Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Friday, 21 September 2007 11:12 UK

UK soldier's Iraq video diary

Joshua with an Iraqi child - Photograph courtesy of Charlie Harrison

A British soldier who served in Iraq has made a film documenting his time there. It is the first time a reservist has produced a diary of this kind.

Private Joshua Fortune, 22, was posted to Basra, as part of Operation Telic, in October, 2005. He spoke to the BBC's David Wareham.

"I joined the TA (Territorial Army) about five years ago.

After about two years I decided to transfer to 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment and within a couple of months I volunteered to go out to Iraq.

When we got there it was very, very hot. The British army give you a week to acclimatise in a specialist acclimatisation camp. But when you're wearing body armour in the heat, it is quite unbearable. It's that or you are putting your life at risk.

'Like in Star Wars'

The most frightening moments I had were probably when there was a direct threat of insurgent activity. We got mortared several times.

Wreckage by road
Soldiers had to avoid suspicious objects by the road

You hear one being fired and you think 'where's it going to land?' It's pot luck whether it lands near you or not.

One night we were doing a convoy to Basra and the Warrior that we were with broke down in the middle of this shanty town so we all got out and formed a perimeter.

There was some light coming from the vehicles and all these glowing eyes like something out of Star Wars appeared in windows. It turned out it was just lots of dogs. But it was quite an unsettling experience.

'Stay with us forever'

One of the hardest things I witnessed when I was out there was one day when we were on the main gate and some Iraqi civilians turned up. They brought a lady in an ambulance who had been caught in a gas explosion inside her house.

She had been cooking with a canister and it caught alight and exploded. She had 98% secondary burns so she was in a very bad way.

Ambulance brings badly burnt woman to the base
Sometimes Iraqi civilians would seek medical help at the base

Obviously seeing the suffering, both of soldiers and Iraqi civilians, was never pleasant. And there were some sights that I and my colleagues saw that I'm sure will stay with us forever.

Iraqis are quite an amazing people. One of the things that struck me was the discipline that they have. I'd have difficulties waking up in the morning, but whenever I was awake, they were already out there, done their prayers and they were working for the day.

A lot of them were farmers and the ground wasn't the most fertile, so they had to do what they could. A lot of the time, when they saw our convoys coming, the children would come out and either just wave at us or beg for food.

'We did a good job'

We did get into a daily routine depending on which task we were doing. Whether it was escorts or guard duty we would then form a routine based on that task.

Children by the road
Children would sometimes beg from the soldiers

So after several months of doing that, when we were given a chance to go on leave, either to Kuwait or back to the UK, it was very weird to completely switch off and not be on edge all the time, ready to grab your equipment at a moment's notice.

In my opinion it's a country that's improving. When we first got there, there was a lot of poverty, but at the end of my six months things had improved. Obviously it's hard to tell from a private soldier's perspective, but from what I could see we were doing a good job out there."

Web production by Pia Harold

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