Honourable Warriors: Fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan - A Front-line Account of the British Army's Battle for Helmand (Book) Review
by Bryn Parry - Help For Heroes
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
Author: Richard Streatfeild
Buy Honourable Warriors: Fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan - A Front-line Account of the British Army's Battle for Helmand from Amazon
Richard Streatfeild was working in Army PR at the MoD when we began Help for Heroes and he was ordered by his department to ‘mind’ Peta Todd, (the then Page Three Girl, now H4H Patron and Mrs Mark Cavendish) who had been ‘volunteered' by The Sun to join the first fund raising Big Battle Field Bike Ride in 2008. Peta was accorded the status of journalist by the MoD and as such she needed to be accompanied or ‘minded', presumably to ensure she did not glean any state secrets from sweaty cyclists.
After his stint at MoD, Richard returned to his Battalion, 4 Rifles and took command of his Company. While preparing for operations he began to give a series of radio blogs on Radio 4. The blogs carried the mark of someone who cared deeply about his role and who was only too aware of the responsibility of command. Throughout the autumn of 2009, Richard’s voice could be heard, calm, measured and in hindsight perhaps somewhat constrained by the knowledge that in his audience were the families of those who were fighting. Helmand that year was at its most bloody and Richard had to make decisions that both risked and took lives.
Now, nearly five years later, Richard has written about that tour in the Sangin valley, this time as a civilian and free of constraint. He recounts the tale in typical measured, thoughtful style, underplaying the horrors of the daily, sometimes hourly, gun battles with the Taliban and the all pervading fear of the IEDs that infested the area. This is not a gung ho battle book, it is honest, heartfelt, thoughtful and above all decent. It is written from the perspective of the company commander who is responsible for every one of his Riflemen and who has to live with the consequences of his decisions and then later, to face their families.
No doubt much will be made of his frustrations with the lack of the right equipment in training, the awards system or the long term strategy for Afghanistan. Doubtless too is the knowledge that his former colleagues in MoD will be spending many hours preparing ‘lines to take’ to answer those criticisms. That’s inevitable but that’s not the point of this book.Honourable Warriors is about the Riflemen and all those other soldiers that Richard had the privilege to command. It is about their matter of fact courage and determination to do a job well. Its about those who died, both soldiers and innocent civilians and it is a tribute to those who were wounded both physically and mentally. This is a book written from the perspective of a leader and a decent, honourable warrior.
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