Note: This is part of a series. Part one and part two can be read here.

It was time to finalise the plans. A number of options had been considered and rejected. It had become clear from day one that overland assault was out of the question. The West Side Boys, who had considerable combat experience, had blocked all approaches and had initiated regular foot patrols. A river assault was also considered and ruled out of the question. The SBS teams had already reported back on the strong and treacherous currents. It would be suicide.

So, it was going to be what we knew all along. Choppers.

In the end, the division of labor was simple enough. D Squadron would rescue the hostages from Gberi Bana while the Paras would take out Makbeni on the other side of the creek.

It was on. Except, you’re never sure, are you? I’d lost count of the number of times since I’d completed selection for the regiment we’d been called up for an operation only to be ordered to stand down at the last moment. And now, deep in the jungles of West Africa, as we zeroed our weapons for the final time, I couldn’t help wondering whether this would turn out to be just another false alarm.

I remembered the first time my pager had gone off. I’d been shopping in the supermarket. I’d abandoned my trolley in the aisle and taken off faster than Usain Bolt running at altitude. I arrived back to the barracks to find that our urgent mission was erecting tents for the local village fête!

The night before the assault, we received a visit from the regimental CO, who confirmed that we were on. He spent some time with us informally and stopped in front of me to discuss the worst-kept secret of the whole operation: the state of my hand. I’m stripping down my Belgian Minimi light machine gun trying to make it plain that there’s nothing wrong with Trooper Campion and he’s 100-percent fit and raring to go.

“Are you sure you want to go on this operation?” asks the CO.