The Man Who Played Ross – Chapter 22

Tanks outside of Misrata
joepyrek from Richmond, Va, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Op Ellamy 2011

In a news broadcast on 19th January 2012, the BBC revealed that units from 22 SAS had been redeployed to Libya as part of Operation Ellamy, the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s disastrous coup to force regime change on the Libyan people by military action. Like so many ill-informed “good ideas,” the consequences of this action would allow another Islamic State to flourish and destabilise Europe by mass migration, war on the West by other means. Many military leaders were only too happy to countenance this folly, particularly the RAF, desperate to prove what their new toy, the Eurofighter could achieve and the vindication of air power.

However, the twenty personnel from D Squadron SAS were already in theatre and had been for several months. They had been flown from HMS Ocean to Mistra Airport and were operating in small teams, usually two SAS and two officers from MI6. The role of the Blades was to provide protection for the intelligence operatives, but as the campaign wore on, mission creep set in. They assisted in training, coordinating and commanding opposition groups on and off the front line, and they were very active directing NATO airstrikes. The NATO aircraft could self-designate strategic targets behind enemy lines, whoever the enemy was classed as on that particular day, but it required ground designators when the forces loyal to Ghaddafi were close to the NATO approved rebel fighters. There were also SBS teams operating in Libya’s coastal ports, securing base infrastructure and monitoring shipping in and out of the country.

Jarvis had been paired up with Edge and two MI6 officers, “Julian” and “Jean-Claude.” Jarvis was now technically the senior of the two, he being a Warrant Officer Two and Edge still a Staff Sergeant, but he deferred to Edge’s experience, although Edge called him “Mr Jarvis” whenever the intelligence officers were present. They continued to skirt round each other like a cat who had formed an uneasy alliance with the neighbour’s pet Tom. Jarvis reluctantly concluded that he and Edge could never be friends, they were just too alike. Despite this, he couldn’t understand why Edge had never been promoted, knowing nothing of his comrade’s disastrous deployment to Colombia, three years previously. Edge had made some powerful enemies, particularly the MI6 staffer from the embassy at Bogota. But that was a part of his life that Edge kept locked away and another story for another time.

They were laid up in the town of Ad Dafiniyah, a sizable settlement on the coastal highway towards Tripoli. They were sitting leaning against a wall on a corner by a van and pick-up accessories store, where they could watch the main road, but remain unobtrusive. The two MI6 officers said they were going to get a pick-up truck and that they didn’t need their SAS minders, Jarvis and Edge were quite happy with this and were pleased to let them do their own thing. The rebels had captured the area from the government forces, who were still loyal to Gaddafi, but they knew the remnants of the Libyan army, particularly armoured units were forming up to the east to drive on to Mistra. All that stood in their way was a rag-tag composite force of rebels and the powerful NATO air forces, which would have been a particularly blunt instrument without Jarvis’ SOFLAM laser designator.

Edge was smoking a cigarette and seemed deep in thought. Jarvis was watching the world go by. A group of two men and a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, her face covered, were about fifty metres away, as though they were waiting for something or someone, a ride to Tripoli perhaps.

“How long have you been having bad dreams, Guy?” Edge asked, as though this had been a burning question on his mind.

“What are you talking about, Edge?”

“I’m talking about the nightmares you’re having when I come to wake you up. Always about fire and someone called, Bluma. You can tell me to piss off if you want to,” He smiled which was unusual for Edge.

“She was a member of the Belgian army and I met her in Rwanda in 1994.”

“Why is she giving you nightmares? Were you that bad in bed?”

“She was killed out there and I found her body. She was horribly burned, but… But she wasn’t dead. She died in the helicopter.”

“Sorry. And you were an item?”

“For a while, until I said something that really annoyed her. So in a way, I blame myself for her death.”

“And it gives you nightmares, now, eighteen years later?”

“Yes I know. Weak and stupid. Useless Guy Jarvis.”

Edge knocked the tip off his cigarette and put the butt end in an old, tobacco tin. “Did I say that? Do you remember Kosovo, when I first had the misfortune to clap eyes on you?”

