On 29 January 1991, 17 Troop D Squadron, reinforced from R Squadron were looking for SCUD missiles deep inside western Iraq. They were two miles south of the Amman-Baghdad motorway and eighty miles behind enemy lines: the sky was overcast and the temperature icy when at 1500 hours they were attacked by more than 40 enemy who nearly overran their position.
There was a fierce firefight at close quarters and within grenade throwing range. The troop broke contact but two vehicles had been disabled by enemy fire and 7 men were isolated on foot. Five, including Trooper Powell, who was seriously wounded, were regulars and two, Troopers Heyes and Richards, were from the Territorial Army and volunteers from R Squadron. They were left to their own devices and fought their way out of the contact to begin the long escape and evasion back to Saudi Arabia.
The painting shows the explosion of one SAS vehicle, which they managed to destroy, and Trooper Nicholls holding off the enemy with grenades on the rise in the background. In the foreground, Trooper Heyes, and Trooper Richards, wearing the shemag, gave covering fire for the others to join them and escape in an enemy light truck, which Trooper Richards drove until it broke down in a big culvert underneath the motorway.
After more than 40 hours evading Iraqi troops who were searching for them, they seized a Cadillac on the motorway and drove it across the desert until it ran out of petrol. They walked from there on, desperately short of water until they seized a Landcruiser crossing the border to Ar’ar in Saudi Arabia.
The wounded soldier made a full recovery and the other six all returned to operations. Corporal Woodrow was awarded the DCM for his outstanding leadership and trooper Nicholls awarded the Military Medal. Trooper M D R Richards was later tragically killed on 23 June 1992 during jungle training in Belize.
The painting was commissioned to record R Squadron’s reinforcement of regular squadrons during the Gulf War.