I am reviewing the book Soldier: The Autobiography by General Sir Mike Jackson which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Sir Mike was a 4 star General and over the combined British land forces before he retired in 2006. He had a university degree in Russian Studies which seems rather apt for someone in the British Army in that era. He was present at Bloody Sunday and the Warrenpoint Massacre. At the latter they lost more troops than in any single action since World War 2. At the first he does say they did come under fire where as you probably now it was a riot where lots of people were shot by paratroopers. He does also talk a bit about West Berlin where you could see an opera in the East for a pittance and Western currency was highly prized. Strangely and it was a left over from World War 2 when the Allies and Russia co-operated in defeating Germany. Both sides could send patrols through the other parts of Berlin. The parts under America, French & British control became West Berlin and the rest under Russian control was East Berlin. Obviously they used these patrols as an excuse to gather intelligence on each other. He did do a report on the feasibility of reuniting Germany with a united Berlin as its capital and thought because of the disparity in wealth between East and West it was unlikely in his lifetime. It is to there credit he was proved wrong. He also was in charge of the British Army at the time of Kosovo and apparently when the Allied troops went in, in a peacekeeping role there was already a Russian contingent there which the Americans were eager to prosecute if any members had commited war crimes but he just sent them packing back to Russia mostly because potentially it could have caused World War 3. He also had to reduce and restructure the Army which meant abolishing many historic regiments with great traditions. This was controversial at the time but had to be done. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I do recommend it. It is around 400 pages so is a substantial length.

The book I read to research this post was Storm Command by Sir Peter De La Billiere which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Sir Peter was in charge of the British army during the liberation of Kuwait and this is a personal account of that war. There is a lot of insights you wouldn’t expect. An example is when some soldiers came under friendly fire from the USAF who accidently mistook them for Iraqi’s during an operation which resulted in casualties he couldn’t speak out against it. This was the US could have withdrawn there air support for the British forces which would have been distrasous or the other members of the coalition could have backed out. He was also surprised the Iraqi’s didn’t attack during the period the Allied forces were setting up their bases in Saudi Arabia which seems only logical. Admittedly the Allied forces did consider the possibility of this happening and did what they could to minimize it. There was also a lack of vaccine to go round the British forces and the Saudi’s suggested buying some of the vaccine from them for their people and also 30,000 British nationals living there that they knew in ideal circumstances they would have given it to them as well. They knew anthrax was relatively easy to manufacture and there was a very real worry there might be a biological attack. I think there wasn’t enough vaccine because the time was limited in getting things ready. The British forces in particular had to have there deployment area widened to take in the Persian Gulf because the Royal Navy ships were left a bit exposed and also as well as Iraqi attack there was trouble going on in Yemen and thought they might attack. Syria also although there armed forces took said they would only take up a defensive role which ended up being behind Egyptian forces. They were considered the Syrians might make other concessions and that other nations taking part might take a similar stance which certainly could have made waging war more difficult more difficult. Some of the Arab nations refused to wage war inside Iraq and there was the possibility with Iraq attacking Israel with Scud missiles that they might get involved which could have undermined the coalition. The Allied air forces had to fly loads of sorties tracking down these missile sites not to mention special forces on the ground to locate them. Iraq had litterally loads and loads of dummy sites which looked just like the real thing and metal models filled with fuel to explode like the real thing. I found this quite an absorbing book and do recommend it.

 

The book I read to research this post was Living On The Edge by Sam Childers which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. Sam runs missions combined with orphanages in South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda. He is an ex-biker with a bad past in things like drugs and became a christian which for him was like a renaissance as with the help of the lady he later married he became a successful businessman and preacher. He did do another book Another Man’s War which is also reviewed on this site and is a better book. That book was made into a film, Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler. For many he is the closest thing to any form of law and order especially in South Sudan where the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army which is largely financed by the Sudan in the North regularly makes incursions into the South and does things like massacre people and burn villages. In the area Sam operates and he literally has to have volunteers going around with machine guns it is relatively trouble free as a result. He has to raise $32,000 every week to fund his orphanages so more recently he has had to take more of an administrative role. I was quite moved by both these books. This book is around 150 pages so is fairly long. Apparently Gerard Butler who was very hands on with preparing for his role hung around with bikers, construction workers and even visited the missions where they had to take out kidnapping insurance although it turned out to be fairly safe. The President of Sudan has been indicted by the court in The Hague for international war crimes and although many in Africa it has nothing to do with the court and is an Africa, one thing he argues is many of those killed aren’t a threat in any way to these and they are just being sadistic. A lot of the victims are children who are as part of joining the rebels made at gunpoint to disembowel their own mothers. If they don’t co-operate they face a similar fate. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

 