Jarvis nodded.

“I told you about a Croatian forensic anthropologist. Her name was Jozica Marić and I loved her with the intensity of first, real love and I think that she was in love with me. After all, I could offer her nothing in return. I was just a poxy corporal. She was clever and intelligent and I thought it was a miracle that she even gave me the time of day, let alone let me share her bed. But my life was predictably shitty and I set in place a chain of events that would get her killed, in a horrible, protracted way. And I do blame myself and have vowed to track down the man who did it to her.”

“Did you have nightmare’s Edge?”

He sighed and looked at the three locals waiting for a lift, “There isn’t a day goes by without my thinking of her and yes, I still get bad dreams.”

“Oh great.”

Edge decided to change the subject, “What do you think will be the end state once we’ve gone home?”

“What for us?”

“No, for this country and its people. Will they be better off after this so-called Arab Spring?”

Jarvis thought about it, “I’m not sure we’re supposed to have an opinion. We’re just the “Blades” on the sharp end of the mission.”

“Come on, Guy Jarvis. You’re an intelligent chap. You must have some opinions on what we do.”
“Sometimes it’s easy. Rescuing hostages, slotting terrorists and guarding people, no matter how repugnant they are. Sometimes the lines get blurred, like Kabul. Take this place for example. When we arrived those months ago do you remember the women?”

“Yes, there were some very pretty ones and some hairy munters.”

Jarvis looked at the pregnant woman waiting by the side of the road. It was as though she had been looking at him and had been found out, because she looked away quickly “But how did you know they were pretty or as you charmingly put it, munters?”

“Because… Oh. I see what you mean.”

Jarvis continued: “It was a minority that wore the veil, now you seldom see a woman’s face. Gaddafi was truly an evil bastard who supplied the Provos with guns and semtex and had a penchant for young girls, but don’t all dictators? At least women were educated and not forced to hide away, shrouded like bats.”

Edge chuckled, “That’s a bit like saying Hitler wasn’t all bad. He was a vegetarian and kind to dogs. You think too much, Guy Jarvis and you care too much, but apart from selling their awful newspapers, they sure as hell don’t care about you or I.”

Edge quoted:

“To those who proudly protect our nation, who do so with honour, courage, and commitment, the Armed Forces Covenant is the nation’s commitment to you.

It is a pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.”

“Ring any bells with you, Guy?”

Jarvis shrugged, “Not in my world.  The politicians and I’m saddened to say, the Royal Family don’t give a shit.  They could have stopped the persecution of ex-serving members by scumbag law firms, but it’s in the all too difficult inbox. They just wheel us out for their weddings and funerals and when those bastards in the Fire Service feel like extorting the taxpayer again.”

“Have you heard of the Inkspots, Guy?” Edge asked.

“A jazz singing group from the war years.”

“I’ve got a feeling that in the future, Mr Morrison will give you a call when all of this is finished, you coming to the end of your engagement.”

“What about?”

Edge just smiled and they watched a pick-up draw up to the side of the road and “Julian” and “Jean-Claude” got out of it. To their surprise they seemed to be talking to the pregnant woman, pointing down the road to the west. After about five minutes, the two men and the woman climbed up into the pick-up’s cab and drove away heading towards Tripoli. The two MI5 officers approached and Julian walked over to where the two Blades were sitting, while Jean-Claude went into the ransacked shop they were using as accommodation.

“Jean-Claude has an ingrowing toenail,” said Julian.

“The long sobs of the violins of autumn, wound my heart with a monotonous languor.” Jarvis replied.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m sorry, I thought you were talking in code.”

“No, he really does and he says it’s quite painful. I’m worried that it may be infected. Could you take a look please, Edge?”

“OK. But first of all, heat up some water and soak the foot in the hot water, as hot as he can bear it. Put a lot of salt in it.”

“I’ll tell him.”

“Are you going to cut his nail off and can I watch?” Jarvis asked.

