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Paul Tonks

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Caught in conflict
By Paul Tonks   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, April 07, 2005
Posted: Thursday, April 07, 2005

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A short piece based on a sniper tasking in Africa.

Caught in conflict

My senses stirred with renewed trepidation; the sweet scent of flowers and the image of new growth mingled with the fetid and somewhat pungent gases of the decaying carcasses strewn about the field on which I trod. A chorus of angelic whistles and chirps dramatised the moment. A tune borne of birds oblivious to the carpet of carnage lay before them. Left with a distant call that would forever hold me I pressed onward eager to secure my nightly post.

The budding breeze caught on bush and brush as the cool shroud of twilight waited to chase away the fading sun. As I drew to a halt the distant sound of skyward rumblings signalled the coming storm. An unwelcome shudder coursed through my entirety and merely confirmed yet another night of rain soaked discomfort lay ahead. As we once more awaited the rebel approach, a sudden crescendo of a million voices, saw the gauntlet pass from crow to cricket as the final veils of darkness embraced the jungle canopy.

The nightly routine in this perpetual game of cat and mouse had favoured a dull tedious pace which beggared belief. Yet this night the violent frenzy of electrical energy that danced overhead was joined by the lesser tumbling of small wooden wheels. Now the silence of nature’s hectic pace was abruptly disturbed by the motions of men!

(That’s all you’re getting! Sorry the rest is for me)


This short piece is based on a task I had whilst employed a sniper in Sierra Leone in May 2000. In response to the breakdown of the UN Peace keeping mission one battalion of British Paratroopers were sent in to secure the International airport at Lungi.

The RUF (Rebels) had overrun most of the UN positions and were closing on Freetown. With the airport holding the key to the country’s stability a force of around 2 - 5,000 rebels were on route to capture Lungi. My Battalion 650 men plus a small battle-group took the force to around 1000 strong.

The crisis was swift in the coming, having only received the warning on the Friday we had secured Lungi by the Monday. We held the airport for three weeks until Warships arrived off the coast along with reinforcements from the Marines.

On this mission my partner and I were five km forward of the airport working alone. Our task was to act as an early warning and to delay the approaching rebel forces. The task lasted five nights and six days in temperatures approaching 110. We deployed with only four water bottles and one boil in the bag meal (Of which I only half of)

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