The grateful residents of Basra lined the streets today, giving a rousing three cheers to the British Army for all it has done over the last six years to turn their home town into a veritable paradise on Earth.
The phased replacement of UK forces by their American counterparts - which actually began last December and will continue until the end of May - was today marked by a small flag ceremony signifying the handover of local command from Britain to the United States.
"For those who are old enough to realise, and compare it with the past gloom of Saddam's era, they look back to 30 years ago and say, 'We're seeing stability that we haven't had before; we're seeing levels of freedom that we haven't had before'," said outgoing Modern Major-General Andy Tuna. "Admittedly that was when Saddam was our best mate in the Middle East, and perhaps we ought to have said something at the time - but hey, it's no use crying over spilt milk."
"We are all so grateful to Britain for making Basra an international byword for peace and tranquility," agreed mayor Mohammed Masbah al-Waili, nervously scanning the streets. "When the insane dictator Saddam Hussein was in charge, we were all dragged from our homes and shot every morning."
"Now our British friends bring us breakfast in bed and fresh flowers every day," he added. "They have done a sterling job of half-training our new police force to take over from the one they disbanded, teaching them to say, 'Evenin' all, what's all this about then?' in Farsi and tell us the time. Now the nice Americans will complete their training by teaching them the correct way to grip a .40-calibre Smith & Wesson with both hands and shout 'Down on the ground and put your goddamn hands where I can see them, asshole!' Happy days."
British soldiers at Basra Airport wept openly as they packed their bags to leave.
"I'll miss the warmth of the Iraqi people," said Corporal Jones. "I remember once when this bloke ran towards me with arms outstretched, like he wanted to give me a great big hug."
"And he probably would have, too," he chuckled, "If I hadn't emptied a clip into him thinking he was a suicide bomber. I felt like a right charlie afterwards!"
"I'll always treasure the memory of that friendly, harmless Iraqi," he added touchingly. "Especially at three in the morning when I wake up screaming."