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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
This is a really important book on a number of levels. I have seen some of the reviews that have commented about the author's philosophy but it does help us understand his mind set and approach!

The title suggests this is a full autobiography but it mainly deals with Iraq with a little bit before and a little afterwards.

Collins is a natural leader...
Published on 24 April 2006 by Nick Brett

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up reading
After reading a few books about war in Iraq & Afghanistan I thought I would give this ago, but a little while in it wasn't for me as got bored with it.
Published on 1 Jan. 2013 by War-book-worm


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 24 April 2006
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is a really important book on a number of levels. I have seen some of the reviews that have commented about the author's philosophy but it does help us understand his mind set and approach!

The title suggests this is a full autobiography but it mainly deals with Iraq with a little bit before and a little afterwards.

Collins is a natural leader and his approach to the Iraq conflict should have been a benchmark for the rest of the conflict, i.e put into place standards and controls that would allow the free Iraq people to govern themselves and allow the early withdrawal of British and US troops. Very much a thinking and intelligent leader (although he admits his mistakes) you can see how his tactics work and the resulting improvements in the areas under his control.

Equally fascinating is his view and understanding of the people of Iraq. They come across and a warm but complex people and it is easy to understand how and why they have re-acted to the conflict in the way they have. There is a small section on the way a British cemetery has been immaculately maintained through the passion and loyalty of the locals that was quite moving.

Of course there is much mention of both the famous speech and then later on, the allegations against Collins. It was dis-heartening to see the way that the British Army and establishment failed to support Collins and allowed his name to be smeared in the press when they should have stood by a true asset.

While a biography will obviously paint a reasonably positive view of the author, I think this is a frank account and I have no doubt that the British Army needs more people like Collins.

