There is not a lot about a reading club here. Hennessey started the reading club in Basra. At Sandhurst (“Hogwarts with guns”); books included: Jary’s 18 Platoon, Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil and Michael Rose’s Fighting for Peace. The book is not about reading recommendations it is about the life of a young officer in the modern British Army, through Sandhurst to tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.
War Movies form a significant part of Sandhurst Teaching Material, films like: Band of Brothers, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket and A Bridge Too Far. Each generation of soldiers in the British Army had very different wars to fight: the Second World War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Falklands war, Bosnia, The Gulf War and most recently Afghanistan. This literate account gives insight into the life of the modern British Soldier, where a lot of the fighting is “three block fighting” or FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas). Plunging a bayonetted rifle into sandbag after sandbag whilst screaming yourself hoarse is still part of the training, but now “health and safety” dictates the sandbags can’t be filled with knock off offal from the local butcher’s.
” I suddenly know that I hate this and love it at the same time because I can already feel both how glad I will be when it is over and how much I will miss it. How difficult to convey to anyone that matters something that they never will understand, and how little anything else will matter.”
The book conveys the strange roller-coaster mix of terror, boredom and exhilaration experienced by a modern soldier. The terror of finding the body part of a comrade blown up by a landmine, the boredom waiting in camp for further instructions, the thrill of firing a £70 000 Javelin at a Taliban target. This is also the tale of camaraderie of brothers in arms and between the writer and the ANA (Afghan National Army), who he was working with during his tour of duty.
Georgian soldiers get a couple of mentions in the book as making up the coalition numbers and as being surly.
There is something of the Hell of Helmand here. Hennessey is an officer in the grenadiers, his Lieutenant Kuku falls victim to an IED (improvised explosive device) and his leg is saved back in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham.
The book is illustrated with photos, but printed onto the page they have less clarity than if they were inserted as plates into the book. There are also extracts from his emails and diaries, which could have done with more editing to bring them into the narrative.
This is a good book for those who wish to look at the Afghanistan conflict from the perspective of the British Soldier stationed there.
My rating: 4 out of 5