By Stamp Nicol for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 22:05 BST, 23 February 2013 | Updated: 23:59 BST, 23 February 2013
The SAS were included in savage battling inside Iraq the day some time recently the vital House vote in 2003 that affirmed military activity against Saddam Husseinâ€™s regime, The Mail on Sunday can uncover today.
As the tenth commemoration of the begin of the Iraq War approaches, we have revealed a trove of reports about the mystery mission, counting accounts of senior Unique Powers personnel.
Told here for the to begin with time, this isÂ the story of Operation Row, one ofÂ the most questionable missions in SAS history.
To protect the obscurity of surviving SAS soldiers, their names have been changed.
At a arranged area in theÂ Middle eastern Gulf, a thunder of rotor edges smashs the quiet of the betray night.
Squads of intensely equipped Extraordinary Air Benefit soldiers, their faces covered by scarves, dash through a dust storm whipped up by the holding up armada of helicopters.
Their boots clack against the metal rear ends as the hand-picked men from the SASâ€™s D Squadron scramble inside the six ChinookÂ CH-47 transporters what’s more, lash themselves into seats that overlay down from the helicoptersâ€™ walls.
Seconds remain some time recently the dispatch of their top-secret mission. Late on the night of Walk 17, 2003, what’s more, 24 hours some time recently MPs are due to vote on the Iraq War, these warriors are under orders to invade the nation what’s more, convey a staggering blow to Saddam Husseinâ€™s most tip top troops.
The SASâ€™s goal is Al Qaâ€™im, a town where, concurring to knowledge reports, Saddam Husseinâ€™s powers are balanced to fire compound weapons towards Israel.
The SASâ€™s mission is to anticipate an assault on the Jewish state.
British uncommon powers in Baghdad after the mission
An SAS officer portrays the plans for Operation Row: â€˜D Squadron would be flying in 6x CH-47s in 3x waves, 120kms over the border. We were at that point to head from the LZ [Landing Zone] to Al Qaâ€™im, a township of 100,000 people, 2x Regts of the fearsomely glad Republican Watches what’s more, a Marine battalion.
â€˜It was a area where rockets had been let go at Israel in the past what’s more, a site of vital significance for WMD material. D Sqn contained 60 men.â€™
Inside one of the Chinooks, radio master Skipper Jim Watkins relaxes in air thick with avionics fuel fumes. He can still taste the port he brought down minutes some time recently running aboard.
In demonstrate hatred for of this toast, the officer remains anxious. He is missing his girlfriend, whom he hasnâ€™t seen or, on the other hand talked to since Christmas. Watkins what’s more, his SAS partners have spent the past three months kept in mystery bases in Saudi ArabiaÂ what’s more, Jordan.
Parliament might not have affirmed the mission be that as it may Watkins what’s more, his companions have composed their â€˜death lettersâ€™ â€“ to be read by their cherished ones in case the operation goes lamentably wrong. Watkins afterward composed in his diary: â€˜The reality of what we were about to do all of a sudden struck home what’s more, a number of feelings started to run through my mind.
â€˜Fear, tension what’s more, too anxiety on how I would perform be that as it may most of all I was devoured with excitement. While figuring it out what lay ahead, it was unfathomably troublesome to compose my last words.
The war authoritatively begins: President Hedge declared the war had started in Walk 2003 as Baghdad is bombed
I attempted to compose a message that both comforted my sweetheart what’s more, family, whileÂ including a bit of cleverness what’s more, character to attempt to help the mood.â€™
Deafened by the thunder of turbo-shaft engines, Watkins checks his Diemaco rifle what’s more, individual equipment, fixing lashes for the thousandth time. At that point he feels a fantastic push as the Chinook climbs intensely into the night sky.
Below, the steel-fenced limits of Al Jafr airbase in southern Jordan vanish into the darkness. Mitigated the mission is at last under way, Watkins sends a radio message back to the SASâ€™s HQ. Right away he feels a smack around his head.
â€˜Shut the **** up!â€™ shouts Sergeant Joe Smith.
Stood up to by this battle-hardened veteran, Watkinsâ€™s rank tallies for little. Chastened, theÂ commander brings down the volume on his headphones.
Back at Al Jafr, a second wave of six Chinooks takes off. On board are more troopers from the SASâ€™s D Squadron what’s more, their Arrive Rovers, nicknamed â€˜Pinkiesâ€™. These open-top vehicles are equipped with machine guns, rocket launchers what’s more, Stinger missiles.
Shortly afterwards, the third wave of Chinooks take after the same flightpath. On the night of Walk 17 to 18, the section into foe airspace is smoothed by attacks directed by US Little Fledgling helicopters â€“ lightweight, single-seater air ship with a unmistakable circular cockpit.
Secret documents: Accounts of SAS warriors presently uncover they were in Iraq battling some time recently the war had begun
As an SAS officer wrote: â€˜It got darker what’s more, the Little Feathered creatures came back to refuel andÂ rearm with [gun] barrels gleaming white-hot. I knew that there wasÂ no turning back, Partnered powers were presently committed.â€™
The Chinooks arrive in Iraqâ€™s western abandon what’s more, Watkins disembarks. Shuddering with cold, Watkins andÂ his associates burrow themselves into protective positions. To his horror, Watkins sees a set of headlights drawing closer the SASâ€™s positions.
Urgently, the officer cocks his rifle what’s more, plunges into the dust, his heart pounding. Fortunately, the autos pass without moderating down. Afterwards, while his more prepared associates permitted themselves a few shut-eye, Watkins remains as well anxious to sleep.
