'Sir, They're Taking The Kids Indoors', by Ken Wharton. Manuscript review.

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Steven_McLaughlin, Oct 20, 2011.

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  1. Manuscript review of Ken Wharton’s latest Northern Ireland book, to be published in April 2012 by Helion & Company:

    ‘Sir, they’re taking the kids indoors’ were words that chilled the blood of a generation of soldiers. British soldiers on British streets, fighting in an urban battleground, that at times, rivalled the very worst that any childish videogame could conjure. Only this game was real and when the blokes hit the ground they didn’t always get back up. Or when they did – just as in today’s wars – it was in pieces. Once again Ken has produced another scholarly masterpiece of those times, and once again, he has done me the honour of allowing me to review his manuscript.

    Ken’s fifth book focuses on the chaotic ‘Troubles’ era of 1973/74, and in similar vein to his previous works takes us through each and every incident – both major and minor – and every single month in his now-familiar forensic style. He describes himself as a ‘simple soldier scribe’, but is in fact much more than that; like fine wine, he’s maturing and evolving into our foremost authority on the military campaign in Northern Ireland. Like a surgeon’s scalpel, he cuts deep into every atrocity, shedding new light, unearthing fresh discoveries and serving up rock-solid reasons and answers, why good men died and bad men lived. He tells the stories of the men in the trademark ‘gallows humour’ squaddie-style that anyone who’s ever spent so much as a day in uniform will be familiar with. And the relief of humour is needed because the tension of those times rested on every soldiers shoulders like an angel of death. A dark angel that Ken has brought to life on the page.

    As testament to his growing maturity Ken has broadened his historical vision to take in not only military casualties, but the horrors endured by innocent and unarmed civilians too. He makes plain his contempt for Republican and Loyalist thugs alike, who preyed on their own kind with the same ferocity and hateful zeal that they reserved for soldiers. The human cost to the civilian community, struggling to survive in an urban battleground of the terrorists making, makes for grimly painful reading. Ken tells us of entirely innocent workers ambushed on the bus home by hooded fiends and executed in cold blood, merely for being one of ‘the other’. He tells of cruel betrayals that sicken so much one has to stop reading; a Catholic roofer befriended by fellow builders and invited on a Christmas night-out; his last night on earth as the disguised UVF thugs reveal themselves and he crumples to bloody ground. Or the dreaded, obscene question that marked life’s end for many: ‘Are yez Protestant or Catholic?’

    Throughout 1974 IRA ‘nutting squads’ and UVF/UFF murder-gangs competed with each other in a viscous tit-for-tat killing game that sandwiched soldier and civilian alike. Such is Ken’s attention to detail and power of words that at times it seems almost surreal, as though he were portraying a monumentally perverse parallel universe, alongside but apart from the mainland UK. It seems hard to imagine that it existed – but it did, in blood-red Technicolor, as thousands of dead soldiers and civilians can attest. And thousands is the correct combined figure. The IRA saved the worst of its affections for oft falsely-accused collaborators: ‘Touts’ to be tried in kangaroo-courts by ‘internal security’ and dispatched with the infamous ‘six-cap’ of shot knees, ankles and elbows, consigned to ruin for life.

    But as ever, the meat and bones of Ken’s writing will always be the ‘bods’ on the frontline; the unsung heroes who patrolled rain-soaked streets and blood-sodden cobbles, getting shot at, spat on and jeered from all sides in equal measure, and simply trying to make it back for a ‘brew, fag, banter & kip’. A few moments precious respite to live and laugh another day. Ken captures it all and leaves nothing out. He has surpassed himself. The soldiers featured speak to Ken as though he were an old friend and he translates their words with skill, compassion, sensitivity and reverence.

    In 1974 the MOD declared that Northern Ireland was not a war-zone and that none of the fallen soldiers would be honoured on war memorials. Four decades on Ken Wharton has put that right. ‘Sir, They’re Taking the Kids Indoors’ stands as a memorial in its own right. With every word he writes, Ken honours these men.

