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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2014
An extraordinary book. Anyone, from what ever side of this sad conflict should read Capt.Clarke's book. My life was over shadowed by the "Troubles" and Capt.Clarke's description, at times very slightly biased against the RC/Nationalist minority in N.I. is one of the best descriptions of the entire mess that I have read. Many Irish men and women and a small minority of British people now need an explanation of what happened and why so many died. His use of English is fantastic and transcends this genre. This is high but attainable prose wrapped inside an approachable and personal narrative. My only criticism, and mild at that, is that Capt. Clarke did not express how trapped all the "players" were. Whether they were British or Irish, Protestant/Loyalist or Catholic/Republicans - they were all trapped in a historical narrative that drove this tragedy on wards in time and down wards in moral terms. The "players" and the "played" were, so a large extent victims of a failed, inaccurate but strangely warm set of historical identities.

I feel certain that Capt.Clarke would agree with me, that all involved owe a huge debt to Sir John Major, Dr Mo Mowlem, Tony Blair, an Tioseach Berti Ahern, Dr Paisley, Mr Adams and many others for at least breaking the cycle that a twisted simplistic historical narrative of hurt and hate had created. Capt.Clarke's excellent book adds to that process by giving us an understanding of what was going on, from the "Brits" point of view and I would recommend it to anyone interested in this area. 10/10 DM
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2012
I read this book many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, it has lost nothing with the passage of time. The added bonus is the extra chapter detailng the author's declining health and his appalling treatment from an uncaring army.
The downside is that the book is full of grammatical errors due to poor proof reading, while not spoiling the read it is rather annoying.
If you have any interest in the army in Northern Ireland at the height of the 'Troubles' then this is essential reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2013
I must admit my initial thought was anger at the attitudes towards the Irish, however, my anger quickly moved towards the superiors and political dogma. I'm terrified now for our soldiers serving today. Thankyou for your brutal honesty, I'm glad that you survived to show us how we are blinded by the moral panics that the press and governments create. I felt that I was with you. A shockingly good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2013
Excellent excellent excellent. Having been to most of the places described in this book be it many years after the places were still the very same. Well done,
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A few months ago I was a guest speaker at a `Peace & Reconciliation' conference hosted by the Tim Parry Peace Centre in Warrington. Various figures from the military were there to speak about our experiences of serving in Northern Ireland at different stages of the conflict; I was there to discuss how it felt in the very end stages, when 'The Troubles' had all but petered out. But by far our most illuminating guest and powerful speaker was a former Parachute Regiment Captain and author, AFN Clarke - which brings me to the purpose of this review.

In 1983 Tony wrote Contact, a blisteringly honest and deeply controversial account of his two tours in NI at the very height of the troubles in the 1970s. Contact rapidly achieved cult status amongst the rank & file of the army, won critical acclaim from prestigious reviewers and at the same time drew stinging criticism from the retired Brigadiers & Colonels establishment brigade - which usually means you're doing something right because you've got them rattled. As the saying goes: "You judge a man by the strength of his enemies." Well Tony gained plenty; not least of all in the highest ranks of the MOD and politics - so much so that a smear campaign was launched against him and he was forced to defend his name with aggression and grit. The attacks only strengthened him and Contact was immediately made into an award-winning BBC film.

Tony went on to live in America where he built a new career as a Pilot, Yaught Charter Captain for hire and general all-round adventurer. If ever you have the privilege of meeting him you'll instantly recognise the classic `rebellious officer' streak that runs right through him and so irritated his former paymasters. But maddeningly for them he was undeniably a gifted soldier; he joined 3 Para as a Private `Tom', made Lance Corporal within a year and was commissioned from the ranks after just two; a difficult task in today's army but damn near impossible in the class ridden 70s - unless you were very, very good. And he was.

Contact deals with his first tour in Belfast in 1973 and his second tour in South Armagh in 1976, before culminating in his tragic and premature medical discharge from the army as a 28yr old Captain with his entire brilliant future cruelly ripped away from him. During his first tour the temporarily `friendly' locals spiked his tea with ground glass as he drank it on hearts & minds patrols, which resulted in internal organ failure, the removal of his entire bowel region and the almost complete ruination of his health. He soldiered on for six long years passing glass shards and undergoing a dozen operations, before his body finally gave in and literally half of his belly was removed. It was only his previous dogged fitness and determination that kept him in the army and on his feet for so long. Of course, he fought back and went on to climb mountains and fly planes, but all the time since he's carried a permanent pain and dreadful scars.

