OK you have to understand something – this is totally raw and emotional so forgive me.
My friend of 20 years Alex Crawford has been f**king lucky and I have been chasing and working harder. For six months I have been chasing – actually my whole life. It is all about timing and Alex was bang on it. It is hot; I am f**ked and my team is f**ked but I AM heading to Bab al Aziziya. Two days, no sleep – determined. When the first tank round came OUT of the compound and flew over our heads I shouted: “Keep f**king driving man – this is a f**king good day – they missed!” It’s total war. Impossible to describe. Keep up. It WAR. Proper war.
I meet my mate Miles Amore (Sunday Times): “Stu, it’s f**king amazing, man, get in – where you been man – f**k!” “F**king Ibiza – what up with your lid?” (helmet) it has a tear. His body armour is ropey. “Hit man – knocked to ground – f**k,” he said. “F**king right. Thank fuck you had it on,” I replied. Most of my newspaper mates wear nothing. I go nowhere without. “Now f**k off and live – go.” We met two days later and he asked to borrow a hat!
“Dick head – just who the fuck is now going to lend YOU a hat?!”
Bab al Aziziya! You can’t imagine the feeling. Those lying Gaddafi f**ks had used that as a barrier for so long and the Misrata Brigade had smashed it in a day. We climbed in. Rounds in and out – non stop. Deaf deaf deaf. Shout stop and indicate “live” to Ed (cam), Tom (prod) and John (security). I am a bit rusty but in element. Team very worried but well on it. I wanted to be there. I had worked to be there. I wanted to be live as the walls fell.
I was – but f**king Crawford was there before me. Our Sat phones banged in to London at the same time. Two lines – we both took the right one – total chance. The newsroom cheered – I could hear it in my ear piece. Two live shots and two reporters from inside the HQ of Gaddafi for an hour.
I did not cry but did later – when you crack something like that it is like winning the world cup or your first under 11’s goal and your dad cries. Get It – now keep with this because it is hectic and emotional and I am writing straight from memory – so sorry.
We left – total total chaos. Looting and in-coming. A 50 Cal opens on us from 50 meters. Fly to cover but he following – right right on us. Tracers smash past – that about every third frigging round, inches away. Alex legs it with this nutter bloke in a bloody Gaddafi hat and sword! We follow. Back streets and we in armour. Gun men jumpy hold us up – Sky Fucking NEWS MAN – “Sky News best – welcome to Libya.” – You couldn’t make it up.
John Simpson, a brilliant brilliant reporter wrote a book about Kabul and its relief. In it he described the brilliance of the Beeb and how it could never be surpassed. Sky News has done the Beeb over so many times since then it’s daft – all it shows is that everyone keeps evolving and getting better. The Beeb trained nearly everyone at Sky who is any good and now I hear the BBC training course doesn’t exist – what!!????
“Hectic: It was Mega.”
The teams meet. Very emotional. We are ALL very good friends. The Crawford team had been on the go for days of fighting. We took them to our rented house miles away and had the most fab few hours ever. We filed four “live” reports. An “as live” I filmed at the compound. A piece for the morning from me. An Alex VT and a “live” and three on-line pieces. Hectic but we now do this. It was mega. We were writing and reporting history. John our security advisor talked to me after. “Stuart – I didn’t know how important this is to you guys. The quiet concentration while you worked and the determination to tell the truth. I thought you all made it up. I am proud of you
son.” Can you even start to imagine how that feels in this year.
Alex’s team – Jim Foster (camera) and Garwen McLuckie (camera) are two of my best friends. Andy Marsh (producer) great friend but also the best friend of my old producer Nick Ludlam soon to be Alex’s. They made Alex the phenom she is. Understand the simpatico relevance? This IS the key. Next day we drove to the hospital Alex had been in. We continued with “lives” from
the hospital. Alex’s team was exhausted and slept while we went out. Within a couple of hours it went nuts across town. Both teams moved and set up shop under fire. Not just a bit of fire.
You have to move from your fixed live position but you just HAVE to find the firing point. Years of working with the best army in world (Brits) have taught me what to look for and two hours with the most mobile army in the world (Misrata boys) helped
me sort that.
While they smashed the Gaddafi forces I was live with Kay (Burley) for an hour. She was great – but when she said if I needed to take cover or leave then I should; I just had to laugh. “Kay I am stuck man.” I think it covered it. Foreign Ed Sarah Whitehead rang. “Stuart what the exit plan?” “Sarah there fucking isn’t one I am fucked if I move. However, I am not moving coz Paul (Danahar, BBC) has an
armoured car and it saving my arse – oh and he sends his love.”
“Fine,” she said. “I will put you back to sound.”
Now all really tired. No food little water. Us two hours sleep in four days. Alex team five in five max. We did “lives” under fire and continuous packages but inevitably the Alex team would leave. All of us utterly utterly gutted. Can’t explain feelings. Wehad to go on. It took a while but they left. It was ours now. Shit YES – get in.
War restarted as we headed south. New compounds. Super hostile. Charred murdered bodies. Massive story. BBC and ITN utterly beaten. Nothing like it. Total smash up.
The bodies very important and big. I rang desk after huge fire fight.
“We have fantastic stuff But mate the bodies are massive man – proper story son – Andy ring Ryley this is a proper story.” As Andy Gales the Foreign Ed of the day took this in, the locals surrounded me and started shouting – “Andy Man it fooking massive,” how the fuck did they know he was a Geordie?
Massive and important. As I held the hand of a doctor who had taken over the makeshift investigation I was shaking.
“Stuart I will help. But bring the ICC here. Sky News can do this – YOU can do this.”
My heart is crying out man – I don’t know if we can I will try. But I am strung out to fuck. The war isn’t over and I can sense we really really on fire but this is why I am here maybe – I don’t know; I have been in wars so often I have forgotten the times I have asked – is this why I am here? To tell this story. Maybe this is it. Maybe they all are. Shit I just don’t know.
Next day ICC launches enquiry. I puked. First time I have told anyone. Is that me? Understand? Is that my job done? Over?
Filthy stinking. Walk into live-feed hotel. BBC reporters ignore me – others, some of their most senior, have left.
I, Sky, Alex, none of us care but they needed to dig in and accept that Alex had done them over and I had done my bit to keep it going.
We have worked hard and tried to bring the truth. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and loads more. Sky has been in all – Alex and me and Emma and Dom, JT, Wilson and loads of others have been in. But this was a moment we won’t forget. Perhaps we shouldn’t have lived. But we did. Get in!
Note on the author: Stuart Ramsay is Sky News’ Chief Correspondent and firefighter-in-chief. He has reported for them during the “Arab Spring” from Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and most recently Libya where he delivered several world exclusives to the station. Ramsay has received many awards including a 2010 Emmy for Pakistan, Terror’s Frontline; the London Press Club’s Broadcast Journalist of the Year 2009, the Royal Television Society’s prestigious Foreign Affairs Award for work in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the Monte Carlo Golden Nymph in 2006 for his coverage of the Pakistan earthquake and, in 2005, Gold from New York Festival for his coverage of the Sudan crisis. In 2004, he was an Emmy Finalist for his coverage of the Liberia war and was nominated for a BAFTA last year. Ramsay has covered wars from Chechnya, through Africa and the Middle East to Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2003, he has covered Iran and Afghanistan, both as an embedded and independent reporter.
An extract from the book: MIRAGE IN THE DESERT?REPORTING THE ARAB SPRING - Editors John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble
Arima Published October 11th £17.99