This weeks book of the week is a real gem. Not only is it a real thrill of a read, it is possibly one of the most important books written about the British Army.
Why? well, as we all know, whenever there is a crisis anywhere in the world, we call on the Paras, the Marines, and the SAS. The rest of the Army are just cannon fodder, of course. Dan Mills even refers to this head on, and suggests how damaging it is to morale to the infantryman to think that they are somehow sub-standard. Thankfully, this book succesfully blows apart this myth.
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and after the Marines and Paras had gone home, the rest of the Army were taking turns on duty in Iraq. The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment were deployed for a 6 month tour of duty in Al Amarah, north of Basra – one of Iraq’s most lawless provinces. So peaceful was it expected to be, that they werent issued with grenades, and they even left their mortars at home. This is the story of the Battalions Sniper Platoon.
Any expectations of a quiet tour were soon dispelled, most of their 6 month deployment was spent fighting with Iraqi Militiamen loyal to Moqtada al Sadr. The long battle they fought has come to be known as the Siege of Cimic House. It was during this period that Johnson Beharry won his VC. Mills describes every bullet, every aspect of modern warfare.
Mills writes with a dynamism that is gripping, yet has none of the bombast or glorification of Andy McNab or Chris Ryan. Refreshing in his honesty, that he talks about pornography and masturbation all helps you to believe that these are normal men, not the virtual superheroes that front-line soldiers are made out to be. The Tigers recruit from Portsmouth, my home town, and you can almost see people you know in the characters in Mills’ Patoon.
This is a very important book. One, because it focusses on a rather less glamorous Regiment, and secondly because of its realism and its no-nonsense style or writing, it will be invaluable to Historians for hundreds of years. This is a more honest, and more important, book than Bravo Two Zero.