Saddam puppet finds place in reporters' spoils

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American journalist Joseph L Galloway once remarked: "There are old war correspondents and bold war correspondents but no old, bold war correspondents." Covering conflict is an inherently dangerous job and it takes a certain type of person willing to put themselves on the front line of someone else's war.

Most war reporters will tell you they feel inevitably drawn to the danger, or at least believe that the danger is a risk worth confronting in order to be a witness to history. Those returning from the frontlines inevitably come back with minds stuffed full of unpleasant memories. But they also bring back treasure troves of oddities and memorabilia.

From the bullet which grazed Kate Adie as she reported from Lebanon, to Saddam Hussein boxing puppets that Jeremy Bowen found in a Baghdad market, some of these items will go on show in Manchester this month at the Imperial War Museum North in an exhibition on the history of war reporting since 1914.

Much of what we know about the world's conflicts come to us directly through these people's eyes. Nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc screaming in pain as she ran from a napalm attack in Vietnam, the fields of corpses across Rwanda, the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad and the B-52 contrails above Tora Bora are just a handful of moments captured on film that will forever define those conflicts in the popular imagination.

Channel 4's veteran war reporter Lindsey Hilsum returned from Pakistan this weekend with a new addition to her personal collection of warzone bric-a-brac – a piece of the stealth helicopter that was destroyed by US Navy Seals after their raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.

"I keep a pistol bullet from Abu Ghraib and two lucky marbles from Fallujah with me at all times," she explains. "They've just been joined with a button from a Gaddafi soldier's uniform ."

"I want to be where history is happening," she adds. "And yet news, particularly television news, is very ephemeral. So I think one of the reasons we collect these mementos is to keep hold of our little bit of history."

Jeremy Bowen's hand puppets

As the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen has spent hours trawling through the region's bazaars and markets inbetween covering one of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world. During one of many trips to Baghdad he came across a set of boxing puppets featuring Saddam Hussein, above, Yassir Arafat and George W Bush.

John Simpson's burqa

In the weeks following 11 September 2001, America began preparing for the invasion of Afghanistan. The 6ft-tall John Simpson disguised himself in a burka to cross the border from Pakistan and secretly broadcast from the Taliban-controlled country. "Merely putting on the burka, I found, has an extraordinary effect – it seems to make you disappear," he said.

Martin Bell's jacket

Martin Bell began wearing his distinctive white suit during the 10-day Slovenian war in 1991. He had realised, while reporting on the Gulf War earlier the same year, that he felt uncomfortable wearing uniform and wanted to reclaim his status as a civilian. "The suit made a statement: this man isn't part of anyone's army."

Kate Adie's bullet

One of the BBC's most seasoned war reporters, Kate Adie was standing on the balcony of a hotel in Lebanon when a stray bullet clipped her and embedded itself in the wall behind her. She dug it out and kept it as a lucky charm.


These epaulettes came from a uniform worn by Clare Hollingworth during the Second World War. Correspondents held the rank of a junior officer. Hollingworth was one of the first women war reporters and went on to file dispatches from Palestine, Aden and Vietnam.