PWRR Sniper beats MoD gag with siege story book

A sniper from the Princess of Wale's Royal Regiment has ignored military rules and sold the story of a Mahdi Army siege

A SOLDIER has made a mockery of new military rules that prevent serving members of the armed forces selling their stories by writing a book that will give a first-hand account of one of the most vicious battles that Britain has faced in Iraq.

Dan Mills, a sniper, was one of 100 members of 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment caught in a bloody siege by the Mahdi Army, which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) tried to conceal. His book, Sniper One, which has sold 11,000 advance copies before it is even published, is tipped to earn a six-figure sum in royalties.

The MoD and army officers spent months trying to stop the book being published before finally agreeing last week. Ultimately, the ministry would have had to go to court to prevent publication and lawyers believe the new rules would have been judged legally unenforceable.

The rules were introduced earlier this month in the wake of the row over the MoD decision to let two sailors, Faye Turney and Arthur Batchelor, sell to the media their account of the naval boarding party captured in the Gulf by the Iranians in March.

There is now a blanket ban on service personnel selling accounts of their experiences. Even if unpaid, they may not publicly say or write anything about defence without permission.

Mills will receive no immediate payment but his publisher, Michael Joseph, will pay the money into an account where it will wait until he leaves the army in two years’ time.

Sniper One tells the story of one of the most ferocious battles of a seven-month deployment to Maysan province by his battalion, beginning in April 2004.

That period signalled an end to Britain’s relatively peaceful first year in southern Iraq with a huge uprising centred on the provincial capital of Amarah.

The battalion was in continuous fighting for four months and one company of more than 100 men suffered 36% casualties.

As the situation spiralled out of control, the MoD told press officers to play down the situation. With Tony Blair being heavily criticised over Iraq, the ministry insisted that it was relatively calm “across the province” on the basis that other towns except Amarah were quiet.

However, Amarah was in open revolt. Private Johnson Beharry would win his Victoria Cross in the fighting there in the first “Mahdi uprising” in May.

Two other members of the battalion won the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, second only to the VC, and six were awarded the Military Cross.

By August, the Mahdi Army was determined to drive the British out of Amarah. Mills’s company was based at Cimic House, a former governor’s residence on the banks of the Tigris. The building was an isolated outpost in a dangerous city, with the rest of the battalion in an old barracks 20 miles to the south.

On August 5 the second “Mahdi uprising” began with a massed attack on Cimic House. For 23 days, just 105 men and one woman - Private Debbie Kaye, a cook - from 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, were under continuous fire from 500 militia. There were 85 attacks on the base, firing more than 600 mortars and rockets.

Mills, who was mentioned in dispatches for his role, had the job of picking off militia leaders. He covered soldiers on night attacks against the Mahdi Army.

The garrison fired back more than 33,000 rounds, killing an estimated 200 militiamen. They lost just one of their own, Private Chris Rayment, 22, from London, who was killed accidentally when a road barrier hit his head. Six men were seriously wounded and six vehicles were destroyed. Supplies were taken in by convoys of Challenger 2 tanks but for 10 days, between August 15 and 25, the situation was so bad that even they could not get through.

The company commander, Major Justin Featherstone, who won an MC, was told he could pull out at any time but he and his men insisted on staying. “It was our turf, it was our home,” he said later. “We had never left it and we just decided we were not going to be pushed out of it.”

Mills cannot speak to The Sunday Times, but an army friend said: “The only reason Dan has written the book is because the MoD tried to cover up what was going on.”

The MoD admitted that publication was not authorised until last Tuesday but said this was simply because it was August and everyone was away: “We delayed authorisation until the new rules were in place. We never set out to ban the book.”
in full

placing my advance order now...
i hope they arn't comparing the Siege of Cimic House with those pathetic navy people who surrendered to jet skis. Hate to sound like a commie but good luck to the fella as this was clearly MOD censorship.

