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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
Dragoon guards survive ambush
A British Challenger II tank raises a cloud of dust as it travel through a location near Basra in southern Iraq
The Challenger 2 tank was disabled by enemy fire
Four members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have been telling of an ambush by Iraq's elite Republican Guard which left their tank disabled outside Basra.

They survived despite coming under a sustained attack from anti-tank guided rockets and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) while they sheltered inside.

The Challenger 2 tank is thought to have run into elements of the Republican Guard as it led an operation on the town of Ibrahim, 15 kms south of Basra.

A guided missile took out the main sights and in the confusion the crew reversed into a ditch.

Enemy fire

They got stranded when the tracks were ripped off and feared for their lives.

Sergeant David Baird, from Kilwinning in Ayrshire, said they were overwhelmed by enemy fire.

With him were gunner Stuart Ferguson, 23, from Pollok in Glasgow, loader William Ferguson, 32, from Inverness and their driver, "Mac" from Fiji.

The crew were later rescued when most of the Iraqi positions had been destroyed.

Sgt Baird said: "We thought they were going to try to get on top to open the hatch and throw a grenade inside."

He estimates that he killed as many as 20 enemy with machine gun fire and high explosive rounds fired from the tank's 120mm gun before the tank was disabled.

But these were no ordinary soldiers or militia - they knew exactly how to disable us. They were clearly the elite Republican Guard
Sgt David Baird
He said: "The first one we took out was on an observation point, reporting our movements back to the rest of them. At one stage we destroyed a building from which around six of them were firing RPGs at us.

"But these were no ordinary soldiers or militia - they knew exactly how to disable us. They were clearly the elite Republican Guard."

Eventually they were rescued after the remaining tanks in their troop destroyed most of the enemy positions in the surrounding buildings.

And, despite still coming under sporadic fire, they were able to link the Challenger 2 to an armoured recovery vehicle before being towed to safety.

Sgt Baird said: "At one stage the chain snapped which gave us all sorts of problems. But fortunately we managed to get out of there alive. It was quite an experience."

  • This article was written using a pooled despatch from Simon Houston of the Daily Record, on the front line at Basra, southern Iraq.


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