(Read Part 1 here.)

We already know the basics. The captured British troops serving with the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone were from the Royal Irish Regiment. They were originally part of a detachment that had been deployed to help oversee the evacuation of foreign nationals from what had degenerated into the most vicious and bloody civil wars in Africa for a generation.

Gradually, we learned more about their captors. They were the self-styled West Side Boys—a ragtag group of AK-47-wielding nut cases who had terrorized the population for years. Their trademark calling card was the amputation of the limbs of anyone who crossed their path with sharpened machetes (they called it ‘short or long sleeves’). The whole of the Sierra Leone countryside was littered with the sight of the limbless—including women and young children—who had fallen victim to the psychopathic rebels. We all know how bad IS is; this lot were on the same level.

The leader of the West Side Boys was ‘Brigadier’ Foday Khalley, a particularly brutal and unstable individual. Like all these nightmare ‘soldiers’, Khalley abused drugs on an industrial scale. The narcotics included cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines. The dope helped them carry out their sickening atrocities against their own people. It also meant it was almost impossible to negotiate with them. Khalley’s coke snorting made him paranoid. The cannabis gave him amnesia. He could hardly remember the decisions he had made only five minutes before. It was a nightmare.

Khalley’s number two, and main spokesman, was another idiot who called himself Colonel Cambodia (the West Side Boys were big fans of the genocidal Khmer Rouge). Colonel Cambodia had a habit of calling up the British Broadcasting Corporation in London and mouthing off his list of demands. This helpfully allowed our Scaleys (signals lads) to get an exact fix on his transmitter, which meant we knew exactly where he was night and day.

Bit by bit, we began to add pieces to the jigsaw puzzle from multiple sources. We knew that the hostages were being kept in a village called Gberi Bana on the banks of Rokel Creek, a tributary of the country’s longest river. On the opposite side of the water, there was another substantial force of heavily armed West Side Boys in the abandoned village of Makbeni. It was obvious that any assault would require taking care of both strongholds simultaneously.

Our main source of intel were eyes on the ground. The very first deployment had been an advanced party of Blades (SAS troopers) in deep-camouflage close-observation points relaying back all the activity in both villages. Insertion had proved tricky in the treacherous currents of the Rokel, but we were helped out by our traditional, deadly rivals (I mean best mates from the Navy!) the SBS (Special Boat Squadron or ‘shakey boats’).

Over the next few days, the situation changed on an hourly basis. Unpredictable as ever, Khalley received the hostage negotiation team, sat, and listened. The team (which included two of our lads wearing Royal Irish uniforms) miraculously managed to secure the release of five of the 11 troops in exchange for food and medicine.