My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is the very powerful, and at times uncomfortable, story of Patrick Bury’s journey through officer training at Sandhurst, into the Royal Irish Regiment and then out to Afghanistan in 2008 in command of 7 Platoon, Ranger Company, who were stationed in F.O.B Sangin in Helmand Province.
Patrick writes with a fluid honesty that is peppered with the wry, dry humour and moments of sang-froid that the British Army has become synonymous with. He shares his experiences freely, makes no attempt to dissemble or to hide behind his rank when talking about difficult topics, and doesn’t toe any ‘party line’ from the MoD. Neither is this a glorification of war or a blazing hurrah for the army. What he gives us are his thoughts and his experiences and offers us a clear and unflinching view of what it is like being part of the Infantry, both at home and on the front line.
There are moments of humour, moments of pure terror and moments that caused my throat to tighten and my eyes to burn. The camaraderie and deep bonds that form between the men are as heartening as they are heart-rending and the sheer bravery of Patrick and the men he served with in the face of IED’s, an enemy who is often invisible and horrendously intemperate conditions, is staggering.
Nothing is this book is sugar coated, nothing amended to protect civilian sensibilities. What we are shown is a man in a difficult situation who is just doing his job, and trying to protect his men and the civilians they have been deployed to protect, to the best of his abilities. It shows just how hard you have to be, mentally as well as physically, to function on the front line and also how much compassion and care is needed as well.
I have said before, in other posts, that I believe this book should be compulsory reading for all secondary school pupils in Britain and I stand by that. In fact I will go further; I think this is a book that everyone should read, because I believe we all need to understand the harsh realities of life as a soldier and – regardless of whether or not we believe our forces should be in Afghanistan at all – what they are facing every day they are on deployment.
I can say, hand on heart, that I have absolutely no qualms at all recommending this book. It is a must-read and one I will be returning to again and again.
Patrick Bury, I salute you; for your courage, your compassion and your honesty. Thank you for sharing part of your life with us.