On this day 26 years ago, the shooting started in Gulf War One.
As military tradition dictates, the British Army was ill-prepared. Insufficient desert combat uniforms and body armour to equip the entire force; a shoddily manufactured and woefully unreliable personal weapon system in the SA80 Mark 1 and no doctrine or training in desert warfare. I know, I was there.
In the intervening 26 years, despite the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, things have got worse rather than better for the British Army. While personal issue equipment and clothing has improved substantially, there are now 60,000 fewer soldiers than there were in 1991. Training budgets have also been slashed meaning those that are left are less well trained. And, thanks to increased demands coupled with diminished terms and conditions of service, morale is at rock bottom.
Based on the long-standing British military tradition of running down its armed forces prior to committing them to battle, we have never been more ready for conflict. Which is just as well given the multiple threats we face today.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.
‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars and Investment in Blood
‘SPIN ZHIRA vividly conveys the disjointed essence of modern warfare and the impossibility of balancing the adrenaline of combat with ‘normal’ life. This book brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club and Kandak
‘If you want to read about political and military success in Afghanistan, this book isn’t for you. If you want a fresh perspective from someone who is not a career officer and who is brave enough to bare his soul, then SPIN ZHIRA is a must read.’
Lt Col Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zoneand An Active Service
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army
‘A journey of love, service and adventure. Excellent.’