Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
British Army on the Rampage
Sean Connolly Matador, December 2013
I wanted to read this because the rampage part of the book (which is only the last half – I was expecting more) takes place in Belize. And it was a spell in Belize that helped to spur SODtm to become a soldier.
The book is not quite sure whether it is fact or fiction – it is classified as a biography, yet the blurb calls it an “autobiographical novel”. Whatever, it is a chronicle of life as a NCO in the Army of 20 years ago, specifically in 41 RA. Recent autobiographies of Other Ranks have tended to be battlefield epics – but there is no live firing against an enemy in this one. Its interest is mainly for the colour it gives to the life of a soldier. It also provides evidence for why many soldiers hold junior officers (“Ruperts”) in low esteem.
Connolly’s literary style will resonate with readers of the Mirror rather than the Telegraph, but his ready humour will be a joy to all: “At the testing stage of this gun, how had the gun crew, namely Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Bochelli (sic) and Mr Magoo, not spotted these faults?”
The book is in essence the recounting of the trivia of army life – parades and endless boozing – interspersed with stories of occasionally jaw-dropping bravado. The worst usually take place after the ingestion of epic quantities of alcohol, and which leave the reader wondering how the miscreant avoided a court-martial. To name a few that took my eye: Brunn’s thumb, the flagpole and the MOD Plod, trying to blow up a Rupert on a thunder box, “Bombardier Kermit”, a gunner biting the head off a live chicken - you get the picture.
But two stories make me think the author was erring towards fiction: blowing up the General’s dog, and a pilot taking Connolly and colleagues on R&R is described as Captain Avajoint!
There are a few bloopers – Connolly seems to believe the Army is the senior of the three services! Capitals are used randomly e.g. “harrier” (as in the RAF aircraft), and “welsh”, yet “Battery” and “Head Hunters”. The book has a flaw which appears often in self-published titles – it has been edited too lightly, as if the editor does not like to take his paymaster to task. So phrases and clichés are repeated too often. If I read “chuffed to Naafi breaks” again, I shall scream! The spelling too often betrays that the average reading age of a British solider is below 10 (e.g. it took me a little while to realise that “Manwell” referred to the waiter in Fawlty Towers!). But then there is a spelling mistake in the subtitle of the blurb on the publisher’s website…
With more serious editing, this book could have gained a wider readership.