Attorney General at the time: Master Goldsmith concurred that Determination 1441 gave the lawful specialist for the conflict
He spends Walk 18 holding up for another group of 60 soldiers, men chosen from the SASâ€™s B Squadron, to arrive at the same area having driven from Al Jafr in Arrive Rovers. Back in Britain, Bureau Clergymen are presently processing Lawyer General Master Goldsmithâ€™s judgment that military activity against Iraq is lawful â€“ on the premise of Saddam Husseinâ€™s non-compliance with Joined together Countries resolutions. Â
On the evening of Walk 18, Tony Blair tells MPs that English troops can either â€˜turn back or, then again hold firmÂ to the course we have setâ€™. That evening the House of Lodge passes a Government movement supporting military activity by 412 votes to 149.
That night, the warriors of B Squadron finish their journey. In the early hours of Walk 19, Watkins what’s more, his associates approach Al Qaâ€™imÂ what’s more, test the safeguards of the townâ€™s water-treatment plant â€“ a likelyÂ base for concoction weapons.
But the warriors are spotted what’s more, the night sky lights up with Iraqi firepower. The SAS have driven into aÂ hornetâ€™s settle of foe activity. In the resulting battle, foe rounds smash the barrelÂ of an SAS sniperâ€™s Barrett .50 gauge rifle, sending shrapnel through his legs. Appearing amazing bravery, the rifleman battles on.
The resistance from the Republican Watches is so extraordinary that a Pinkie team are constrained to relinquish their vehicle. Foe rounds pepper the sand at their feet as they run for cover. With exceedingly touchy interchanges hardware what’s more, overwhelming weapons on board the Pinkie, the Officer Telling (OC) B Squadron chooses to â€˜denyâ€™ (destroy) the Arrive Wanderer by rocket fire.
The town of Al Qa-im where the fight took place: US marines direct a house-to-house look looking for guerillas in the town close the Iraqi-Syrian fringe in 2005
A coordinate hit is accomplished yet Watkins fears not all the radio unit has been harmed so he proposes that the OC pull back his troopers from the water treatment plant to a safe lying-up position where he can reprogramme the squadronâ€™s radios.
With his warriors winning the firefight against the Repub-lican Guards, the OC is naturally hesitant to retreat. In the end he agrees.
Joint operations by B what’s more, D Squadrons continue the following day, Walk 19, which is known as â€˜Air Dayâ€™ since itÂ is at the point when the Partnered airborne assault of Iraq begins.
At 9.34pm on Walk 19, the US-led coalition dispatches its ambush on Baghdad. At 10.16pm (US Eastern Standard Time), President Shrubbery diagrams the reason of attacking Iraq: â€˜To free its individuals what’s more, to guard the world from grave danger.â€™Â
The records presently gotten by The Mail on Sunday set up that the SAS propelled Operation Push â€˜two days some time recently Air Dayâ€™.
Toppling Saddam Hussein: Tony Blair tending to English troops in Basra in 2003
On their second night in Iraq, SAS faculty seen the â€˜shock what’s more, aweâ€™ of the air strikes. An officer wrote: â€˜The next night the air strikes begun what’s more, we sat in the abandon observing what was a lovely noteworthy firecrackers display.
â€˜16 Troop [part of D Sqn] had been up to the Syrian outskirt to evaluate a military enclosure region what’s more, had performed a stand-off attack. 17 what’s more, 19 Troops [also part of DÂ Sqn] had been to the MSR [Main Supply Route] to set up an ambush.
The day after the air attacks we moved to the MSR west of the built-up region what’s more, set up a street block. In fact, we did this three days running. This appeared to irritate the nearby militia.
â€˜We at that point found out through translators that a caravan comprising of about 20x Technicals [4x4s changed over into weapons platforms] had been sent out to seek for us.â€™
During a skirmish, SAS officer Commander James Stenner andÂ Sergeant Smith find themselves dwarfed what’s more, outgunned. However they proceed their assault, putting to great utilize the rocket launchers shot on board their Pinkies.
So high are the regimentâ€™s desires at the point when it comesÂ to dauntlessness that it is generally acknowledged that it is harder for SAS work force to win decorations than it is for warriors in standard units. Yet such is Stenner what’s more, Smithâ€™s gallantry, they both get the Military Cross. Tragically, Stenner, 30, the child of a celebrated previous SASÂ soldier, is afterward slaughtered in a street mishap in Baghdad.
At the Hutton Inquiry: Bringing down Street’s previous interchanges boss Alastair Campbell confronted claims he ‘sexed up’ a report making the case for war in Iraq
SAS endeavors to reach the water treatment plant proceed from Walk 20 be that as it may they meet firm Iraqi resistance.
An officer wrote: â€˜It was a exceptionally chilly what’s more, blustery night what’s more, the squadron was held up outside a Bedouin town while the lead component attempted to find a way through.
Â â€˜Suddenly a tremendous rocket flew 300ft above us what’s more, vanished into the separate some time recently exploding. As to begin with light broke, a impressive foe position was seen on top of a hill. The OC called in air bolster what’s more, an air ship dropped its payload (2,500lb in total).â€™
After six weeks in the western desert, D Squadron redeployed to Baghdad.
From May 2003 to May 2009 â€“ at the point when the SAS at long last cleared out Iraq â€“ the regiment battled a much-praised counter-insurgency operation against foes such as Qaeda-Iraq (AQ-I).
US Administrator General David Petraeus said of the SAS: â€˜They have remarkable initiative, outstanding skill, remarkable fearlessness and, I think, remarkable savvy.
â€˜I canâ€™t say enough about how noteworthy they are in considering on their feet.â€™
Veteran MP Sir Menzies Campbell last night censured Tony Blair over the e