Special Dispatch: Trenchard Lines Mess, Basra
Contingency Operating Base
Basra International Airport
by Private Yolk
Amid the palette of hazy browns that perpetually blankets the home of British Forces in Iraq, there is a sole beacon of colour that cuts through the fuzz. Nestled between oversized sandbags and shaded under the giant arched sunshades lies our own Mesopotamian desert oasis: Trenchard Lines Mess.
Chef Omar and his team regularly serve up a veritable feast of traditional British delights. For the temporary ex-pats innovation is not the mot de jour when it comes to the most important meal of the day. Hash browns, pork sausages (!), bacon (!!), baked beans, eggs (the exact incarnation a daily revelation) and fried toast are always provided piping hot. Also, a choice of cereals that almost runs into double figures, brown and white bread (flanked by an industrial toaster that rivals the International Space Station in engineering complexity), fresh fruit and a tasteful choice of cold meats serve as a nod to the spreading breakfasting habits of those usually associated with the Officer Class.
Most crucially, the opening times have been carefully considered to accommodate the 24/7 lifestyle of those working on the base. Security prevents the divulging of exact details, but suffice to say shiftworkers, early risers, nightowls and those deciding to have a lie in are all catered for.
The decor is a combination of retro-chic, truck-stop functionality and the community of a school canteen. Simple but striking informative 'artwork' and a whiteboard of complexity rivalling an early Jackson Pollock break up the expanse of the jovial yellow walls, further complimented by the sumptuous ochre internal blast walls. Collectively, these features create an intimate atmosphere more befitting a 1950s American diner than a frontline mess hall.
Despite providing ample storage for body armour and personal weapons, the proprietors have provided a welcome relaxed atmosphere to those who are placing them around their tables. Indeed, the chance to examine your eating companions' kit provides as much of a welcome discussion opener as the large TV carrying the latest from the British Forces Broadcasting Service.
Sadly, like many British institutions, the future of the mess is under review. As the continual creep of Americanisation permeates the furthest flung corners of the globe, so too are we facing the potential that our Iraqi egg options will be replaced by 'sunny side up' and other such butchery of the English culinary lexicon. If Trenchard Mess is to be incorporated into a new monolithic 'welfare facility' then we can only hope space is allowed for our breakfast soldiers to continue to serve Queen and Country. Morale depends on it.