By Richard Edwards
Their accents, uniform and equipment contrast like chalk and cheese – and the debate about how to pronounce Lieutenant will never be resolved.
But when American and West Country-based British Marines get the call, they will take to the battlefield shoulder-to-shoulder.
In a unique occurrence, hundreds of Americans will be under UK command in the Gulf.
More than a dozen of those men are deployed with 42 Commando Royal Marines at Camp Gibraltar in Kuwait – and have said they are honoured to be working with Britain’s best. US Marine Lieutenant Patrick Eldridge said: “For the past 75 years the US and Great Britain have had a very strong bond and have spilled a lot of blood together.
“The Royal Marines have a particularly renowned heritage and reputation, and it will be an honour to be a part of that history.” The US Marines have spent the past few months getting to know their UK counterparts – sleeping, showering and eating alongside them as they prepare for conflict.
They have been forced to watch soccer on TV, guarded their sophisticated equipment from jealous eyes and got used to being known as ‘the Yanks’.
The troops, from Camp Pendleton in Southern California, also had a taste of the English winter, joining 42 Commando in the UK before they were deployed to the Gulf.
They were welcomed with warmth by the Marines – in stark contrast to the bleak, cold and wet conditions they faced on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire and at Commando base in Plymouth.
“The weather wasn’t the greatest,” admitted Lieutenant Eldridge, who lives in sun-baked Orange County, California. “But the countryside was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring Salisbury. From the outset the troops welcomed us with open arms.” The Lieutenant admitted there was something of a culture shock when the men started living together. “We have totally different interests in everything – especially sport. We had to really haggle just to watch the Superbowl.” Corporal Hiram J LaChappelle said even understanding the Brits was a problem.
“We joined the Royal Marines presuming we both talk the same language.
“We were wrong – we couldn’t understand a word, what with all their nicknames and abbreviations.
“Kit means equipment, Dohbi is washing, hoofing is good, honking is bad, scran is food and we eat in the galley,” he said.
Major Kev Oliver, in charge of Royal Marines J Company where the men are based, said: “We’ve enjoyed having them along and they have rapidly connected to the British methods and sense of humour.” But there is a more serious side to the men’s integration into British units.
Nine members of UK forces died in friendly fire in the last Gulf War, and fratricide or blue-on-blue fire is still a major concern.
Lieutenant Colonel Buster Howes, commander of 42 Commando, said: “The link between our unit and the US Marines ensures all our combat powers are used in the best way possible.
“Blue-on-blue fire is a major issue in this war, and 99.9 per cent of the military firepower will be in the hands of the Americans.
“Our military procedures often vary, and by establishing such a close contact with the Americans we will hopefully minimise the chance of fratricide.”
© Western Daily Press