I learnt a great deal from this one and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who is interested in either the Iraq conflict or military leadership.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man of Honour, 8 Mar. 2006
By 
Tim Collins comes across as a man of honour, integrity and ability.
His book is full of insight, educated comment and some great humour. He allows the reader to be with him in some very tense and dangerous situations. He also clearly shows us that desk jockeys and management wannabes have no place in judging those who have placed themselves in harms way and alludes to the fact that without practical experience and wisdom the allies will make an almighty mess in Iraq. His personal experience of injustice is a salutary warning for us all - as personalities and politics are a constant threat to justice and reason - however there is another lesson in that life will use any means to precipitate the mid-life transition - particularly in an outstanding man of action.
Tim Collins shows how the job should be done in an excellent book - we can only hope that men like him train the armies of the future.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Officer Class, 23 Aug. 2005
By 
Dr. P. J. A. Wicks (London, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict (Hardcover)
I agree with previous reviewers who have detailed this excellent book but thought I would add another angle of analysis. In a market segment dominated by individual tales of derring-do on the battlefield, in his autobiography Tim Collins gives us an insight into the very difficult role of battlefield management. If you want detailed pages of tech specs on weapons loadouts and obscene bodycounts read an SAS book; in Rules of Engagement these heroic exploits usually get a line or two. Instead we are given a detailed overview of the psychological and organisational issues involved in running an army regiment, which is often where the real battle is fought.
He understands that having the right kit with you is as much about looking the part as doing the job, the role of the regiment as an extended family that looks out for its own, and how strong leadership is the backbone of the British Armed Forces. I particularly enjoyed the sections contrasting the outlook of the Brits to the Americans in running an army, they are undoubtedly well trained, well equipped, and make all the right noises but appear sorely lacking in experience amongst their lower ranks. In addition to the other qualities mentioned here and other reviews, this book serves as a fine tribute to the Royal Irish Regiment and the community that supports them.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!, 5 Jun. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict (Hardcover)
Tim Collins gives a remarkably candid, and sometimes humorous, insight into the life of a British Regiment when deployed into conflict environments like Northern Ireland and Iraq. The author covers the later period of his time in the army, when he was the commanding officer of 1 R Irish Regiment and proves that a sympathetic and relaxed leadership style is an effective technique for motivating and managing a complex and demanding structure. He also deftly demonstrates how the softly-softly approach of the British in Iraq post-occupation pays greater dividends than the confrontational and more aggressive stance adopted by our closest ally in that conflict. It is also interesting to read how he draws comparsions between post-conflict Germany and Iraq, suggesting that the lessons learned in the 1940s have faded over time, and are once again having to be re-learned.
Collins rose to prominence when he gave a stirring speech in March 2003 to his 1,000-strong battle group before they crossed the border into Iraq - a speech which is reproduced in the book and which so impressed others that it was widely reproduced by the world's media at the time and a copy of it even displayed in George Bush's office. Despite proving himself as a rising star in the UK armed forces he then found himself at the receiving end of what appears to be petty and jealousy-driven allegations of maltreatment of Iraqis inexplicably pressed home by certain elements within the military which, although all charges were subsequently dropped, led to his resignation out of frustration. It is a worry that the army feels it can afford to lose such motivational and experienced leaders.
If I had one criticism of this book it is that it does not cover with any detail Collins' time in the SAS. He touches on the fact that he was involved in the planning and execution of some noteable operations, such as the rescue of British soldiers taken hostage in Sierra Leone, but gives little detail, perhaps because it is the tradition of those who served in special forces not to talk about their activities. (Readers interested in the Sierra Leone operation should read Damien Lewis' "Operation Certain Death".) In sum, a fascinating book which appeals to a wide audience.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rules of Engagement, 5 July 2005
This review is from: Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict (Hardcover)
This is a fantastic account of modern warfare and told by a man with great dignity, honesty, intelligence, humour and above all humanity. I was, and am, anti war but Tim Collins shows the level of professionalism and skill of the british army (if though in decline, sadly). I feel proud that we have men like Collins serving the needs of all, and feel he is a sad lose for both the forces and the country as a whole.
His accounts of service in Serria Leone, Northern Ireland, Iraq and covering the fire fighters dispute were all fascinating and Collins shows he is political astute and shows a real understanding of whatever situation he is in.
I am looking forward to hear further accounts of Col. Collins army career.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ASYMMETRIC WARFARE, 2 July 2007
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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Colonel Tim Collins first achieved fame for his address to his troops when about to go into battle in Iraq. This elicited a letter of admiration from the heir to the British throne, and I seem to recall that it was admired in the White House too. This distinguished soldier has since left the British army in disgust, and the strange tale of how that came about can be read in the later chapters of this book.

Rules of Engagement divides into four sections as I read it. By page-count the bulk of the book consists of episodes from the Iraq war in which he was directly engaged. The final chapter reproduces the gist of an address that he was invited to make at University College Dublin, and gives us his reflections on the proper way such an operation as Iraq needs to be handled. However when he went to Iraq in his early 40's Collins was already a battle-hardened veteran, from Sierra Leone, from his native Ulster and even from commanding an emergency fire brigade in the Midlands when the fire service itself was on strike. What comes over vividly from these early tours of duty is just how clearheaded a commanding officer needs to be. Brilliant strategies in the manner of Patton v Rommel are one thing, but when the CO is dealing with opponents who are drunk, or high on drugs, or just freaked out on the sheer excitement of rioting, his own wits and not his manuals or training courses are going to provide any answers he can find. This was the experience that Collins brought to his command in Iraq, where the situation almost verged on rational by comparison. His accounts are engrossing, literate and sometimes highly amusing, at least if one enjoys, as I do, the sarky Ulster brand of humour. In one incident, seemingly very minor, he started the chain of events that led to his being subjected to one of the most despicable episodes that ever disgraced the British army. An American called Biastre, a `Major' in some kind of auxiliary unit and the Thersites of this Iliad, had picked a quarrel with Collins, emerging with his dignity somewhat impaired. By way of restoring this, Biastre submitted a report to his superiors accusing British officers in general of disrespecting Americans, and Collins in particular of nothing less than war crimes. This wretch's allegations had not the smallest semblance of probability, but the American high command solemnly passed them on to its British counterpart and Collins was required to submit to an enquiry. Someone was out to get him, someone apparently senior who briefed the media but lurked in anonymity, and I as I read the story felt, as a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, that the WW1 practice of shooting for cowardice could usefully have been reinstituted just this once.