“I hope not and no. It’s medical in confidence.”


The woman in the pick-up looked at the two soldiers, feeling a sense of profound sadness. She had recognised both of them, particularly Jarvis and longed to go over and speak with him. The bulbous pillow strapped to her stomach was hot and uncomfortable but just another disguise because they would be reluctant to search a pregnant woman.

How she regretted not having told him, those years back in Basra, but now it was too late. She could have had a chance of happiness, but lacked the courage to tell him. If only she had known. She gave them a last, despairing look before the pick-up drove away. She knew that she would never see him again because she was an emotional coward.


“How long have you been hobbling around on this?” Edge asked.

“About a week.”

“Well you’re right, it is an ingrown toenail and it is infected,” he gently pressed on the nail bed and a bead of puss appeared at the side of the nail. Jean-Claude hissed with the pain.

As they were operating unsupported, Edge didn’t have a full medical bergen, just a medical side pouch that was packed full of as much kit as he could get in it, “Do you feel hot and feverish?”


“Put this thermometer under your tongue to make sure.” While he was waiting Edge cleaned the toe with antiseptic wipes, “You don’t have a temperature, which is good. Is there plenty of room in your boots, are they pinching?”


“Right, I’ll give you a course of antibiotics to kill off the infection and cut you nail straight, but not too short. You’ll have to soak the foot at least three times a day and put on clean socks each time. I’ll look at it again in a couple of days and if the swelling’s gone down I’ll gently trim the nail away to stop it digging in. If there is too much pus to drain, I’m afraid it will mean I have to lance the nail with a hot needle. I’ll put on a dressing to keep it clean and give you a pack and tape for use after you soak your foot. The water has to be hot and in future, don’t cut your nails too short.

“Thanks, Edge. I think that you’ll be busy with the designator tonight. The Libyan army tanks are massing for a counter attack. When our operative radios in with the coordinates we’ll let you know,” Jean-Claude told him.

“Can you walk all right?”

“It’s painful, but we won’t slow you down. We’re not lugging as much kit as you two are.”


They were laid up on the edge of an olive orchard on the outskirts of Khoms. From this position the motorway service station’s lights were visible, southwest of them on the main coastal highway. They couldn’t see the armoured fighting vehicles in the darkness, but could clearly hear their engines. There were other engines to be heard; the sky seemed full of the rumble of aircraft. Jarvis looked into the SOFLAM laser designator, which was sitting on its stumpy tripod on the parapet of the drainage ditch, in which they were sheltering.

“Well I have to say that the Spooks’ operative was bang on the money. There’s at least forty armoured vehicles, T62 tanks, Cairman APCs and at least one ZSU twenty-three-four. And they’re all nicely clumped together.”

Edge was on the Tacsat radio talking to the pilots. The two Spooks were behind them in the orchard, probably on their short-range radio to their “contact,” “Jarvis, we’ve got three Rafale fighter bombers inbound, three minutes away. Fire up the SOFLAM.”

In the green of the night vision mode, Jarvis could clearly see the vehicles, including the hot spot of their running engines. He concentrated the vehicles in the middle of the laagered vehicles, a series of coded pulses of laser light fired from the SOFLAM. These signals bounced off the target into the sky, where they could be detected by the seeker on the laser-guided munition, which steered itself towards the centre of the reflected signal.

The skies above were screeching with jet engines and for the next five minutes, they witnessed a scene of absolute carnage. The jets unseen above them, were queueing up to drop their ordnance of AASM guided bombs. They circled in a holding pattern waiting to be called in. The first bombs tore the heart out of the armoured formation and the tanks and APC.s tried desperately to find dispersal. The soldiers were abandoning their vehicles and trying to find cover in a sea of flame. Jarvis concentrated the SOFLAM on the tanks that were attempting to move out and even in shelter the laser and the guided bombs found them. After such a short amount of time, the massed armour had been virtually annihilated and the threat of an attack on Mistra had been vaporised by air power. The rag-tag group of rebels with their technicals had been blindly firing towards the Libyan army forces, a useless and unnecessary waste of ammunition.

