I have read a range of books about the British Army recently, and they have all been very different, despite covering much the same ground. Simon Akam’s The Changing of the Guard (Scribe, 2021) accused the army – in effect – of failing to comprehend the nature of the fighting with which it was tasked, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This was in part because, he argued, of a mixture of hide-bound traditionalism and, to put it bluntly, the careerism of its commanders. In Akam’s view the army wasn’t professional enough to adapt itself to the challenges it faced in both these places. While I liked the book – there is much in it that as an ex-soldier I recognised – I was still troubled by it. Did it really represent the British Army I knew, and had known intimately for 40-years? It was only when I read Ben Barry’s magisterial
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