Condor Blues – British soldiers at war
A very interesting book about the British Army experience from the point of view of two platoons embedded in training the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC) in the aftermath of the invasion (so the first half of 2004 approximately). Both platoons belonged to the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, but one was on secondment from the PWRR.
From the content of the book it is clear that it was not authorised by MOD as it is highly critical in places. Also none of the main players come out of it looking terribly good, you see their flaws and the bad side as well as the bravery and the compassion in places (as well as other emotions at other points). For example, after a severe contact two of the Iraqi insurgent casualties were found to be carrying ICDC identity cards – which spelt the end of the Argylls trying to teach them military skills.
It is a warts and all portrayal, which makes it all the more convincing. Life in the camp appears to be well described, and feels honest in its descriptions of what the Jocks get up to in combating the boredom they suffered from. I can’t be sure not having been there myself, but having grown up in the same area as some of the Argylls (with references to places I went to as a teenager myself) I can see some of the soldiers I met as a territorial 20 years ago in these men. The perceived authenticity of the camp life makes the stories of the contacts with insurgents more believable.
However although there are proper war stories in here, the book is as much a lament to the lost opportunity to get a peaceful settlement and a sort of disbelief that the British Army apparently abandoned its own doctrine and instead pursued a heavy metal retaliation to incidents, which drove the locals to be insurgents.
Definitely worth reading.
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- British Army cleared of systematic abuse by Baha Mousa inquiry (telegraph.co.uk)