CORPORAL Paul Toovey, from Newton Abbot, is playing a vital role supporting his colleagues of the 1st Battalion of the Devon and Dorset Light Infantry (DDLI) in Iraq. Cpl Toovey works in the Quartermasters department – the army equivalent of Tesco – responsible for keeping soldiers in the front line fully equipped and fed. 'I am doing the same job out here as I do back in Catterick, but it's the heat – temperatures are reaching 44?C and there is more to come as we get into the height of summer. The air conditioning in our tent is good so you don't notice the heat until you go outside, then it hits you. It's like walking into a brick wall and it's going to get hotter,' said Cpl Toovey, 38. The DDLI is stationed in Basra, south of the country, which is under a state of emergency, following the escalation of car bombings and sectarian violence. The task of keeping the troops supplied is made more complicated and hazardous by the fact that the battalion is dispersed between four locations dotted over an area about one-and-a-half times the size of Devon. Headquarters and A company is at the Shaibah Logistics Base, west of Basra, B Company is occupying one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces south of the city and are also stationed on the Al Faw peninsular. C Company is guarding the port of Umm Qasr on the Kuwait border. Finally the battalion also supplies the Brigade reconnaissance Company all of whom are Close Observation Training and Tactics trained, formed around D Support Weapon Company. Cpl Toovey said: 'Here we are at the end of a very long supply chain, so we have to think ahead. It can take four to six weeks if stuff has to come out from England. We brought as much as we could out from the UK but there was only so much we could bring.' His parents, Patrick and Yvonne Toovey, of Newton Abbot, are both ex-military and know better than most what their son is going through. He is not allowed to discuss any details and so they have to glean what they can from newspapers and TV. Mr Toovey said it was the 17 and 18-year-olds he really felt for. Paul has 21 years' experience, including stints in Bosnia, Falklands and Northern Ireland to fall back on. 'He knew the Marine from Dawlish, who was killed. He wasn't in my son's battalion but it hits them all. They are all West Country boys,' he said. Cpl Toovey worked for Gen Delves in Iraq at an earlier stage in the conflict. 'There have been a lot of changes since I was last here. The welfare system for soldiers is greatly improved, much better facilities so you can relax a bit when you are off duty,' said Cpl Toovey. He is a staunch Plymouth Argyle supporter and his parents are pleased that the men will be able to watch the World Cup thanks to satellite TV. They are kept supplied with the latest DVDs and are also starting volleyball and darts competitions.
Keeping troops fed and watered
Thursday 8th June 2006 10:00 pm