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Posted on Jun 3, 2007 in Front Page Features, War College

Deja Vu The Desert Rats

By Wild Bill Wilder


Battle #1 OBJECTIVE BRONZE:  Visibility still slowed movement as the 4th Brigade moved to their first objective, Bronze. To the north, the 7th Brigade was engaged with enemy forces near Copper North. Enroute to their first target, 4 Brigade encountered a number of enemy units along the line of march. 14/20th Hussars and 1st Royal Scots, the two forward battlegroups, cleared out this opposition with little problem. 14/20 Hussars destroyed a signals and an artillery unit and 1 Royal Scots an artillery battery.

A strong contingent of Iraqi armor on standby entered the battle in the darkness but, by 2:30 AM on G+2, Bronze was secured with 12 enemy tanks, 11 artillery pieces and a couple of dozen other enemy armored vehicles taken out.


A platoon of British M548 carriers and Samaritan tracked
ambulances (marked with the Red Cross) occupy a laager
position near a platoon of Warrior IFV’s (in background)

Battle #2 OBJECTIVE COPPER SOUTH: At about midnight, the Hussars encountered a strong enemy tank force of the Iraqi Hammurabi Division located at Copper South. Both sides depended heavily on specialized sighting equipment to locate and destroy the enemy in the darkness. By 0530, the Challengers had removed the threat and controlled Copper South. They had killed another 50 enemy armored vehicles and taken hundreds of Iraqi prisoners, including two divisional commanders.

Battle #3 OBJECTIVE BRASS: By now both Brigades were extremely busy moving from one enemy position to another, keeping faith with their instructions to protect the right flank of VII Corps and to eliminate the enemy’s tactical reserve. Even as the 7th Brigade was engaged at objectives Platinum and Lead, the 4th moved against Brass. It was another large area in which could be found another Iraqi Brigade, holding defensive positions facing south. This time A and D Squadrons took the lead.

The fight for BRASS nearly started badly when, during the approach march, 2 Troop of the Brigade almost engaged a column of logistic vehicles from 7 Brigade to the northeast which, at that stage, was mopping up ZINC and preparing its advance on PLATINUM.  A "blue on blue" contact was only avoided when the British tankers recognized a Chieftain armored bridgelayer in the target group. Another case of mistaken identity with far more tragic circumstances occurred when 3RRF was reorganizing after STEEL.  Maverick missiles from US A-10 aircraft operating in the area knocked out two Warriors.  Warrior casualties were 9 dead and 7 injured.

2nd Troop spotted enemy tanks and another column fairly close by. They took on the T-55s, eliminated them and were about to fire on the column when they saw that the bridgelayer in the group was a British Chieftain. They had almost fired on units of the A1 echelon of the 7th, moving in support of their troops.

Shortly afterward, the tanks of the 7th moved north of the enemy positions, flanking them. They then moved to the southeast and caught the enemy with most of its guns facing south. After clearing out enemy armor, Warrior APCs moved to the Iraqi trench lines and began flushing out the infantry. At this time a counterattack of enemy armor confronted the British tanks and a short, sharp firefight resulted in their total defeat.

As the fighting went on at objective Brass, other units of the 4th, including the 14/20 Hussars and the 3RRF had moved ahead. Soon they had acquired another enemy strongpoint, objective Steel].

The attack began with 1 Royal Scots, the Brigade’s leading battlegroup advancing first north and then southeast to approach the position from behind.  Challengers led the assault, their task being to destroy the enemy armor, and 6 T-55s were quickly identified and dispatched.  The battlegroup’s Warriors were called forward, dismounting their infantry to clear the trenches and some 25 MTLB APCs were then destroyed, mostly from the rear.  A further 25 tanks and 20 APCs were taken out in subsequent action.  1 Royal Scots were secure by 1200 hrs.

Simultaneously, 14/20 Hussars Battlegroup advanced on the right of the Brigade into the depth of the position.  14/20 Hussars were secure by 1430 hrs.  The way was now clear for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, reinforced by the Hussars A Squadron (or Company), to move east, securing not only the far end of BRASS but the next objective, STEEL, as well. 3RRF is reported to have destroyed 3 battalions of Iraqi artillery during this action.

By 1530 both objectives were fully under Allied control. At this point, the tanks and troops of the 4th took a small break for replenishment, resupply and a little bit of rest. The battle would continue.

