- Published: Thursday, 08 October 2009 03:38
Published: 08 October 2009
“In April this year it became 2 Rifles’ dubious fortune to be sent to Sangin on a six-month tour. By mid-August their battle group, a composite force from various units built around a core of several hundred riflemen and fusiliers, had the worst casualties of any British brigade sent to Helmand, with just over 100 soldiers killed or wounded: a fifth of their total patrol troops. The trend suggested that by the time the battle group’s tour ends this month as many as one in four of these infantrymen will have been slain or injured, a figure that compares with British infantry casualty ratios in Europe during the later stages of the Second World War.”
Anthony Lloyd, the famed British war correspondent and author has seen much in war. Years ago, when I read his book My War Gone By, I Miss It So, the idea of taking up the pen and going to war had never been in the question. After reading Anthony’s book it was definitely out of the question. War correspondence is a horrible profession. Taking inventory of battlefields, psyches and body parts is an inevitable, recurring theme. The horrors are too many to remember or attempt to recount, if there were desire. And there was Anthony, one of the most experienced war correspondents, and he was going to the same British unit that I was embedded with. Though Anthony’s journey with British 2 Rifles partially coincided with my own, mostly we were at different bases. From FOB Inkerman or during missions in the area, I could sometimes hear the fighting over at “his” base on FOB Jackson because, for instance, soldiers at Inkerman would fire the Howitzers in support of combat taking place around Jackson. Or bombs would drop and noises carry, or sometimes the Apaches would be churning up the enemy with rockets and 30mm cannons. Modern combat can be loud.
As years roll by and more soldiers have done two, three, four or even five long tours, writing about war has changed. In the early years most of the soldiers and correspondents were green to war and were on equal footing, but these days only a handful of correspondents remain who keep going back and their numbers are diminishing, while the concentration of highly experienced soldiers is increasing. The increasing and probably irreversible imbalance means that fewer correspondents will share common experiences with current veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and very few writers will possess the experience to render so fundamentally accurately what Anthony Lloyd captures in this story from war.