My first deployment from Bastion was to Patrol Base PRICE. I had to spend an extra 3 days waiting for a UK Chinook, and in the end they were non serviceable, so we went all the way round to the American air base parallel to ours, but due to the size of Bastion far far away. Thus we flew in a US helicopter, rows of which stretched off in to the distance as all their military films so often illustrate. As we flew over to PRICE we were hit by small arms fire and some kind of oil or coolant was dripping on me as we landed in quite a hurry. But the Helicopter was still able to take off as soon as we had dragged our kit away. I was just able to carry my Bergen, easel, portfolio and metal art case without assistance, but in body armour and helmet, one has no feeling on ones shoulders after 100m.
As I came out of the Darkness in to the dim light of the Platoon tents I was met by my fellow ICCY officer (now in 4 Rifles) Stu Kennon, and I felt very much at home. Patrol Base PRICE was a proper soldiers' paradise, living under canvas, small arms fire over head and wonderful mod cons. Perks such as a refrigerated ISO container full of bottled water, plentiful hot water to wash from huge bowls and very practical silver bags to defecate in were just some of the comforts. Every morning just as it got light I would plod in my helmet; body armour and easel to a charming view form a sangar to paint the shadows as they shortened whilst the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Taliban took pot shots at each other. They seemed to enjoy their dawn battles… but for the rest of the day they were usually to be found lounging in the shade.
To be continued