Battle #4 OPERATION TUNGSTEN: It was now becoming apparent to the Tankers of the 4th that the artillery was wreaking havoc among the enemy. Volleys from the MLRS (called "the hex grid removers") and the 155mm guns continued to devastate Iraqi defenses. One artillery officer who surrendered admitted that the air strikes hand only destroyed 13 of his 100 guns. Cunning camouflage had hidden the rest. Allied artillery, on the other hand, had accounted for the destruction of 60 more of his guns, leaving him with only 17 operational weapons. The blank terrified stare of Iraqi soldiers who stumbled forward waving their white towels or handkerchiefs told the rest of the story.

(Author’s note: I have often wondered where so many thousands of Iraqi troops had secured so much white cloth in the heat of battle. I cannot help but wonder if many of them did not already have this on hand waiting for an opportunity to use it.)

The next major point to be taken was objective Tungsten. The rapid collapse of the enemy in the face of the hard-hitting armored columns was happening much quicker than had been anticipated. Military planners had to quickly return to the "drawing board" and prepare plans to pursue a fleeing Iraqi army.

The engagement at Tungsten followed the same pattern of the others. This time, the Iraqis had prepared defenses in depth and the Challengers, supported by infantry moved from one line to another, rousting out the enemy or killing him where he stood. For this engagement, 4 Brigade enjoyed the support not only of its Divisional Artillery Group but also of additional 8" and MLRS assets from the US National Guard’s 142 Artillery Brigade.  Interestingly, the operation began with a formal obstacle crossing of an overground oil pipeline which ran through the area and which presumably was considered too valuable to simply blow out of the way.  The Brits lost three tanks in the engagement. One caught a 30mm round in the rear and was immobilized. Two others broke down, mainly due to the excessive mileage covered in two days.

On February 27th, leading elements of the 7th Armored Brigade crossed over the border into Kuwait, well north of the capital and in a perfect position to cut the Basra-Kuwait highway leading out of Kuwait City.

Both Brigades temporarily held in place while future orders were being prepared. Shortly afterward, new instructions came down the line. The 7th Armored Brigade would move east and cut the highway. The 4th would occupy itself with clearing out the Wadi-el-Batin area of any remaining enemy forces.

By 0725 on G+4, 7 Brigade had taken objective Cobalt and was sitting on the highway facing south. 30 minutes later, the cease fire order came down to all units. A heavy rush of air swept across the desert and tens of thousands of Allied troops breathed a sigh of relief. The fighting was at an end.

During the 66 hours that it was active, the British 1st Armored Division had advanced almost 250 miles north and then east into Kuwait. It had further taken on a total of three Iraqi armored divisions, two of the Republican Guard and totally neutralized them. In addition they had captured over 4,000 pieces of equipment, ranging from large battle tanks on downward. 7,024 Iraqi troops had surrendered to them, including several senior commanders. It had been a total triumph.

Battle #5: OVJECTIVE COBALT: It is commonly known that the large Iraqi force withdrawing from Kuwait City was caught in the open by Allied air power. There ensued a total massacre. Those in retreat had nowhere to hide as one wave of attacking jets and helicopters swept through the motorized column, wreaking total destruction.

This scenario supposes that ground forces are used instead. These ground forces are units of the 4th Armored Brigade. They will face thousands of Iraqi soldiers, fleeing sympathizers and a host of tanks and other vehicles attempting to break through.

The task of the 4th is to hold them in place, prevent any retreat and finish the task assigned to them.


By the time the ceasefire was initiated, 42 Iraqi divisions had been smashed like gnats challenging the windshield of a hurtling tractor-trailer truck. They were caught up in the whirlwind of the Allied advance and simply pulverized. Many offered no fight at all. Those that did paid dearly and quickly. It was perhaps one of the most one-sided victories of the 20th century.

Estimates of Iraqi military men killed in the months of Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Desert Saber go from 25,000 to over 100,000. No exact figure has ever been revealed. A like number either surrendered or deserted. Of Hussein’s vast arsenal, over 3,700 tanks, 2,400 APCs and 3,000 artillery pieces had been destroyed or captured.

Some have questioned the quick ending of the war and the fact that a ceasefire went into effect before the job was complete.

Some have erroneously evaluated the British participation as a support operation for the American troops. Actually nothing could be farther from the truth. The soldiers of the UK had performed a first-line operation. Their mission had been as important, yea, perhaps even more important than some of the other units of the VII Corps. Their performance was brilliant. It was perhaps the best executed of all large actions during the Gulf War. The spirits of the 7th that still roam the desert since 1941 could smile down upon this new generation of warriors of the British Empire.

They had done their job well.

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1 Comment

  1. the united kingdom fought Argentina in the Falkland wars in the eighty’s although it was dominantly a navel and marine based they did fight to retake the lost island.