Incidentally didn't we already know about Cimic House (albeit a less grim version) from "Dusty Warriors" by Richard Holmes


I had never heard of that siege, but well done the guys that stayed there, top soldiers :lol:


Book Reviewer
The Times article doesn't seem to indicate that the book will reveal much more than Dusty Warriors , by Richard Holmes, which in my opinion is a brilliant and gripping read.

This said I look forward to any review by an ARRSE'R who has access to this book as I may be lacking in funds for a while.


Book Reviewer
Pharscape81 said:
I had never heard of that siege, but well done the guys that stayed there, top soldiers :lol:
So Blairs plan to keep quiet about it worked then :D
I think that non serving soldiers should be able to write of their experiences after a certain qualifying period.

I wouldn't like to see books inflaming the situation for troops who are still in-theatre.

I'll be buying it.

Well done that man - militarily AND in a literary sense.

Generals and slime ministers write books, why shouldn't soldiers? I am not an anarchist, nor a socialist, nor yet a 'commie bast*rd' but that sort of 'injustice' makes be angry.

If slime ministers and their dishonest cohorts, aided and abetted by supine senior officers, can launch an illegal and wholly unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation, why cannot the private soldiers tell of the consequences of such an immoral act. I believe it to be the DUTY of the soldiers on the ground to inform us honestly about actions and conditions. We simply cannot rely on getting the truth from the government.

I shall buy this book if only to spite this awful government and I shall, through contacts, make sure it is available in the libraries of at least five London boroughs.

Finally, very well done to the sole female soldier in this story.
RustyH said:
The Times article doesn't seem to indicate that the book will reveal much more than Dusty Warriors , by Richard Holmes, which in my opinion is a brilliant and gripping read.

This said I look forward to any review by an ARRSE'R who has access to this book as I may be lacking in funds for a while.

Didn't fancy it to be honest but then I had it through a book club as the book of the month (the one they send you when you forget to send the slip back saying 'no thanks'). As it turned out I read it in about 3 days 'cos I couldn't put it down.

Edited to add: £16.14 - how much! I'll wait for the paper back I think.
boyblue said:
There was more than one chick. A schoolie Lt.

Apart from that - go Tigers - how funny that the book is on their Bn website.
Yes, Holmes is their Colonel, of course. But I'd like to see much wider coverage of this important and scholarly appraisal. Holmes' description of PWRR action is excellent.
Throughout Spring 2004, the PWRR BG (and the CIMIC House Coy in particular) were at the forefront of action, and there is no doubt that the intensity of the fighting they were involved in was monumentally downplayed in the UK and effectively unrecognised. By the end of August 2004, however, the situation in Basrah was as bad, if not worse, with a number of fatalities to enemy action (unlike Al Amarah) and locations such as Old State Buildings in a state of not dissimilar siege to CIMIC House. The PWRR BG (if not the Bn) was lucky in terms of casualties, and was thereafter well recognised in terms of awards.

Subsequent activities in both Iraq and Helmand have also shown that the tempo of August 2004 was far from being a one-off for the British Army, and I am sure his story won't be either the last or the most graphic.

Still, probably worth a read.
Fair play to him,he was there he earned the right,I hope he makes a fortune
I'll help him make that fortune, ordering a copy in a minute...

Nice One Fella...
I think he's doing it partly because they said he couldn't.

Dusty Warriors covers alot, but then HMG would be very hard pressed to slap a gag order on Richerd Holmes.


Whilst the two headlines of "Book They Tried to Ban" and "Cover Up" are the staple diet of publishers everywhere in trying to boost sales, there are a couple of odd things about this article:

1. The MOD did not try to stop the book being published.

2. There is no "MOD Gagging Order". The instruction simply says that individuals must seek approval before publishing. Indeed the recent DIN actually says: "we want our people to communicate the roles and achievements of the MOD and Armed Forces".

3. There has never been any suggestion of a cover up about this incident. As stated above it is extensively covered in Holmes's book, in the media at the time, and in various Defence journals.

But apart from that I am sure the book will sell well.

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