    Amazon link below:

    'Sir, They're Taking the Kids Indoors': The British in Northern Ireland 1973 - 74: Amazon.co.uk: Ken Wharton: Books
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  2. I can only imagine that this latest installment of Kens Northern Ireland odyssey, will be as good as his previous efforts. As a man who served there, he has a writing style that, although pro Soldier, is not anti civilian. Anyone who served in the province during the troubles, will appreciate the manner in which he relates each individuals story, or their perception of the people, place and situation. Everyone sees a certain event differently, and Ken captures this accurately, and without bias. This encourages debate amongst veterans, and highlights the issues for any historians reading. The one thing that stands out from all his books is that, irrespective of when an individual was footsying around the province, the bod on the ground faced the same shit. All i can say, is that if you are interested in the subject of NI during the troubles, then i could not recommend his books more highly!
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  3. Tom: whenever I read comments like this from comrades, I am just blown away; very humbled by your words and eternally grateful to Steven for his excellent review. I have had previous works reviewed by the national press, but your words are far, far more important to me than theirs. Cheers, lads.
  4. You're more than welcome Ken, but i am just saying it as i see it. Or in your case as i read it! The oral histories of the soldiers who served there during the troubles, were an integral part of British life for some forty years. Everyone on these small islands was touched in some way by the antics over there. So from that perspective, your books give a clearer view to the reader of what life was really like on the ground. I have my own views of the troubles based solely on my time there, which is fine. But each soldier will take away a very different idea of their Op Banner tour, irrespective of unit or role. From the oft denigrated Sloppy's in the cookhouse, to the lads on the ground and all the jobs inbetween, everyone did their bit to achieve the required result, getting home safely...Which was brought about by making sure that my brick and partner satelite bricks, or other oppo's we were supporting, ie RE/RAOC ATO, didn't take a hit! Others will disagree with me i'm sure, but "Supporting the RUC" came a very distant last in my list of priorities, but we still did it as part of our primary role. Your books give an insight into these relationships, and how they worked in real time...So please don't thank me for having an opinion, just keep up the good work of giving Op Banner a voice!!!

    Cheers Tom.
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  5. Tom: I know that you are merely expresssing an opinion, bit it is still most flattering and I appreciate your words. I will only stop supporting our lads when I no longer have breath in my body. Cheers, mate
  6. Just to add another appreciative comment ref KW's tomes. Excellent books each & every one & I look forward to the next. I have them all & a prominent place on my bookcase they have. A Long Long War had the most profound influence on me. It allowed to me to confront long buried demons with a resultant PTSD diagnosis. All due to the excellent & moving way in which Ken dealt with the awful atrocity with the death of the two R Sigs corporals.

    I'd recommend any of his books to anyone who served a tour there or has an interest in Banner.

  7. Cheers for the heads-up Steven and to Ken for what I'm sure will be another blinding book- got a surprise reading 'Bloody Belfast' when I saw one of my old mates had a bit included.
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  8. Ches: thanks, mate; every comment from a comrade is greatly appreciated. I am now covering the period 1975-9 and any contributions are warmly received.

  9. Which contributor was your mate? The research I did for the 1972 and the 73/4 books was very in depth and it brought back a lot of memories for me too
  10. PM sent.
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  11. Ken’s long-awaited fifth book ‘Sir, They’re Taking the Kids Indoors’ has now been published and is available from both Amazon and bookstores. As ever with Ken, it’s a bloody great read and you won’t be disappointed – it’s not for nothing that he’s had five books published and is now busy writing his sixth. God only knows where it’ll end with Ken but he’s got ample material to write several more and I’m hoping that he’ll go on forever, as one never tires of reading the powerful and moving Op Banner stories that he chronicles so superbly.

    Sir, They're Taking the Kids Indoors': The British Army in Northern Ireland 1973 74: Amazon.co.uk: Ken Wharton: Books
  12. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Just received a copy of the book complete with it's quote from Oldbaldy!
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  13. Boldnotold

    Boldnotold LE Book Reviewer

    I got my copy from the library last week. Will look out for oldbaldy in it :)

    And for those awaiting a copy, I can say it lives up to Ken's previous top quality productions.
  14. The cooks at my company's location in Belfast in 1977 did a brilliant job - food was good and plenty of it. The cookhouse was open overnight for the patrols coming in during the small hours to grab a banjo and a brew.


    I got my copy of 'Sir, They're Taking The Kids Indoors' on friday. I have skimmed through the pictures but haven't read it yet as I'm saving it for when I can sit down and read it properly.

    I have all the earlier books and I expect this one to be just as good. FWIW I also like the quality of the books themselves - nice hardbacks, nicely bound etc.

    Ken, if you are reading this and planning on doing a volume to cover 1977 or 1980 PM me. I gave you some material which you included in "Bullets, Bombs and Cups of Tea". I also have my diary etc from 77 and 80, plus copies of Visor magazine and newspaper clipping of some incidents I was involved with.

  15. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Rodney I have Ken's email address in Oz. I'm sure he'd love to hear what you have.