The author, an ex British Army Officer, has produced a much needed guide to what today’s soldier faces on the battlefield. Drawing on twelve years experience, including two as an Officer Cadet Instructor at Sandhurst, he has written a jargon-free book with humour, a dash of irony and some gentle sarcasm.
This is not a training manual, but is for those with an interest in land warfare but with no military experience. It is eminently readable and provides a valuable insight into what “Tommy Atkins” faces when sent to war. Rather than the simplistic Hollywood portrayal of good versus evil with obvious heroes and villains the reader quickly comes to realize the complex nature of modern war-fighting, the technology available, the necessity of logistic back up and the pressure of having to make split second decisions which may be questioned in the comfort of a committee room many months later.
Television has given us unprecedented access to a whole range of “fly on the wall” programmes following recruits through training as well as “embedding” reporters with units in the field. Similarly, many service personnel have written excellent accounts of their time on the front line. These are all valuable and welcome additions to our understanding of modern day warfare but, are of necessity, written largely from one persons perspective.
This book aims to fill the gap between an individual’s personal experience and large unit operations. It enables the reader to better understand the part played by the smallest effective unit on the battlefield, the fire-team (with four members) or the section(two fire teams).
Wasting no time, after a quick introduction to “Tommy Atkins”, we are off for a short walk in the countryside. This is often the soldiers workplace for as the author observes “land warfare is about ground and who controls it”. In such an apparently benign environment only bulls, barbed-wire and irate farmers are the hazards faced by the public. However, we soon realize that moving and fighting in such an environment requires an entirely different mind and skill set other-wise life expectancy is reduced to minutes or even seconds!
We are reminded that “Everything in war is simple, but even the simplest thing is very difficult” – von Clauswitz. This maxim is as relevant today as it was when first expounded and the reader soon comes to appreciate the difficulties facing today’s soldier.
Every job has its tools of the trade as well as particular ways of doing things. For “Tommy” this translates into weapons and tactics. These are described in simple, straightforward terms easily understood by the lay-person. This sets the tone for the rest of the book where we are introduced to other “players” on the battlefield along with a wide range of assets and resources that can be called upon or incorporated with “Tommy” in the fighting to improve the chances not only of his success but also of his survival.
By the final page the reader will be far better informed about the requirements, equipment and capabilities of our troops as they are sent on yet another “foreign adventure” following the failure of the politicians to find a solution. In fact, this book should be required reading for politicians and journalists whose knowledge and expectations of our soldiers can at times be profoundly naïve.
5 out of 5.