In early 1995 Bosnian Muslims were trapped in three enclaves by Bosnian Serb forces. Those in Srebrenica were massacred, as were many in nearby Zepa, in spite of the presence of UN Protection Force Troops. Those in Goradze survived, undoubtedly due to the robust actions of the UNPROFOR Battalion there – which was 1st Bn, The Royal Welch Fusiliers. The author commanded B Company, which engaged and stopped the advancing Serbs. This is his memoir of that deployment.
- Colonel Richard Westley OBE MC
He pulls no punches in describing the horror. He also exposes and highlights some of the farcical consequences of being sent to serve under an inept UN with an inadequate command structure. This led to massive delays to air support, which undermined their mission, as well as significant problems with the conduct of Ukrainian troops and eventually the payment of ransoms to release troops being held hostage. Indeed, some of the RWF became hostages as well, and the remainder of those in Gorazde became a hostage to fortune. As the author points out, repeatedly, peacekeeping operations require there to be peace to start with. If there isn’t peace, or it is not constant, then peacekeepers need teeth. 1RWF deployed without MILAN or other heavy weaponry.
The book, which is ghost written, moves along briskly – sometimes almost at thriller pace. While this makes it an easy and enjoyable read the prose sometimes seems a little melodramatic, following the tone set by the title. One yearns for a little more analysis. Still, if that is what it takes to get this story published it is a price worth paying.
Colonel Westley is also refreshingly frank and open about PTSD. The RWF were perhaps fortunate to be able to take some mitigation steps in theatre – some of which worked better than others. He is also clear on the pressures of command (he was an acting Major at the time) and some of the key relationships. These could have perhaps been widened and further developed – although of course it is perfectly possible that other members of the company would not appreciate it.
The maps are just about adequate – this memoir is not about tactics and so there is not great locational narrative. That said, a map of Gorazde itself would have been a bonus.
This is a book that should be read, and those who read it will enjoy it. They will marvel that senior officers could allow troops to be deployed with inadequate rules of engagement, or even to have considered whether the aim was achievable. The cynical will note that not much changes.
Four out of Five. Read it.