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  • Writer's pictureSi Biggs

Operation Maude - Cutting Iraq's Communications Cable

Unit/ Formation: SBS

Location: S of Baghdad

Period/ Conflict: Operation Granby (Gulf War 1)

Year: 1991

Date/s: 23 January 1991.

Led by Lt Col Mark Phillips an audacious mission to blow up Saddam Hussein’s telecommunications cables network, buried deep in the earth under a sports arena in southern Baghdad during the first Gulf War, following the tyrant’s capture of Kuwait.

It was dubbed the proverbial “mission impossible” by insiders, and many did not expect Phillips and his team to make it back alive.

On 22 January 1991, flying in under the cover of darkness on two Chinook helicopters at low altitude to avoid radar detection, Phillips’ team were dropped near the heavily defended stadium, while a diversionary attack was launched to lure forces away from the area. Sustained allied aerial bombing raids had failed to knock out the fibre optic cables carrying Iraq’s command and control messages to Basra. The team was ordered to cut cables, and plant more than 700lbs of explosives at strategic points, but things did not run smoothly.

Two unsuccessful attempts were made to find and cut the cable, but on each occasion, headquarters relayed back that Iraqi signals were still being sent. On the third attempt, the team planted all their explosives and detonated them. Iraqi communications suddenly ceased.

Section of fibre optic cable and identification plates from the Iraqi communications system destroyed during Operation Maude on 23 January 1991 (IWM Collection)

Flushed with success, they dug and recovered a portion of the cable, before pulling back to their waiting helicopters. So successful was the mission that the piece of fibre optic cable has since been displayed at London’s Imperial War Museum.

Related 'Dits'

Remembering Lieutenant Colonel Mark “Foggy” Phillips MBE

Liberation of the British Embassy Kuwait

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