Boots On The Ground (Profile Books, 2016) by Lord Richard Dannatt (former Chief of the General Staff) and Sarah Ingham, on the subject of Britain and her Army since 1945, gives a worthy overview of the British Army in the last seventy years.
It is, I sense, a timely book – one that ought to be required reading for politicians and journalists – and I heartily recommend it. If you want to hold an informed opinion on the defence of the realm in recent times, but were to read just one book on the subject, then Boots On The Ground might well be your book of choice.
Looking to the future, the book’s key warning is that today’s British Army is far too small. I couldn’t agree more. At the current strength of about 80,000 regulars, I’d say that’s about 40,000 full-timers too few for our Army to function as likely we shall need in the coming years.
There are so many valuable lessons in Dannatt’s book. For example, the importance of senior politicians and civil servants restricting themselves to strategic issues and keeping their noses out of the Army’s business at operational – and even tactical – level.
There are also many ‘nice touches’ (for want of a better term) in the book, some of which are profoundly significant, such as Dannatt’s remarks on page 183 in which Dannatt asserts that the logisticians of the Commando Logistic Regiment were the “unsung heroes” of the Falklands War – the commando logisticians never really having received the credit due to them for their vital work and sacrifice during the campaign. Amen to that.
On pages 25 to 27 of this RMA Sandhurst document you can read an excerpt taken from The Forgotten Loggies by Colonel (ret) Ivar Hellberg.
Hellberg wrote: “On the night of 27 May 1982 … Argentine bombs hit an ammunition storage area … [and] Seven of the [Commando Logistic] battalion were blown to pieces immediately, and another 32 were wounded, many of them seriously, with missing limbs…”
The RMAS (April 2006) document states: “…so effective was Hellberg’s command, that most histories of the [Falklands] campaign don’t even mention the near destruction of the logistic base. … The whole world knows the name of H Jones; Ivar Hellberg, the man who kept the ammunition coming, in almost impossible circumstances, scarcely rates a mention.”
Nowadays, I doubt most of the British public would have any idea of who H Jones was (let alone any loggies). It is for this reason – the lamentable, widespread ignorance of such a vital subject: Britain’s national defence – that I hope Dannatt’s Boots On The Ground succeeds in reaching a large civilian audience, bringing home not only the huge importance of the British Army to our nation, but also the urgent, lurking dangers that lie ahead.