Chris Ryan

Free Chris Ryan by The One That Got Away

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Authors: The One That Got Away
at Andy, I thought he seemed semi-stunned. Tor fuck's sake,' I whispered, 'let's get some guns on to the high ground.' So we sent out two lads, one on either side, to go up the wadi walls and keep a lookout. Gradually the barking of dogs died away and left us in total silence. Our most urgent need was to get our kit out of sight, and we began dragging or humping it across into the shadow of the moonlight cast by the right-hand or eastern wall. Everything was black and grey, like in an old film. From the middle of the wadi that shadow looked solid and deep � a good place in which to hide. But when we reached it, we found it was an illusion. There was no cover of any kind, and in the daylight the whole river bed would be dangerously open. In heaving and dragging our kit, we were inevitably leav�ing marks in the baked mud of the wadi floor. But it wasn't long before we realised we were much deeper in the shit than that. From our study of satellite imagery, we had ex�pected the sides of the wadi to be made of sand. Far from it. They were slabs of rock, some smooth, some crumbling, with a jumble of loose lumps at the bottom. There was hardly a grain of sand in the whole area. We were on bedrock. Training in the dunes of the Gulf, we had built 46The One That Got Away beautiful OPs with the greatest of ease, digging into the sand and filling as many bags as we needed. Here, without sand, our bags were useless, and we couldn't dig an inch. One urgent necessity was to find out exactly where we were. So Mark got out the Magellan and plotted our posi�tion to within a few yards. Then we pulled in our two flanking guys, who reported that the desert on either side of the wadi ran away level in flat plains, without a stitch of cover. Andy went forward with Mark to recce the ground ahead. As the rest of us lay waiting for them to return, we began to realise how cold it was. The wind bit through our DPMs and smocks, which were far too light for the job, in both weight and colour. They gave very little protection against the cold, and were such a pale sandy colour that they shone like beacons in the moonlight. Under mine I was also wearing a dark-green Helly Hansen sweater, but the combination was nothing like enough for the temperature, which can't have been more than a degree or two above freezing. Besides, the wind was producing a high chill-factor. Way down at Victor, several hundred miles further south, a good deal further south, the nights had been warm and the days hot enough to make us sweat. Nobody had thought to warn us that things would be different up here. The dogs started barking again. It was hard to tell what had set them off this time � could they hear us, or was our scent carrying on the wind? We reckoned they were no more than four or five hundred metres away. That figured, because the satellite photos had shown irrigated fields and habitations within about that distance of our drop-off point. We just hoped they didn't come across to suss out what was disturbing them. In twenty minutes Andy and Mark were back. 'Right,' Andy whispered, 'We'll head up here. Get forward up the wadi.' Four of the guys struggled into their bergens and walked forward about 300 metres, then went to ground. We watched them lumber off like pale-coloured bears, their Contact!47 smocks glowing in the moonlight. As soon as they were settled, the rest of us moved up to join them. Then the first four went back and picked up the rest of their kit, including the jerricans, which were tied together in pairs with tape. Once they'd joined us, we went back � and so it continued for most of the night: shuttling forward, back, forward, back. It was knackering work, but I remember at one point seeing Stan stand up with his bergen on, belt-kit and all, and put two of the jerricans on his shoulders. Off he went, walking upright, with his Minimi held correctly in front of him � an amazing sight. I knew he was a strong guy, but this was in�credible. By

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