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on 27 June 2017
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on 25 March 2011
Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan

After all the hype and furore surrounding this book, I was worried that this book would not live up to it's infamy. I was also worried, that the now famous buy and burn incident, would rip the heart out of the book and this would be just another military biography/account, of which there are plenty on the market. This is not the case.

Dead Men Risen has lived up to the hype. Written in an honest and easy to read manner, this book has something for everyone. If you want an honest and moving account of the war in Afghanistan, the life of a soldier or even if it is to revel in the fact that in all probability the MOD do not want you to read it, then this is the book for you.

I may be biased (my names in the book), but this is truly the best military book I have read. The first book I have read that really puts the soldiers story across in a way that they would be proud of. It does the armed forces and the Welsh Guards battalion in particular the justice it deserves.

In the space of a few pages this story will have you laughing, crying and shaking your head in anger. Whether or not you agree with the politics surrounding the war in Afghanistan, or you have no knowledge of the subject matter contained in it. This book makes up for it in abundance with the pure heartfelt emotions you will feel for the soldiers involved, and will be enlightened by the accurate but easy to understand information contained.

All credit to the author, who obviously did his research, for the entertaining and informative way that it is written. I love this book and I would recommend it to anyone.
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on 18 March 2011
An amazing read. Makes you very very proud of the armed forces and equaly angry at the way they are not properly supported. Actually a very important book that should initiate discussion and outrage.

Many individual stories of heroism and brutal sacrifice written simply without embellishment.

Leaves you with the feeling that political expediancy and budget considerations continualy rate higher than the safety of the troops.I have to believe that if ever the government disclosed the real numbers of wounded the British people would demand that our troops be given the resources they need to give them the best possible chances of not being injured, particularly more helicopters. Every page seems to have an incident of maiming by IED that could probably have been avoided if more troops were moved around by chopper.A deeply disturbing read.
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on 23 August 2013
A remarkable book that stopped me in my tracks. Whilst I served for 12 years, I was only a BAOR warrior and was never in action. Therefore, I can't imagine how I would have reacted. This book brings home the low level squalor of life and death in a fight that runs through a predictable daily routine that can only strike one as pointless. There is no "romance of war" in this book.
British soldiers, undermanned, ill-equipped and frequently poorly led at higher levels of command, find themselves in patrol bases that act as little more than a come-on to the Taliban. And come-on they do. There are excellent reviews of the book on this site and so I will keep this short but I was particularly struck by a few things:
1. There seems to be no apparent strategy. Are we killing Taliban, building infrastructure, stopping the creation of an Al Quaeda haven, showing overt support for our allies, ensuring a continual need for infantry battalions thus negating parts of the SDR......
2. The difference in tactics between the British and Americans. Whilst vastly superior numbers and better equipment do have an obvious benefit, the book suggests that the American forces were far less tied to the bases and, instead actively and agressively patrolled 24 hours a day, thus reducing the Taliban ability to lay IEDs. Instead, as one soldier puts it, the British tactic is to leave the patrol base, present a target, get wounded, run back to the patrol base.
3. The willingness to sacrifice lives for purely political ends. Panther's Claw produced no real operational advantage (as predicted by the CO 1WG) but was deemed necessary to show the Americans that the British could do something after the disaster of Basra.
4. The reality, even in a Guards battalion, of soldiers refusing to go out and patrol again...just how bad must it be for that to become a relatively common occurrence?
5. The ability/willingness of US air to undertake hot extractions that the RAF seemed unwilling to undertake.
6. The kit we had in the 70s and 80s was useless....it's different kit now but still useless.

Following our extraction from this debacle there needs to be a real, hard look at how and why we fight wars. As always it's the poor sod on the front line who bears the brunt.
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on 6 May 2017
This is a well written book of the accounts that happened on Op Herrick 10. It shows the true guts and determination of the young Welsh Guardsmen that fought for their country, however it is not totally correct, as some of the people that are said to have been involved in certain incidents did not do what the book says they did and names are wrongly mentioned. That is the only letdown of this excellent book.
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on 14 May 2012
This powerful account of the Welsh Guards' six month-deployment in Helmand Province in the summer of 2009 does not address its greatest irony: part of their campaign coincided with the period between the submission of General McChrystal's strategic recommendations on 30 August and President Obama's announcement of his response on 1 December, three months when NATO strategy was essentially in limbo. So these men were fighting and dying at a time when there was no clear purpose in the direction of the war at the highest level. However, the book's power lies in the fact that Harnden avoids any hint of polemic. Instead, he lets facts speak for themselves. He brings three sets of skills to his work. First and foremost, he is a journalist, with a keen instinct for a story: he has persuaded a lot of very different people to talk with a frankness that is unusual in the professional military. He is also a historian, using wide background reading to put the campaign in context. Finally, he has an ability to describe events and sketch characters in a few well chosen words that a novelist might envy. It is only the thought that one would not want to trivialise the suffering and sacrifice of real people, or show any hint of disrespect, that suppresses one's immediate reaction that there is the material for a great feature film here. On the other hand, perhaps a film would be a worthy tribute, because the courage and sacrifice of these men deserves to be better known, and because the public needs to be educated about what has been going on their name in Afghanistan. It is the personalities that make this book memorable. Although there were seven Battle Groups operating in Helmand at the time, and more have come and gone before and since, the Welsh Guards Battle Group of 2009 is possibly the best known because of two men in particular: Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, the thoughtful leader, already marked for the very top but destined to become the highest ranking British soldier to die in combat since the Falklands; and Lieutenant Mark Evison, a promising young officer with a romantic streak from another age, whose diaries had a profound impact after his tragic death. No novelist would dare to invent them, but they are real people and far being from the only memorable personalities in this history. Whatever one thinks of the Helmand campaign, the overwhelming feeling of the reader at the end is that one is proud to be able to call these heroes one's fellow countrymen, doubly so if one happens to be Welsh.
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on 1 April 2012
This book is a very thoughtful look at the Welsh Guards tour in Afghanistan. On the Kindle edition the maps and photographs are included which goes a long way to help you understand the narative as the events are described in the books.

