Warm welcome home from Iraq for soldier
UNION Jacks adorn the house of a Suffolk soldier today after a warm welcome home from six months service in the Gulf.While the coalition forces tried to impose order to Iraq, Stephen Morrison saw death at first-hand and survived the attack of a suicide bomber.
UNION Jacks adorn the house of a Suffolk soldier today after a warm welcome home from six months service in the Gulf.
While the coalition forces tried to impose order to Iraq, Stephen Morrison saw death at first-hand and survived the attack of a suicide bomber.
The 19-year-old communications technician returned to his home in The Street, Capel St Mary, to tears of joy from his mother, a cake, and headlines of fresh allegations of abuse to Iraqi prisoners.
Stephen said: "I thought the pictures were terrible but we still do not know if the they are real or fake.
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"I didn't see any Iraqi prisoners being mistreated and I can't imagine any British soldiers being involved in such abuse.
"Our camp had a prison on it there were a lot of Iraqis around us. They generally liked the British soldiers but not the Americans as many had friends that had been badly treated by US troops.
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Stephen was posted in Germany when he had completed his training and was assured that he would not take part in the Gulf activity.
But six weeks later circumstances had changed and the Royal Signals regiment was called to Umm Qasr, a port in the south of Iraq.
Stephen said: "I only got a day's notice so didn't have much time to think about where I was going.
"When I phoned my mum up to tell her I had to make sure she was sitting down.
"It was as I imagined it was going to be in Iraq. There was a fear factor over there but you tend not to worry about it and just get on with the job. The coalition forces are definitely making progress.
"It was very hot reaching 42C one day, but over the winter there were a lot of storms that latest for two or three days and we were flooded out a few times."
After three months of little action at the port the regiment was moved to a much bigger camp at Shiba, 20-miles south of Basra. Here danger was all around.
Stephen said: "There were a lot of explosions around the camp and on one occasion a suicide bomber paid an Iraqi civilian contractor £15,000 to get him in to the camp.
"He was stopped at the gate and the bomb failed to detonate but we were all scared when we heard about it.
"The only action I saw was local gangs fighting each other as I wasn't on the front line. A few of them were killed though.
"On the day they caught Saddam Hussein we had to walk around wearing or helmets and body armour as the Iraqis celebrated by firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the air.
"I did not fire my rifle over there but it was loaded all the time and I was ready to fight."
Stephen's mother Linda, 51, was delighted to have him back safe after all their nights of anguish while he was away.
She said: "I am chuffed to have him back in one piece. Last night was the best nights sleep I have had for a long time."
His father Bob, 56, said: "We were OK for the first couple of months as it was fairly quiet. But when it all blew up a few weeks ago in Basra and Fallujah we had to stop watching the news for fear of what we might see. When we saw British soldiers getting hurt the worry stayed on our minds all night and we had trouble sleeping."
Stephen is happy to be home and uncertain about whether he will have to return to the middle east.
He added: "I am glad to be back home as I have missed my family, my friends, and my car.
"I have four weeks off now and I am going on holiday in Tenerife in a couple of weeks with some of the lads from the camp.
"I can't tell if I will have to go back. There is still work out there for my trade but they may send other regiments.
"I am still generally stationed in Germany and have some exercises to do after the break."
Stephen left Iraq on April 30 and spent nearly a week with his unit in Germany before travelling back to Capel St Mary last Thursday.
N Do you know anyone who has served in Iraq and has an interesting story to tell? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk