut when the CO rushed out. Unfortunately for Chalky, he had to leg it after him with only one half of his head shaved. He looked like Robert De Niro out of
Taxi Driver
.

The CO's two Snatches also piled straight down Tigris Street. They got within a few hundred metres of Ian's bridge when they also got smacked by an RPG attack. The OMS had worked out which way reinforcements were coming now. It wasn't exactly hard. They had been lying in wait.

A young lance corporal, Kev Phillips, jumped straight out of one of the Snatches and took a bullet right through the neck and out of his left shoulder. He was bleeding heavily. From that moment onwards, their priority was to get him back to the regimental aid post as soon as possible. In other words, they were going to be fuck all use to us as well.

Louey was one of the sentries on the alleyway's lip with the main road. He had the best view of what was going on outside. Having the balls of steel that he had, he'd dodged sniping fire repeatedly to stick his head up and out to identify enemy positions.

'I'm sorry to bother you, Sergeant. It's just that I've done a quick count-up, and there are about forty points of fire on us now from 360 degrees.'

'OK, thanks, Louey.'

We'd only been stationary there for a few minutes, but the enemy had been on the move again. They were like a vast pack of wild hyenas moving in on their prey. They had the taste of blood in their mouths. And they were slowly surrounding us.

Shit, this is getting serious now.

Literally hundreds of the lunatics had now joined the battle against us, and their numbers were growing every minute. Word had obviously got around. They'd all gone home to get their weapons and have a go at the foreign jundi. We were massively outnumbered, and it was getting a little scary.

We had only a few minutes left to get the fuck out of there before an RPG finally came in on target and turned us all into a big vat of claret. There was only one option left open to us. The lot of us would somehow have to extract in the Argylls' three Snatches.

Colonel Gray and I thrashed out the new plan.

'OK, Sergeant, I think this might work. Our Snatches aren't that far away on the main road, maybe about 40 metres at the most. If we're quick, with your help we can reach them. Cover us going out to them, and then we'll cover you coming to us.'

In groups of two and hard targeting, the Argylls started to leg it. Rounds pounded into the tarmac around them, and I just waited for the first bloke to drop in an agonizing body twist. But they all reached their vehicles unharmed.

Safe under the vehicles, the Argylls started to return fire on the enemy's positions. That was my patrol's cue to start legging it. Smudge was next out, but just as he peeked into the main street, a gunman opened up with his AK out of a window almost directly above his head, from the nextdoor building to the lip. He hurled himself back in just in time.

'Fucking bastard. That cunt's completely cut us off.'

I stuck my head out to look for the guy and another burst of rounds smacked straight into the wall behind me less than a foot above my head. He was right. The gunman was right between us and the Argylls.

We had to clear another route round to the Argylls. That meant going back out into the original alleyway and into the direct fire of the enemy again for a few metres until we found a way into the next compound down. We had to outflank the bloke who was cutting us off.

'You're fucking crazy aren't you, Dan?' said Chris. 'That's whistling death out there in that alleyway.'

'Don't worry lads. I'm leading the way. If anyone's going to get shot it's going to be me. Just follow me and you'll be all right.' It was a lie. I had no idea if we were going to be all right. 'Come on boys, let's fucking do this.'

BOOK: Sniper one
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