More than 40 years have passed since Britain fought a secret war in Oman. Former Major Nicholas Ofield has returned for the first time since the conflict to retread his battlegrounds with his son, filmmaker Tristan Ofield. This blog contains excerpts from the production diary Tristan kept during filming.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Interview Extract - Major Nicholas Ofield, Sultan's Armed Forces

Q: Were there any particular hazards working in this type of terrain?

A: Well apart from people trying to kill you there were other unpleasant things like Camel Spiders, a few snakes, Scorpions, the heat, dehydration. Having to carry an awful lot of water. A great diurnal change in temperature. It could get up to 45° in the daytime and dropped to 5° or 6° at night. You were generally very physically debilitated. Jebel sores, which were an infection rather like jungle sores, developed and wouldn't clear. I had my forefinger and thumb - you could actually see the bone through the rottenness and the puss. The only treatment they could give was to bathe it three times a day, for an hour in potassium permanganate solution. What the doctor was unable to tell me was A) how I got three spare hours a day to bathe my hand B) where I got container and C) where I got potassium permanganate solution from.

Q: How did you adapt to the extreme heat?

A: It was a matter of common sense. You have to remember that the British Army has a lot of experience in hot climates. From being in India for years and years, to the North African desert during World War II, and afterwards in the Gulf. It's just a matter of essentially drinking when you feel thirsty, but remembering that you've only got a certain amount of water which is what you carry. We never followed this modern trend that seems to be "I must get hydrated" and ordering people to drink on the spot. We never found that necessary. We also took plenty of salt with our meals - as much as we could. 

You would carry your parka with you to wear at night. So sometimes you would move out at night time in your shirtsleeves, you would stop put on your jacket, your sweater, wrap scarf around you, then just after dawn you have to take it all off again because it was getting very hot. When you woke up in the morning you turned your boots upside down and banged them together just to make sure there weren't any Camel Spiders or Scorpions inside them, and before you went to bed at night you shook out your sleeping bag to make sure you didn't have any visitors.

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