In “Helmand, Afghanistan 3 Commando Brigade” by Ewen Southby-Tailyour, Ebury Press, 2008, we have a full-blooded account of the war-fighting abilities of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marine Commandos.
The Royal Marines were deployed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from September 2006 to April 2007 in Operation Herrick 5. The Brigade returned to Helmand Province in October 2008, and in Lashkar Gah on the 8 October 2008, the 16 Air Assault Brigade handed over to 3 Commando Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Gordon Messenger. A follow-up to this book will shortly be required.
Ewen Southby-Tailyour was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines and served in Aden, Oman and The Falklands, he understands “Bootnecks” and this history is very much an insider’s view of the Corp. and its effectiveness as a military unit. This book has little to say about the political decisions that resulted in the UK deployment into Helmand Province, nor an analysis of the socio-political environment in which UK forces operate. It is an account of an intense series of high-intensity actions in which relatively small units normally attacked superior numbers of Taliban, showing an aggressive war-fighting ability which few, if any, other military units could rival.
If you wish to understand how modern infantry warfare is fought then read this book. 821 deliberate engagements were recorded by the Brigade in the six months deployment in Helmund. Twelve Military Crosses, two Distinguished Services Orders, three MBE and a CGC, were awarded for the campaign together a number of Mentions in Despatches and Queen’s Commendations.
To give you a taste of the actions described by Southby-Tailyour, “Hewett forced himself to stand in the line of fire, shooting even as he brought his gun up to his shoulder. Alongside him Gav weighed in with the GPMG, spraying bullets over the area to their east.”
Another quotation: “The company commander gave the order and 5 Troop dropped over the compound wall and headed across. As they did so, isolated pockets of Taliban soldiers started firing towards them; 1 Troop pinned the enemy down and called in artillery fire, at the same time dropping their own mortar bombs on the firing positions. As 5 Troop drew closer to their objective, the enemy, who had been holding much of their fire, took on the marines with a vengeance and a barrage of RPGs.”
If you are interested in military history and extraordinary bravery then read this book and I strongly recommend it, but if your interest is in the wider socio-political environment of Afghanistan then this is not going to be an important source of information for you. A book like “Descent into Chaos” by Ahmend Rashid, or “Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan 2002-2007” by Antonio Giustozzi may be more to your taste.
See also: Wikipedia on Helmand Province
© Andrew Palmer 2008