AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER
Your acclaimed book 3 Commando
Brigade in the Falklands – No Picnic has
been revised and updated to coincide
with the 25th anniversary of the war this
year. What initially prompted you to
decide to write about your experiences
and the war?
I wanted to tell the story of my Brigade
in the Falklands War while it was still
fresh in my mind. At the time I wrote the
first edition, I was still serving and had
access to my Brigade War Diary, battle
logs, and other sources that would help
me to tell the story as accurately as
possible. I could not quote from them,
but check what I wrote against the
record. These documents are now in the
National Archive and closed until 2012.
I also had access to a large number of
the participants, whose memories were
fresh, and who let me read reports and
other documents in their possession.
How does the new edition differ from
the earlier version?
I have added about 10,000 words of
new text, to give a more personal view
of some of the events I describe. I can
also express my opinions more frankly
now that I am no longer a serving
officer. In addition, the passage of time
has allowed me to gain a better insight
into some of the events, and reasons
behind decisions made at a higher
level than mine.
You have written many military history
books. Which do you look back on with
I still look back on No Picnic with most
satisfaction, as it was my first, and at
the time was a best seller.
There is currently a Royal Marine
Commando in Afghanistan involved in
some heavy ground fighting, how do
you feel about the war and how difficult
do you believe conditions to be for the
I am very proud of what the Royal
Marines are achieving in Afghanistan
against a very formidable enemy.
The invasion of Iraq took the British
and American ‘eye off the ball’ in
Afghanistan, enabling the Taliban to
stage a come-back, hence the problems
the troops are experiencing now. The
strength of the initial deployment into
Helmand province was too small for
the task. The fault lies with government
ministers whose naivety, intellectual
arrogance, and reluctance to listen
to military advice led to them
underestimating the scale of the threat,
and making foolish statements to the
effect that they hoped that British troops
would return without having fired a
shot. How wrong they were!
Have you planned your next project?
I am currently working on two:
a book on 30 great commanders
from Alexander to the present, and
an account of the campaign in France
and Flanders in 1940, leading to the
evacuation from Dunkirk.
Where do you write and have you got a
preferred writing routine?
I write at home, and usually start at
about 8am, have a break for exercise
and lunch and continue until about 7pm.
I do not write every day, as I have other
Who are your favourite authors?
Richard Holmes for military history,
Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell
Which book are you currently reading?
The Thirteen Gun Salute, by Patrick
O’Brian (for the second time) and The
Battle of the River Plate, by Dudley Pope.
I usually keep two or three books on the
go at any one time.