A FLEETWOOD man is relieved to be safely home after a dramatic rescue by the SAS in the Libyan desert.
Peter Dingle, 50, of Lancaster Gate, was among oil workers who were put aboard a Hercules transport aircraft to escape the dangers of the uprising against Colonel Gaddafi.
Although the British authorities have faced criticism for reacting slowly to the crisis, Mr Dingle says the rescue operation was brilliantly carried out.
He said: “I would like to praise the British Military – the SAS boys – the British High Commission and embassies and the British Government.
“I know they have had a slating for not reacting more quickly, but when you are out there your life is in danger and these guys come and get you it’s absolutely brilliant. It was a great thing they did. Their lives were in danger as ours were.
“As they came flying in low over the desert Gaddafi could have launched planes or anything.”
The Hercules landed at an airstrip at Nafora, 5km from the oil facility south of Benghazi at 3pm on Saturday and two hours later was touching down in Malta.
After an overnight rest, courtesy of the British High Commission, they were transferred to Britain.
The safety supervisor said: “We were told the plane was coming and it would be a military plane and we were waiting for several days.
“We kept quiet about it because if any of the media found out in Tripoli it would have been a disaster because the plane wouldn’t have arrived.”
“The plane came and they flew us out of the desert – we were aware it was the SAS although we weren’t officially told.
“It was a brilliant feeling getting on that plane.”
The dash to the airfield was made in 10 vehicles guarded by local people who had taken over their villages from the Gaddafi regime.
Previously the oil plant workers had considered staging their own escape. He said: “We were thinking of getting to Egypt in a convoy but we thought when the local media found out we wouldn’t be able to go. The robbers would have found out and with a convoy of 40 or 50 4x4s they would have stolen the cars and left us in the middle of the desert. “It was a scary, hairy situation.” They were well aware of the dangerous situation.
He said: “We were in an area which had been taken over by the local people as part of the uprising.
“They wanted Gaddafi out. There were a lot of looters in the area and robbers so we were well aware of what could happen.
“There were 165 people at the camp which was being guarded by the locals from the villages. We didn’t see much trouble, but in the mornings we heard that in the locality cars and equipment had been stolen and people had entered premises.”