London, d. 7.April.2004
Killed in a gun battle in Iraq
Former London cycle-courier Mike Bloss was killed in a gun battle in Iraq a few days ago whilst working as a security guard for electrical contractors. Former paratrooper Mike, whose call-sign was Blind Boy, rode for Security Despatch and DMS in the warmer months then relocated to Colorado for the winter months where he worked as a ski instructor. The last time I saw him in 2001 he said that he was going to stay in Colorado on a permanent basis. I was very surprised read about his death in today's Guardian as I thought his 'military' days were behind him. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Friends recall life of 'boisterous man'
By Owen S. Good, Rocky Mountain News
April 10, 2004
WINTER PARK - It was nearly seven years ago that Mike Bloss arrived, staked his tent behind a bar, lived in it through a stupefyingly cold winter, and earned full citizenship in this community of adventurers and athletes.
"He's one of the few people I've known who always lived the way he wanted to live, without compromise," said James Bateman, a close friend who dragged Bloss inside from the sub-zero chill many times that winter.
Bloss, 38, a former officer in the United Kingdom's Special Services, sought adventure and perished on one. He was killed Wednesday while on assignment in Fallujah, Iraq, working for a private firm that provides security for high-risk operations.
He had been an instructor teaching the disabled to ski at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park.
He took the security job to help pay the bills in the off-season at a place where he skied, bicycled, sparred in jujitsu and strove to live out the ideal he wrote about in a journal: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
More than 200 of Bloss' close friends, co-workers and kindred spirits in the Fraser Valley attended his memorial Friday, held in a lodge at Winter Park ski resort. They shared memories of an irrepressible spirit.
Bateman recalled that Bloss arrived too late in the season to find housing, thus the tent would have to suffice. Bloss still managed to negotiate a sweetheart deal with the owner of a bar, selling a pair of used skis for $200, meals all season and a cable out to his tent so he could watch TV if he liked.
It was Bloss' only creature comfort that winter. His latrine was a milk jug, often frozen solid.
Bateman built a 4-foot snow wall around the tent site and brought Bloss an endless supply of blankets. But he worried for Bloss' safety on extremely cold nights and sometimes persuaded him to spend the night on a couch in his home.
"Of course, I'd hear him stirring in the middle of the night, go check on him and find my windows open, the doors open, and he'd be standing on my deck in his skivvies," Bateman said, "because it was too hot."
Teresa Fancher, one of multitudes Bloss guided on skiing or mountain biking runs, said her instructor inspired a confidence in her that she hadn't felt before. Fancher, who is blind, recalled following Bloss through a rock-garden path that had always before forced her to dismount her bike.
"He was saying, 'OK, stay off your brakes, stay off your brakes,
lean back,' " she said. "He told me all the right things to do,
and I got through it just fine."
Bloss' body will be flown to his native Wales for burial there. Much of his gear remains in his adoptive home, and it was arrayed on tables beside the speaker's lectern.
Many passed by it before and after the service. They saw his telemark skis, mountain bike, helmets, and even a bicycle messenger's bag, which recalled his job as a courier in London, something he told a friend was more dangerous than his duty in the British military.
As a montage of photographs cycled by on a projection screen, Men of Harlech - the unofficial anthem of Wales, of which Bloss was extraordinarily proud - thundered over the speakers.
His best friend from Wales, Enzo Silvestro, sent a message that was read aloud.
"My sincere hope," he said, "is that everybody remembers Mike for what he was: a happy, boisterous man."
Friends of Mike Bloss mourn his death and share stories of his irrepressible spirit at a memorial service Friday in Winter Park. A Welshman and former British soldier, Bloss was killed Wednesday in a firefight while working security for Western workers in Iraq. The 38-year-old worked eight winters in Winter Park as a skiing instructor for the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
From Guardian Unlimited
The last message Mike Bloss sent from Iraq was earnest but optimistic. The ex-paratrooper and the electrical engineers he was guarding were surrounded by gunmen. Escape seemed improbable. And yet the Welsh security guard sounded confident that he could shoot a way out.
"We are expecting to be overrun tonight," he emailed friends in Colorado. "We may have to fight our way to a safe haven. Unfortunately all the safe havens are already under attack ... We'll probably be OK! I'll email when I'm safe."
Mr Bloss didn't send another email. He managed to keep the assailants at bay long enough to enable the contractors he was protecting to escape. But he was killed in a gun battle - and with him a little more of what optimism is left in Iraq.
On the first anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the country was in the grip of mayhem and insurgency, Mr Bloss was one of at least a dozen people to die at the hands of insurgents across the country yesterday.
An international hostage crisis was deepening, meanwhile, with the seizure by Sunni insurgents outside Baghdad of up to six more hostages. Their nationality was unclear though some captors said a number of Italians were being held. Two others, according to varying reports, were either American or British.
Shia militants are already holding two Palestinian and three Japanese hostages, the latter group facing the threat of being burned alive tomorrow unless Tokyo pulls its troops out of Iraq. The Japanese authorities have refused to budge, but the kidnappings mark a new tactic in the resistance against the coalition, with the potential to influence public opinion in the US and its allies.
As the Shia uprising raged on in the south and centre of the country, a US military convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad, killing up to nine people, including at least one American soldier. A second US soldier was killed north of Baghdad. But the unrest in Baghdad was nothing compared to the mayhem in the Sunni stronghold of Falluja, where a temporary ceasefire collapsed into renewed gunbattles and air attacks last night.
Yesterday hospital officials said the death toll in the city had risen to 450 Iraqis, with more than 1,000 wounded in the fighting. In the bloody turmoil of Iraq, it is private security guards like Mr Bloss who are most exposed. Mostly ex-soldiers hired at formidable costs of up to £1,000 a day to make Iraq safe for investment, they have no tanks or armoured helicopters to rescue them when things turn ugly.
The Iraq war has already laid bare the creeping privatisation of modern conflict. Mr Bloss's death, coupled with the growing hostage drama, will raise more questions about the security vacuum in the country. ...