To mark 30 years since the start of the 1991 Gulf War, known by the British Forces as Operation GRANBY, BFBS the Forces Station is releasing a six-part podcast telling the stories of those who were there.
Decision-makers, military commanders and ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen reflect on their roles in the 1991 Gulf War, 30 years on.
"I was quite excited because that’s what I joined up for and here was my big chance to do what Spike Milligan did, make my contribution to the downfall of, in my case, Saddam Hussein.”
The podcast series will explore the mood of the nation, our fear of biological warfare, how it was being reported on in the news and what it was like for those who were left at home.
It will also take a look into whether our troops were ready to fight in the Middle East and what happened to those who were involved after the war ended. You will hear from veterans who experienced the operation first hand as they share their memories.
‘GRANBY: The Storm in the Desert’, will be available from Friday, January 15, wherever you get your podcasts and on bfbs.com/podcasts
What Was Operation Granby?
More than 53,000 personnel from across the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force took part, with most deploying from the UK or Germany.
Operation GRANBY, or Operation Desert Storm as the Americans called it at the start of the combat phase, was in response to the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invading the tiny oil-rich Gulf State of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. This caused international outrage.
It was feared that if Saudi Arabia was next, the Iraqi dictator would control more than half the world's oil.
Operation GRANBY began on January 17, 1991, following a UN mandate and was to become the largest deployment of UK armed forces since the Second World War. Retired British Army Major Ronnie Harley was ready for action. He said:
“Yeah, I was quite excited because that’s what I joined up for and here was my big chance to do what Spike Milligan did, make my contribution to the downfall of, in my case, Saddam Hussein.”
This Gulf War was fought by a colossal American-led alliance.
Dozens of countries took part, supplying 670,000 troops – 470,000 from the USA and more than 53,000 from the UK.
To put that in context, that is around five times the size of the strength of the armed forces at the height of the war in Afghanistan - Operation Herrick.
With so many getting ready to head to the Middle East, preparations were rapid. Retired Major Harley said:
“The activation was a bit frenetic. My kit wasn’t the best, I wasn’t prepared mentally for the desert.
"The unit we were joining was 3 Armoured and we would be combined together to form, what we call these days, a medical regiment, it was a new concept back then.”
Within a week, US fighter jets had arrived in the Gulf, followed by the Royal Air Force.
At the time, LCpl Caron Sanders-Crook was deploying from Germany to join 32 Field Hospital. She said:
“Just standing in line with your arm out on your hip for your vaccinations.
"We were getting vaccinated for everything because we didn’t know what the threats were and there was a high risk of biological warfare.
"It was a very strange time.”
This conflict saw the Tornado fighter jet make it’s combat debut. Martin Wintermeyer was a Tornado navigator during Op GRANBY, or as Americans called this phase, Operation Desert Shield. Martin said:
“My boss, a very wise man called Ron Morris, he said 'don’t think about the Cold War’, which is what we all trained for, ‘don’t think about that, it’s going to happen somewhere in the Middle East’.
“So, we were wondering, how are we going to be involved and we just carried on with the training as normal.”
But what did the armed forces make of the deployment and what was it actually like to be there?
The new BFBS podcast, ‘GRANBY: The Storm in the Desert’, will be available from Friday, January 15, wherever you get your podcasts and on bfbs.com/podcasts