“Bloody hell,” Edge said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Even from this range they could feel the heat from the burning vehicles and heard the ammunition cooking off inside the furnaces of the tanks. He folded the Tacsat antenna and packed the radio away in its container, which was clipped and strapped to the top of his bergen. Jarvis did the same with the SOFLAM and they slung the heavy rucksacks and moved out of the drainage ditch. They would move along the edge of the olive orchard at the edge of the road and rendezvous with the two MI6 officers. They were jogging east along the side of the highway when there were sudden bursts of fire from the south of the road, emanating from a cluster of buildings. Jarvis who was in the lead cried out in pain and went down.

A burst of fire hit him in the upper thighs, one round tearing through the fleshy area behind his right femur. Two 7.62mm rounds had hit him in the left leg, one splitting and tearing the recto femoris muscle, the second hitting his femur, the round breaking up along with bone fragments. The supersonic rounds caused immense tissue destruction, by the effects of cavitation, the transit of the bullet and its shock waves through soft tissue.

Edge went into cover and started to return fire as soon as he could pinpoint the position of the gunmen. The fire seemed to be coming from the building to the right and he fired at the flashes. Unlike Jarvis who had the C8 Carbine, Edge was armed with an M16 A2 rifle with an underslung 40mm grenade launcher. He only had one grenade and made it count. The fragmentation grenade exploded against the building’s wall and he prepared a smoke grenade to follow up.

“Edge, just leave me and look after the Spooks. I’ll hold them off,” Jarvis said weakly.

“Don’t be so fucking stupid,” he replied and hurled the grenade towards the buildings. As the smoke billowed out he heaved Jarvis up onto his back, who cried out in pain. Staggering under the weight of the man and both their kit, Edge pushed into the grove of olive trees and headed towards the rendezvous point. Both Julian and Jean-Claude were waiting for them, their pistols drawn.

“We’re in trouble. We were engaged during the extraction and Jarvis has been hit. Take our bergens and Jarvis’ weapon, I can’t carry all of them. We’ll need to head north to a landing point at the double. I have to call in a helicopter to pick him up. I think we should be on it because as far as I’m concerned, the operation has been compromised. I reckon we were fired on by our own people, or rather your people.”

“We have to get our operative out as well, so we can’t go with Mr Jarvis.”

“Very well, but Jarvis needs fast evacuation as he’s in a bad way.”
Making better time they headed north past walled compounds and more fruit groves until they found the open, flat area flanked by the walls of a compound and some thick scrub. Edge dragged Jarvis into cover and said to Julian: “Can you fire this thing?”


“Right, take his. Short bursts, but only if you positively identify a threat. I’m going to be busy.”
He unpacked the Tacsat, set up the antenna and sent a METHANE Report:

“ASCOT Seven-zero, this is Echo Zulu two-four. METHANE report as follows:
“Request immediate dust-off, GPS position three-two, two-seven, five-four. One-six, three-two, one-three. Repeat GPS position three-two, two-seven, five-four. One-six, three-two, one-three.
“Possible enemy action at landing zone so hot extraction probable.
“Site will be marked with flashing call sign, red filter.
Request in-transit trauma care. One casualty. Multiple gunshot wounds to both legs, severe bleeding.
” Echo Zulu two-four, listening. Out.”

In a holding pattern south of Malta and at 30,000 feet, A patrolling AWACS A3 Sentry aircraft heard the emergency casevac request and passed it on to HMS Ocean, a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, the flagship of the fleet. Two helicopters were scrambled, a Sea King of the Royal Navy Air Service containing a CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) team and a Lynx attack helicopter.

“OK, Jean-Claude, I’d like you to give me a hand. Jarvis? Are you still with us?”

“Yes, but it hurts like hell. I can’t stand it. Please help me, Edge.”

“See, that’s why you piss me off. You even make getting shot seem so easy.” Edge looked at the wounded man’s legs and was worried, “Any sign of anybody, Chaps?”