Something that has been missing from other books is a concise recent history of Afghanistan which explains how it has arrived at the situation it is in now. If nothing else "Dead Men Risen" is worth its price for that alone.

The book really does not pull any punches laying out in great detail the battle against IEDs but also what happened in the immediate aftermath of a detonation from the reaction of those in the immediate vicinty dealing with the situation as it developed to the control of information back to the UK to do the utmost to ensure the family heard it first from the Army. It also talks in detail of the mental trauma the soldiers dealt with both at the time and afterward.

Were events, with the benefit of hindsight, could of been handled better the book describes how procedures were put in place taking those hard lessons into account.

Some have commented they don't like the redacted passages which appear on a number of occassions as blank lines. To my mind they add to the book telling us there is far more of the story that can't be told that will be at some future point in time.

There are plenty of explosive books on Afghanistan, this is a far more thoughtful look at the reality of the situation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2012
A magisterial account of the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan. It pulls no punches, it hides none of the nastiness or errors.
The war is the latest quagmire that we and our NATO allies have got enmeshed in. We never seem to learn that these irregular wars are a death trap for conventional forces. Only two having been successful in over 100 years-and there were special reasons why they were won. The very word 'win' is, of course, meaningless in this context. Errors of policy, tactics and command are replete. Until it was recently altered the absurd 6 month rotation hindered any possibility of a coherent sustainable policy.
Once NATO forces leave in 2013/14 the Taliban will be back in charge in under 3 months. The corrupt and incompetent government will flee and the warlords-the true rulers-will again throw in their lot with the Taliban-wouldn't you?
Tony rightly censures the MOD for trying to ban this book, and for failing to equip our forces with weapons and equipment that would enable casualties to be minimized.The latter is not new. Similar policies hindered our forces in the Boer War, Great War, WW2, and Korea. The MOD's procurement incompetence has been exposed repeatedly in recent years to be a disgrace allowing cost overruns to escalate to unbelievable levels.Few if any of our politicians have any experience or knowledge of warfare.
This excellent book also reveals to the general public the hideous ability of the IED to maim and kill. The true nature of these devices that are constantly being improved has long been hidden from the public.
At best,war is organised chaos. In irregular war there is the added ingredient that you do not know who your enemy is, hence the rising number of deaths at the hands of so-called friendly Afghan forces.
Books like this one are essential reading for those who wish to see behind the deliberate fog erected by government and compliant media to hide the truth about what sacrifices are being made every day to achieve in the end NOTHING.
Finally, there can be no hope of achieving any kind of stability in this war-torn country until we openly acknowledge that the true enemy is across the border, namely Pakistan, the country that shields, replenishes and trains our enemy.
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on 3 September 2012
"The news that Dead Men Risen, Toby Harnden's prizewinning history of a British regiment's six-month tour in Afghanistan, is out in paperback was greatly cheering - because no impoverished politician may now plead its cost prevents its purchase.

But my explicit use of "politician" there, intended to include not only the denizens of Westminster but also the covertly political civil servants pursuing their own agendas in Whitehall, does not excuse the British electors, all of whom have a duty to read this book.

And then, having read it, and wiped away the tears, and stifled their anger, and composed their thoughts, their duty is to write to their MPs with a devastatingly embarrassing question written in large, bold, italicised, underlined capital letters - WHERE WAS THE AIR? - which in this context in non-military language means where was the air support for which the regiment's commanding officer asked, where were the aircraft needed to support his outnumbered foot patrols with accurate fire, where were the helicopters necessary to resupply his forward bases ...?"

These are the opening paragraphs of William Forbes's article in the Daily Mail on 14 June 2012 - the article in full is available online.

This book is indeed a call to arms - a call to us all to arm ourselves with our pens and write - write to MPs, Lords, newspapers, today's head of the RAF (ACM Sir Stephen Dalton) and, in particular, former Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown and now retired Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup.

This book makes clear that the £7bn a year RAF, and its political masters, made some shockingly poor decisions that have caused loss of life, loss of limbs and loss of RAF credibility. It makes clear the stupidity of the decision in October 2010 to pay off the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier force in favour of keeping the ageing Tornado aircraft (and thus a larger RAF) - a decision made by the new PM on the advice of the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff, ACM Sir Jock Stirrup. Soldiers and Marines know how useful would have been the Harrier for Close Air Support in the current desert conflicts.

Buy this book and tell your friends to buy this book - and write those letters. Our soldiers and marines deserve better air support on operations and we all surely deserve a more competent RAF than that we have today. Well done Toby Harnden - thanks for bringing to our attention the truth about our land and air forces on operations in the desert this past decade.
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on 15 April 2011
Although perhaps a matter of taste, sections of this book seemed overly reverential towards some of the individuals, whilst others, perhaps, gave too much detail. Over all, it is a clear account of events during the tour, with an emphasis towards the perspective of the soldier and lower command echelons. The much-reported gaps in equipment are covered, which was the suggested reason why the MOD bought and pulped the first edition.

This new edition has some operational details clearly redacted in the text, so the reader can judge the extent of changes between the two editions. Equally, there are no doubts about the difficulties encountered by the troops on tour, or the courage with which they faced up to them. However, the narrative often makes passing reference to matters that could indicate much more serious issues, or that could just be a matter of style and content. Frequent assurances from senior officers and government would suggest the latter, but reading this has left me profoundly troubled, which is, I suppose, a good thing.
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