The book I read to research this post was Turing: The Tragic Life Of Alan Turing by Fergus Mason which is an excellent book that I bought from kindle. Alan was born in 1912 and was to go on to be a mathematical genius who was probably the one who made the biggest contribution to ending World War 2. He cracked how the enigma machines which were code machines used by the Germans that were reconfigured every day and considered unbreakable by the Nazis. The Polish Intelligence as early as 1932 noticed the configuration a 3 letter sequence was sent at the beginning of a message and if they had an enigma machine to hand could decode the message. They knew eventually the Germans were bound to close that particular loophole. Turing tried another approach using a computer which used a kind of brute force attack where many combinations were tried on a small portion of a message and it if was read by an operator and wasn’t garbled they knew they had the key to the rest of the message. Sadly Turing was dishonorably discharged from the Intelligence Service for being gay which in those days was illegal and he was considered a security risk open to blackmail because of this. Despite this he had made a great contribution to the war effort and he died in the 50’s from cyanide poisoning thought to be suicide. There is a mystery surrounding it in that there was a contraption that produced cyanide gas but also an apple with one bite taken out of it. It was apparent he had staggered when he died but they don’t know if the apple was dipped in cyanide or it was given off from the scientific apparatus. Cyanide is very fast acting so it is thought more likely the apple was dipped in it as he had made it to the bedroom. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and his contribution was secret until the 70’s and I definitely recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was Military Air Transport Operations Volume 6 by Keith Chapman which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. I only bought the 1 volume but this is a multi-volume set. It was published in 1989 at the time of the Cold war so is quite dated. I think it is highly unlikely any of you will see this for sale but you never know and despite only being around 210 pages is quite interesting. The biggest transport plane the Americans had was the Galaxy but the Russians had the biggest the NATO codenamed Condor. It was used by the Soviet Air Force as well as Aeroflot and the latter made it easier for them using civilian livery to get permission to fly through other nations air space with not to many questions asked and often military cargoes were delivered in this way. The Royal Air Force had several Tristars equipped with extra fuel tanks to do inflight re-fuelling and these also doubled as cargo planes. Tristars had fuel tanks attached under the wings which could allow up to 3 aircraft to be re-fuelled at one time. Bear in mind Air Force aircraft especially cargo aircraft have peacetime roles like delivering supplies to disaster struck areas. Keith was a Group Captain in the RAF and at the time this book came out was serving at the Supreme Allied Headquarters. I did quite enjoy reading this book and think I would recommend it. One final thing I will mention is there have been experiments with high speed opening parachutes that open immediately and allow troops and equipment to be dropped off at a lower altitude. These probably won’t become a reality because one of these chutes released at 250 ft only has a total of 8-10 seconds before it hits the ground making it very dangerous. Of course some people do a sport called freebasing where they parachute from buildings which is very dangerous.

 

The book I read to research this post was Another Man’s War by Sam Childers which is an excellent autobiography that I bought from kindle. This book was made into a film called Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler and is set in South Sudan and about the civil war there. The essence of the book is an ex-biker turns to christianity and decides to go out to Sudan and Uganda and along with converting and helping people has to become a mercenary with a small private army that helps maintain order in an area devastated by war. There has since about 1955 been a war going on between muslims and christians with the former wanting to impose islam on everyone and the christians wanting people to have the right to choose their religion. Recently I did see a news item saying South Sudan is the newest country. Sudan is predominantly muslim and the south is predominantly christian. This argument between the 2 beliefs also affects the many in the South who follow tribal religions. Sam says that although the 2 groups are represented by armies they are often not paid and are quite anarchic with them raiding villages and setting up unofficial roadblocks to raise money, steal possessions and generally abuse the civilians. They reguarly seize people’s children by force and make them become members. The civilian populations generally have no weapons and the various want an easy time of plundering and harming them like most bullies and they get scared if anyone fires back. Sam and his mercenaries have a mission building with things like a school and hospital but also go about sorting out the bullies. Apparently charities in general give this area a wide berth because it’s too dangerous. Sam also goes into Uganda which has many of the same problems but isn’t as bad. He criticizes the American government for selling weapons that end up in the hands of this rabble. Apparently the Geneva Convention forbids selling weapons to any country with an ongoing war. On one occassion he was told 200 troops were raiding a village ahead and the Ugandan Guards at the checkpoint were afraid to get involved. He went ahead with his 5 men to sort it out and when they got there and started shooting they discovered it was about 30 men who all fled when they attacked. He does argue it is pointless the 2 sides negotiating a settlement because any principles that may have caused the war have long since been forgotten and it’s like every man for himself there. I very much enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it. It’s very moving.

 

I am reviewing the inspirational autobiography Barefoot Soldier by Johnson Beharry VC which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Johnson received the highest accolade the British Army can bestow the Victoria Cross and was the first living person to win it in 40 years. He saved his comrades from ambushes twice in the space of one month. The one time he had never done it before but had to drive a tracked vehicle over another vehicle which he did by ramming the tracks abainst the radiator of another vehicle and then driving it over. He had shrapnel explode 6 inches away from his head which caused life threatening injuries and he slip into a coma and it was very much touch and go whether he was going to survive. He saved the lives of 30 men in the process. The Iraqis shot the driver and then were picking the men off who were trapped by the stranded Warrior vehicle. Before slipping into a coma he drove the vehicle out of the ambush. With his head injuries they couldn’t fly him to Britain initially to get treatment because they feared the change in air pressure caused by the cabin would kill him. They did later send him to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham for treatment later. He originally came from Grenada in the Carribean and his father left when he was very young. He was part of a big family. His mother remarried and was offered to buy her home which was made of wood for £500 which she thought she was getting a bargain and worked and went into debt to buy it. Later they discovered there was problems with the timber and they had been ripped off. Johnson travelled to Britain in his late teens and thought his best option for employment was the British Army. I think that often happens especially in inner-city areas. It is a very inspirational story.