Dennis Abbott, editor of Economist Group weekly European Voice, has been serving with the British forces in Basra since 15 June after being mobilised.
Abbott, a captain in the Territorial Army’s Media Operations Group volunteers), is based at the headquarters of 19 Mechanised Brigade in Basra.The HQ is located in Saddam’s palace on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. The conditions are humid and hot – with the temperature averaging 50 celsius.
“The air-con is virtually non-existent and I tend to sleep on the roof of my accommodation,” Abbott said. “The only downside to this is that the locals get their AK-47s out most evenings to fire off a few rounds – generally at each other rather than us – and there’s always the fear of a round coming down on top of you.”
Abbott’s Army role is mainly focused on dealing with visiting media from around the world and he occasionally acts as a spokesman. He was launch editor of The Wharf in 1998 and has worked for The Sun and the Daily Mirror. Abbott was recently reunited with former colleagues Nick Parker of The Sun and Tom Newton-Dunn of the Daily Mirror, who brought him a few, much appreciated beers.
He’s also been assisting another former colleague, Anne Treneman of The Times, who is covering the riots in Basra.
Abbott’s tour is due to end at the end of the month. His deputy at European Voice, Dana Spinant, has been acting editor.
EV has just moved office, into the Residence Palace in Brussels.
Abbott quipped: “I’ll be swapping Saddam’s palace for another.”