Tuesday, 26 January 2016
It was a different life, a different existence that was not that long ago. In the sandbox known as Iraq we fought what were called Insurgents back then in order to liberate someone or something .... fuck details, a soldier goes where he/she is told and does the job.
When you join up you more or less sign away yer soul and free will, you also have to come to terms with the fact that you might kill or be killed. Any soldier who has not thought about this hasn't faced the prospect of dying for their cuntry.
In the military they break you then rebuild you, conscience and questioning yer superiors is knocked out of you but those with common sense and aggression rise through the ranks.
Old Knudsen was too aggressive for the military at times, mostly because he didn't do mornings. This aggression would be honed to a fine blade to make him the perfect killing machine he is today.
During a patrol near Ramadi we came under fire from two sides, we were pinned down with hardly any cover and lost a few good men. When back up arrived in the form of Humvees laden with Americans our attackers fled, we were exhausted but we wanted payback. We followed the Insurgent tracks for 8 miles and were led to a village .... just a village, it wasn't even big enough to be on the map or have a name.
The Insurgents hadn't finished hiding their weapons and disappearing into the population yet and after a firefight with just 4 enemy combatants we set about looking for the rest.
The village elder told our interpreter that there were no Al-Qaeda in the village except those 4 who he says he didn't know .... they always had a story like that. Foreign soldiers came and went but the Insurgents were always there so you can't blame him for being afraid of them more than us.
Being just a Lance jack at the time Old Knudsen didn't have much authority over the men, we were being led by Corporal Mitchell, a big blue eyed straw haired Bradford man with mean, sadistic streak common to most British NCO's.
Our regular platoon commander was down with heat stroke, Sargent Braine was one of the few killed that day so Mitchell was filling in. Normally we'd have returned to base but now we were on a crusade.
He looked at the villagers and at the bodies of the 4 dead insurgents and sneered, you just didn't know if you'd get the sadistic racist or the professional soldier were Mitchell was concerned, he brown nosed up to the officers perfectly so they hadn't a clue what he was really like.
It was no longer males of fighting age you had to look out for, the insurgents could be anyone in this village, even the children could carry bombs and pull triggers.
"Kill the lot of them and blow this place to fuck!" .... he just said that, the men just started to herd the villagers towards the village center, nobody questioned or spoke up, nobody dared.
Old Knudsen looked at the villagers, they knew something was up, mothers held their children close, the elder pleaded innocence, we were British, we were better than this.
"Hold on a minute Corporal, this isn't going to happen" my mouth was dry and my voice cracked a little, it's not like the movies in which the hero looks calm and rested, my balls were sweatin like a bookie on racing day.
Mitchell's core of followers began to circle me while others just looked the other way so I said it again.
"This isn't going to happen" ...... " not until we take a group selfie for fucks sake."
Those lads would never have anything for their photo albums if it wasn't for me. Memories fade but photos don't, unless you use a filter or leave it exposed to direct sunlight .... you get the idea.
That's why Old Knudsen is called the hero of Ramadi .... though those in Ramadi have another name for him.