Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms

Author
Geraint Jones
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Ever sat in a bar and just chatted to your mate about life and everything? Of course you have. We all have. Do you get deep and philosophical? Well, maybe after the effect of more than the recommended dose of alcohol, that arbitrary amount decreed by the health people.

On ops, did you ever ruminate out loud about whether you would rather lose an arm, a leg, your eyes or, God forbid, your wedding tackle? It’s all just ridiculously normal. For a squaddie.

The author of this book wondered about all of these things, in company with his mates. Not in a bar, but in a tent in Bastion, Afghanistan, with the remnants of a Jackal outside, remodelled, thanks to an I.E.D. And that is on the way to the deployed base, having very recently arrived in that tropical paradise. A welcome to this world sculpture.

Geraint Jones was a little bit out of place in his infantry platoon, 3Platoon, A Company, The Royal Welch. He had no tattoos, was a 25 year old university graduate and was from the T.A. In his own words, he was a ‘war junkie’. From being a child he had dreamed and fantasised about being a soldier, and now he was.

Although he had a tours in Iraq behind him, this was different. This was feet on the ground in a very hostile environment. Life would become difficult; an understatement if ever there was. Loyalty and friendship would become the most important part of their lives.

The war took its toll on many in varying ways; with Geraint – or Gez as he likes to be called – it led to a frightening descent into PTSD, to overreliance on alcohol, to drugs and to extreme hedonism. To black thoughts on life and on voluntarily ending that life.

There have been many books on the recent conflicts; some inspirational, some vainglorious and some textbook-like in their telling. This book is different to any that I have read. It is modest, in the author’s narrative. It is touching, in the love these blokes had for each other and it is inspiring in showing how the author fought and clawed his way back from utter despair to normality. Or a semblance thereof.

When I read this book, it felt that I was indeed sitting sharing a beer and a yarn with Gez. The narrative is, at times, chaotic but, bloody hell, it works.

I talked with the author on the ‘phone a couple of days ago and he sounded just about how I thought he would. Easy to talk to, articulate and intelligent, with typical squaddie humour and the odd ‘f’ word here and there. Comfortable.

Gez is doing pretty well nowadays; he writes screenplays, ghost writes for some authors and has his own series of books set in Roman times, but told from the viewpoint of a Roman ‘grunt’.

He told me that he thought he was beyond the worst of the memories but then he narrated his own audiobook version of his autobiography, and, although he had obviously seen the written words before, actually speaking those words out loud caused him despair once more, however he has much better coping strategies now.

He seems like a nice bloke, someone I would like to be friends with and this- to a degree – informs his writing style. This is an excellent book, a moving yet exciting story and I really liked it a lot.

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