The charges were a miserable collection of attempts to make something - anything - stick. Some would have been overlooked as trivial by an infant-school teacher, the more lurid needing only a moment's scrutiny to be dismissed, which was what happened. Collins had his supporters, including the head of the army Sir Mike Jackson himself, of whom it has to be recorded sadly that he did not seem awfully well informed regarding what was happening under his supposed command nor outstandingly able to sort the matter out, and the case duly collapsed. Collins's question seems reasonable - what army needs senior officers like the anonymous creep behind all this? His own style of leadership, questioned at the enquiry, can be read clearly from his factual accounts. British soldiers put up with perennial lack of funding, but when a mentality instinct with mental dishonesty, moral hypocrisy and a deep commitment to unfairness infects the high command they may be less willing to go along with it.

The thoughts that Collins first put to his academic audience in Dublin and now to the rest of us are a paradigm of clarity and rationality and are commended to every thoughtful and concerned citizen. I shall pick just two for present purposes. Earlier in the book Collins had commented (without drawing or implying conclusions) on a difference in ethos between the American and British armies, characterising the latter as live-and-let-live but the American spirit as one of missionary zeal. Looking back after the event, Collins ponders `Who wants armed missionaries?' In my other instance he harks back to the execution of participants in the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Dublin after the insurgency itself had been quelled. This gratuitous act led, he believes, to decades of IRA violence, having turned the motivations of a few extremists into the ideology of a whole nation. One wearies of clichés about not repeating the mistakes of history trotted out by people whose grasp of history is on a par with their command of astrophysics, but here is an illuminating historical parallel usefully presented out of concern for strategists sitting in mental darkness.

This eminent soldier's concern for the future of the British army seems only too well founded, although as a civilian I am not well placed to assess the impact of the recent changes to regimental structures and identities. Where I am with him all the way, and where I differ from many of my friends on the left of politics, is in calling for better funding for our armed services. It should be obvious by now that this is as pressing a social need as that for improvements in health, education, pensions and transport provisions; and not all my opposition to the war in Iraq nor my support for Gordon Brown's agenda on alleviating poverty will let me tolerate seeing Britain's army gradually reduced to one mobile laundry-unit.

Colonel Tim's recent pronouncements have seemed slightly eccentric. What I'm hoping is that we have not taken a real soldier from what he ought to be doing while giving a career to whoever was trying to discredit him for that.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pull up a sandbag, 16 July 2006
By 
K. Dawson (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As a former soldier myself, I bought this book as a holiday read at the airport and was not disappointed - in fact it was very hard to put down.

He starts his story in Sierra Leone, then on to Northern Ireland, out to the desert of Iraq and finally back home under the cloud of war crime charges. Throughout it all there is much soldierly humour (some of the photo captions are priceless), potted histories of the people and places caught in turmoil and naturally the role he played in it all.

Col Collins comes across very much as a soldier's officer - leads by example, cultivates initiative and keeps BS to a minimum. No doubt his speech will go down in history. A pity his approach to the liberation of the Iraqi people, cultivated no doubt by his time with the SAS and on the streets of his hometown of Belfast, could not have been more widely adopted and maintained.

