30 years ago, the USA having determined that Saddam was to be booted out of Kuwait, Drew had rejoined the Colours and was busily participating in the effort to bone up on two areas of lamentable ignorance on the part of the Staff: (a) the surprisingly impressive Iraqi Army (see the last three episodes); and (b) the likely battlezone itself.
So: break out the maps! - the "Going Maps", the ones showing all the obstacles and bridges and tracks; and which of them were unsuitable for tanks etc etc; i.e. the state of the "going".
Hmm. There were none. The MoD had none. How come??
It's interesting. From the very start of WW2 this became a major issue for the British Army across much of North Africa where Britain found itself heavily engaged, first against the Italians and then of course the Afrika Corps. The situation was more-or-less OK in a large swathe of Egypt where extensive aerial photo-surveys and subsequent detailed ordnance mapping had been conducted during the interwar years (at the expense of the Egyptian government!) for the twin puposes of irrigation planning and, as a simple subsidiary task, archaeological exploration. But other areas gave a lot of grief - all the way across Libya, Tunisia - where French pre-war mapping proved inadequate - AND (amazingly) much of Sicily and Italy! The requisite high-grade mapping needed to be done almost from scratch in many areas of that conflict, which necessitated a highly unwelcome diversion of aerial recce resources from their primary purpose of intelligence-gathering.
AND: there had been almost no WW2 fighting in and around Kuwait, or even the Persian Gulf at all. Britain had invaded, firstly Iraq and then (in combo with Russia from the north) Iran, for the triple aims of (a) securing oil; (b) establishing a safe route for supplying war materials to Russia; (c) both Iraq and Iran were deemed to be Axis-leaning. But both these actions were rather to the north of Kuwait, and were all over in just a few days. So there hadn't been any need to conduct military-grade mapping of the area we were now interested in. Just a couple of years later (1992, from memory), the military forerunner of a Google-Maps type system came into use. But in 1990 we were stuck.
Fortunately, the cavalry was at hand: the CIA came up with excellent Going Maps of the entire area for us - I think they had the entire planet covered.
Amusingly, for those of an historical bent, there was in fact a precedent in the shape of some earlier military maps that could be laid alongside the modern American ones for comparison. From somewhere in the depths of the archives the MoD did turn up British maps of the area - dating back to the 19th Century, the work of intrepid explorers of what was then known as the Great Sandy Desert** of what we now call Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
In those C19 volumes were to be found Going Maps of a different era: "Track, ten miles, almost straight but soft going and gravel, passable for pack mules but not wagons or artillery ... bridge, suitable only for crossing on foot". The modern version would make equivalent comments - but for trucks and tanks ...
Fortunately we had several months to lay our plans. And the Royal Engineers are very good at preparing maps.
Next time: the coalition of George (HW) Bush
**There is another desert region that goes by the same name nowadays - it's in Australia.
Map: Jeff Dahl / wikimedia