Edge looked at the gunshot wounds with a red-filtered torch. In the red light the blood was a spreading, black stain and it had stained the top half of Jarvis’ trousers. The left leg was the worst and Jarvis was bleeding out arterial blood. Edge had neither the expertise nor the equipment to tie off blood vessels, so he rummaged in his medical side pouch for a tourniquet.

“Huh… Huh, listen to me, Edge.  Please don’t leave me here to die alone in this place.” He grabbed Edges sleeve.  He was shaking with pain and fear.

“What ever happened to Mr I’ll hold them off?” Edge asked comforting his comrade with his arm around Jarvis’ shoulders, “Dry your eyes you prat. Guy, I’m going to have to apply a tourniquet. It will hurt. Jean-Claude, press down on the major wound with his field dressing. It’s taped to his webbing. Open it out first, obviously. OK, Guy. Get ready and don’t yell out.”

And he was right. Jarvis groaned with pain as the tourniquet was tightened high up on his thigh. When it was tight enough for the blood to slow to an ooze, he delved for Jarvis; morphine auto jet on the para cord round his neck. He jabbed the autojet into Jarvis’ buttock and annotated an M and the time on his forehead. The radio crackled on his earphone.

“Echo Zulu four-seven from ASCOT seven-zero. CSAR inbound your location in minutes ten, Callsign RESCUE one-niner, over”

“Roger, ASCOT. Echo Zulu listening, out.”

Edge spoke with Jean-Claude, “So are you adamant that you’re not getting out on the helicopter?”

“We must find our operative first and then get out.”

“Where is he?”

“It’s not a he. There are a number of places she could be and why are you so convinced that the operation has been compromised?”

“Because the ambush was perfectly sited and well executed. We were moving against the olive trees so nobody from the position we were fired upon could see us. I have to conclude they had NVGs, so that rules out barely trained rebel forces. Perhaps some other players. Perhaps the Qataris. I’ve no idea, but someone knows that you’re here and they don’t like it.”

It was cold in the darkness and Jarvis moaned fitfully in his morphine induced half-sleep. Edge was beginning to get worried until he heard the distant sounds of helicopters away to the North. He started to flash the letters E and Z in Morse.

“Echo-Zulu we have you. Authenticate ANVIL, over.”

“Roger, RESCUE one-niner, authenticate TROUT, over.”

The Sea King came in low over the trees, the smaller Lynx higher where it could cover the landing point with its rockets. The larger helicopter touched down and the force protection jumped out, pushing out to form a cordon. Edge was on his feet, pulling off the radio earset.

“Come on Jean-Claude. Grab his legs and help me carry him onto the helicopter.”
At the aircraft’s starboard door, Jarvis screamed as he was lifted onto a stretcher. Edge gave a very swift handover to the medical team leader on board, “Multiple high velocity gunshots to upper thighs, both legs. Tourniquet applied to casualty’s left leg. Suspect fractured femur left leg. One morphine autojet administered about ten minutes ago. Good luck, Jarvis.”

“Are you coming?” The crewman asked.

“No. Not on this cab.”

The force protection remounted and the Sea King pitched forward and upwards, turning to head back to the ships, followed by the Lynx.

Edge gathered the two MI5 officers in the cover by the building, “OK, now we’ll get you man, sorry, woman and then we’re out of here. Julian, you hang on to that C8, we may be needing it.”


Jarvis was in a semi-conscious state in HMS Ocean’s HDU sick bay. They had operated on the damage to his legs and set the femur with external support and traction and carried out vascular surgery, although keeping the leg would be touch and go. He had been lucky that the ship’s Echelon Three had a specialist trauma team, but he knew that his career with the UK Special Forces was over, six months before he was due to finish. It would take at least that long for the recuperation and rehabilitation. He had been dreaming such strange and lucid dreams. At one time he thought Afarin Khan had been sitting at the side of the bed, holding his hand and talking to him, but that was impossible. A product of the medication and painkillers swirling around in his body. Just wishful thinking, wasn’t it?

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