Captain Pippa returns home
PUBLISHED: 15:41 06 July 2007 | UPDATED: 21:45 29 May 2010
A SOLDIER from Dunmow is safely back home after serving for six months in the deserts of Iraq. Royal Engineer Captain Pippa Hopkins, 28, from Beaumont Hill, was the only woman serving with the Queen s Royal Lancers during their tour of duty in Maysaan pro
A SOLDIER from Dunmow is safely back home after serving for six months in the deserts of Iraq.
Royal Engineer Captain Pippa Hopkins, 28, from Beaumont Hill, was the only woman serving with the Queen's Royal Lancers during their tour of duty in Maysaan province, 200-300 kilometres north of Basra.
"We were trying to stop people smuggling weapons from Iran into Iraq," said Capt Hopkins. "We came under mortar attack several times and a roadside bomb killed two of our guys.
"That was a difficult time but you have to get on with your job. You can't let it affect you too much.
"I think we had an effect on the smugglers because we didn't find as much as we had hoped. I like to think that we did put them off."
Operating in the rural areas of the country, she said the local farmers were not too political and were generally pleased to see them.
"It was good to see the positive effect things like wells and bridge building was having on their communities," she said.
Capt Hopkins explained that life in the desert was very basic. Most of the time she and her unit of 11 soldiers lived out of four Land Rovers and were constantly on the move staying no longer than two days in any one place.
Orders to return to the UK came through on May 20.
"There was a real buzz of excitement when we were packing up, but we still had to take off from Basra Airport in a Hercules, which wasn't a pleasant experience," she recounted.
Gemma Gilbey, the manager of Profiles Beauty Salon on Dunmow High Street, agreed to give Capt Hopkins a manicure session as a welcome home treat.
While having her nails done, Pippa said: "Since getting back, I've been travelling all over the country seeing friends.
"But I love Dunmow. I've been away for six or seven years and people still recognise me and ask me how it's going.
"Having Profiles do my nails is a wonderful treat.
My nails have never looked so good."
Capt Hopkins returns to her unit in Ripon, North Yorkshire today, Thursday.
Her one piece of advice to anyone who is soon setting off for service abroad is to make sure family and friends know how to use the free postal system that is available for people serving in the armed forces.
"I especially want to say thank you to everyone who has written to me while I've been away, especially during my time in Iraq.
"All the letters and parcels I received were so important to me. It really helps when things are bad or you're feeling low. Thank you.