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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 09:31 GMT
Desert Rats ready to 'surprise' Iraq
Desert Rats on posting to Saudi Arabia in 1990
The Desert Rats complement 16 Air Assault Brigade
The 7th Armoured Brigade, also known as the Desert Rats, played a huge part in the 1991 Gulf War and are now being sent to the region again, ahead of possible action against Iraq.

General Patrick Cordingley, commander of the brigade during the 1991 campaign, says the size of the latest deployment - 26,000 troops altogether - has "definitely surprised commentators".

But he told the BBC the size was so large partly because two independent brigades - the 7th Armoured and the 16 Air Assault - were being sent out.

"These brigades will not be working side by side, and therefore they are going to need their own logistic support.

General Patrick Cordingley in fatigues in 1990
The Desert Rats have got lots of tanks, they can move over the ground, they can seize ground, they can hold ground

General Cordingley

"So what you're really seeing is a large number of logisticians pumping up the numbers and it is completely understandable."

The two brigades played to two very different, and very important strengths, he said.

"The lovely thing about this whole campaign, if there's anything lovely about it at all, is surprise.

"And the fact that you've two brigades which are capable of doing completely different operations just adds to the surprise factor.

"For instance, the Desert Rats have got lots of tanks, they can move over the ground, they can seize ground, they can hold ground.

Lack of support

"Then you've got the Air Assault Brigade who can dash in somewhere, do something very quickly and pull back out again.

"[They are] completely different roles, so the surprise element for Saddam Hussein and his armed forces is tremendous. And they are significant forces of ours."

We need to be given more evidence that they're there for a very good reason

General Cordingley
The apparent lack of public support for action against Iraq was a concern for the troops involved, said General Cordingley.

"At the moment they're quite excited about the thought of a deployment and when they get out there, reality kicks in.

"Suddenly they think 'well I want to be supported by everybody at home, I want parents and girlfriends and wives to know that we're here for a good cause'.

"And that's the problem at the moment...we need to be given more evidence that they're there for a very good reason."

Rifles 'working'

General Cordingley was unconcerned about reports of soldiers lacking the necessary equipment. "We've got a great tendency in this country to run ourselves down and it simply isn't true.

"The rifle really does work properly now I can assure you. They're getting lots more boots and it's understandable we don't keep all this equipment on shelves and one has to get it manufactured very quickly.

The Iraqi army isn't going to stand and fight - it didn't in 1991 so I do think it will be very quick.

General Cordingley
"They'll be very well equipped."

General Cordingley added that he did not think a conflict in Iraq would be a long, drawn-out affair.

"The Iraqi army isn't going to stand and fight. It didn't in 1991, so I do think it will be very quick."

But he was concerned about the army being potentially overstretched, with a quarter of its troops being committed to the Gulf and several thousand covering for fire strikers at home.

"There's definitely an overstretch in the future. I don't think there's a problem at the moment but if [the strike] goes on for a long time it will affect deployment and capabilities."


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21 Jan 03 | Middle East
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