I highly recommend this book.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Military Autobiography, 6 Jun. 2005
By 
Mr "jimhbob" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict (Hardcover)
Colonel Tim Collins, best known for his magnificent oratory before leading his men into battle during the Second Gulf War, has produced a superlative and highly recommended autobiography.
There is plenty of action to entertain the general reader, skilfully interwoven with more reflective sections for those with a deeper interest in military strategy and peacekeeping operations. At no stage however does the pace and robustness of the commentary let up, perhaps something to be expected from a man nicknamed "Nails".
The book begins with Collins discussing his experiences on operations in Northern Ireland and during the Firemen's Strike in which his men provided fire cover. These are well written sections, and set the scene for the main section of the book on the Second Gulf War.
For example, the Firemen's Strike demonstrated the flexibility and adaptibility of the British Army in responding quickly to any challenge thrown at it. Collins' men received only a few days training in firefighting, but quickly were at a level where they compared well with full time firefighters (albeit with inferior equipment such as the venerable Green Goddesses). These traits were of enormous benefit when Collins and his men were deployed to the fast changing environment of Iraq.
Similarly, the discussion of Northern Ireland provides a good backdrop to the solid account of his experiences during the Gulf conflict. It is clear that British forces were able to use their substantial experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland to fine effect in situations such as hostile crowds in Iraq. This highly sophisticated approach was encapsulated in Collins' now famous speech to his men, which is reproduced in full in this book.
The substantial section on the Second Gulf War is exceptional. Much detail is provided on both the wider role of Collins' regiment and on individual operations that were carried out. It is clear that Collins understood what needed to be done in his area of responsibility and that he got on and did it. The speed with which he accomplished his goals, in often highly hostile conditions, is testament both to his obvious leadership ability and to the skills and resourcefulness of his men.
This is a page-turner of a description of that period of the war in that area. But it should also be a textbook for any commander going into a similar situation. Collins combines his knowledge of the theory of such situations with his practical experience to bring about significant benefits. Here he has written a far better guide to leadership than can be found in the business self-help section of any bookshop.
Collins does not shy away from the accusations levelled at him that he was responsible for war crimes while deployed in Iraq. These were all proved to be false and Collins later received the promotion he so richly deserved.
The book is not, however, simply a collection of the experiences of one man. Collins is able to bring a far wider perspective to warfighting and draws on the lessons of figures such as Sun Tzu and Machiavelli. This enlightens rather than distracts, and will interest the military historian while not confusing or boring the general reader.
Collins ends this fine volume with some powerfully argued conclusions and recommendations regarding the present state and direction of the British Army. He is clearly, and rightly, very angry about the cuts faced by the forces, overstretch and the lasting detrimental impacts these will have.
Overall, this is a very well written, highly readable account of Collins' personal experiences, and provides a well-reasoned wider view on the current issues facing the British Army.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb, 18 May 2006
This is a book every politician should read, he did far more for Iraq in his tour of duty than any politician managed, they should be taking notes on the concept of honour and duty, unfortunately unlike Tim Collins they wouldn't understand the concept.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and hugely insightful, 14 Jun. 2005
By 
C Hyde "Chris" (Cardiff) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict (Hardcover)
I finished this book this morning and can put my hand up and claim that it was one of those pieces that you really didn't want to finish because it was simply that good.

'Rules of Engagement' starts at a bit of a plod, and Lt Col Collins looses himself a little in describing the background to the Sierra Leone crisis, but it does rapidly open up into full blown accounts of his life up until and beyond the second Gulf conflict. I have no doubt that this work is all his own and not a ghost-written account as the text appears too passionate to have been written 'second hand'.

Ulitmately, it is an extremely powerful account of the Iraq invasion by a tough, loyal and incredibly brave soldier who feels very bitter about the way in which the British Army treated him at the twilight of his career. Collins is one of those people who, in his opinion at least, is always right, and he does make a damned good effort in persuading the reader he is too! I hope that some of the upper-echelons of the British Armed Forces take note as to what he writes, as his predictions as to the demise of this proud and worthy body appears to be closer than anyone could predict should they not.
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