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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Joys of War

From the Foreign Legion, the SAS into Hell with PTSD


John-Paul Jordan                             Pen & Sword, 2019

Well Jordan has led an interesting life, that is for sure. This is certainly not your average military autobiography. Few Brits join the French Foreign Legion. Indeed Jordan is not a Brit. Aged 19 he joins up having had a childhood in a fractured Irish family. It did not last long. He reverted to his previous trade of stonemason , and aged 26 decided to apply for 21 SAS, the reservist battalion. The gruelling selection process is described in morbid detail. In March 2008 he was mobilised for Op Herrick (Afghanistan, but not with 21; he is hazy about what unit he did deploy with.


The main handicap of this book is that Jordan’s prose style is like that found in a lad’s mag – a genre that has now rather passed its peak. In my opinion this style will grate with a good proportion of the book’s potential readership. He enjoyed combat, and, by his account, was good at it. Jordan gives the reader a good feel of the boot on the ground infantry campaign there. That is to say - as I understand it - SODtm was in theatre at broadly the same time.   However Jordan harvested an arm injury, and returned to the UK in June 2010.


This eventually required surgery; in an extraordinarily depressing saga (for those who are in or support the British military), this is to take place in a private hospital, yet the MoD had not authorised payment by the time he arrived. Within hours of the operation he was decanted into a cheap hotel nearby.


Alcohol is a strong undercurrent of this book, and Jordan descends into a boozy oblivion once his mental injuries start to manifest themselves. Eventually he ends up in the hands of the leading military mental welfare charity, Combat Stress. Now Combat Stress has a generally good reputation for its work; yet Jordan lambasts it (or “gives it a good kicking”, as he might have termed it).


The last few pages of this slim volume (127 pp) are in essence a mental self-help manual. As I said earlier – not your average military autobiography. And not in my top 20 of the genre. For an exposition of Afghan-induced mental health issues I would recommend the much more literate Jake’s War.



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