But the pride, fierce glint in the eyes and inner steel remains...

It felt a little odd at the Warrington peace talks because some anti-war types and `Troops Out' members were there and they clearly had strong feelings about British soldiers. And there was Tony, sat there with injuries that they couldn't imagine, this hard-as-nails former Para, and he was cool as a cucumber, effortlessly batting away their attacks with genuine warmth, humour and compassion. He'd seen more action than everyone in that room put together and paid the highest price, yet he was the calmest, most graceful and forgiving one there. It was inspiring stuff and a lesson in how to handle yourself when you're getting it from all sides.

At the moment Tony is rewriting and updating Contact to take in the aftermath of his own service, that of his former colleagues and his own assessment and true feelings about the peace process - something that I know he's a great supporter of, however painful NI was and continues to be for him. I can't recommend his book highly enough to you - truly it's a superb, timely read - especially in light of the recent deaths in NI and roadblocks that seem to constantly block the path to peace. I think too that it's an important and hugely relevant book in that we seem to be bogged down in an eerily similar `terrorist War' in Afghanistan, and there are lessons and parallel conclusions to be drawn for our military involvement `out there'.

Certainly I reckon that any young Squaddie going on his first tour abroad would get a hell of a lot from this book, because for me it was an object lesson in how to treat and interact with the locals; they're never going to be your friends and they'll never accept your presence, but if you at least treat them with a modicum of tact, diplomacy and discretion (whenever you safely can), then a wary tolerance and fragile mutual respect can sprout. Which is a damn sight better than the alternative...

Contact is one of the best military stories that I have ever read and I recommend it to you in the highest terms; it's a book from a past conflict that has timely and resonant lessons for a present one.

Steven McLaughlin,
Author of Squaddie: A Soldier's Story
Mainstream Publishing
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2013
An excellent book, very very well written, I can relate to all places he speaks of having served at those locations as Infantry. A truthful & honest account of a Soldier in a War that was never acknowledged by those who sent us
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2012
Tont Clarke was a soldier who served, like myself, in Northern Ireland. He served during two of the worst years of that period and he writes dramatically and honestly of his time there. This is a fine book of the period and an excellent historical record of life for a British soldier in those terrible, violent times. Highly, highly recommended. I lost my copy and am now buying a second one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2013
Your book took me back to Belfast,Leopold street fort Knox fort cross I was there 1971/72 tour thank you for the memories both good and bad.
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on 30 July 2015
All the emotions, the doubt and the fear that many a soldier has had, but rarely admit to, are here in this book.
No glory hunting or life story leading up to the authors two tours, just his part in a war that the politicians and the popular press called the troubles. The author tells it as he saw it and his mention about the rules of engagement and the yellow card which were given to soldiers in northern Ireland and the contempt that soldiers had for it, are shown. However that is just a paragraph that bought back memories for myself.
The way that the author was handled and treated with his life threatening problem made me feel sick and if it were to happen in a civilian hospital or the nhs, I'm quite sure heads would roll.
What could the author do? Not much apart from tell the truth, about his tours in northern Ireland and how it impacted on him.
I feel privileged to have read this book and for the first time ever I would like to say thank you for sharing it with us
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on 1 October 2014
I did my first tour in Northern Ireland at Fort George, Londonderry in 1973 and my second in Belfast at The Mill in 1976. This is the first book I've read and I've read a lot on "The Troubles", that captures the fear and dark humour that went with the emergency tours back then.

A fantastic read that I could not put down that has stirred some memories I had tucked away in a dark, warm place for safe keeping. Memories I have not shared with many other than those who have walked the streets backwards as those who haven't "tail end Charlied" wouldn't believe what I have to tell them anyway. Evoking the memories is not a bad thing by the way, other than recalling those who didn't make it home at all or in one piece, the rest of my time in The Province was a absolute hoot.
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