Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

OUT OF UNIVERSITY AND UP FOR A FIGHT; A Former Grenadier's Memoir of His Afghan Experience Is at Times Just Too Gung-Ho and Gobby, Though His Love of Combat Makes Compelling Reading; BOOK OF THE WEEK

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

OUT OF UNIVERSITY AND UP FOR A FIGHT; A Former Grenadier's Memoir of His Afghan Experience Is at Times Just Too Gung-Ho and Gobby, Though His Love of Combat Makes Compelling Reading; BOOK OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

Byline: Patrick Bishop

THE JUNIOR OFFICERS' READING CLUB: KILLING TIME AND FIGHTING WARS by Patrick Hennessey (Penguin, [pounds sterling]16.99)

THE GREAT majority of the officers passing through Sandhurst these days are university graduates. Thirty or so years ago, the reverse was true. In the forward operating bases of Helmand province, Afghanistan, there is no shortage of switched-on, livelyminded young platoon commanders who bring a sceptical 21st-century approach to their duties while displaying the same old-fashioned courage that has sustained the British Army down the centuries.

Patrick Hennessey is one example of the breed. After public school and Balliol, he decided to follow the family military tradition and began service with the Grenadier Guards at the end of 2004. His career got off to a frustrating start in Bosnia and on the fringes of the action in Iraq. His thirst for the real thing was satisfied in 2007 when he was sent to Helmand with one of the British mentoring teams who try to impose some order on the bursts of bonkers heroism interspersed with periods of sloth -- the Afghan National Army's traditional way of doing things.

He has added his contribution to the stream of soldiers' testimony coming out of Afghanistan in a memoir brimming with vinegar and testosterone. Hennessey is by his own admission "gobby" and his forceful views are not, from my knowledge, particularly representative. Those who attract his contempt include "clueless, careerpolitician dickheads", journalists and staff officers luxuriating in the rear in "neatly pressed combats and fat bellies arguing over the cost-effectiveness of the bases we've just been fighting tooth and nail to hold." Some of the criticism is justified but other observations are wide of the target, such as his scathing remarks about one of his Afghan interpreters who sensibly jumped into a ditch when a firefight erupted. These are men who get paid a few hundred dollars a month to continuously risk their lives patrolling with the Brits, with decapitation guaranteed if the Taliban ever get hold of them. …

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