12•6•1999

(Written on 12•6•2022)

12 June 1999 was the day that NATO troops entered Kosovo. I think this photograph is from about a week earlier.

We of 5 Airborne Brigade were on an armed camping holiday in ‘Camp Piper’ in Macedonia waiting for international politics to play out, and hoping for some soldiering soon in order to save the Kosovar Albanian people from the brutal and murderous Serbs.

I remember it being way above 40c in that field. I remember a small car turning up with CDs and ‘special interest’ DVDs which the driver assured us we would like.

I think 5AB Bde got helicoptered to the top of the Kacanik Gorge on the 9th of June to clear the way for the Main Body.

The mountains either side of the village reach 6000ft. One burnt-in memory from the village is hundreds of us having our first wash for a week in the river that runs through it, as the menfolk descended from the mountains where they had been hiding for months. They were hollowed out humans held together by blankets bound with twine, who had been pursued by Serbs, their homes looted and burnt. They had hidden a winter up there. Many of their relatives would be found in shallow graves in the months to come. Men who stood watching us, whose eyes bore in to us and asked what took us so long.

Behind them Kate Adie spoke to the world.

I only recall one night in Kacanik, but i may be wrong, before we were flown forward to the outskirts of Pristina.

The horrors of what human will do unto human, ‘friend’ to ‘friend’, ‘neighbour’ to ‘neighbour’ in the ‘name’ of nationality and religion then began to unfold.

Named ‘Operation Agricola’, the military effort was never a war per se, but it most certainly was on the lives and senses of all those caught up in it.

Twenty-three years later and the investigation by the ECHR in the Hague in to the actions and abuses there still continues.

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