Last Night Another Soldier

This is what is called a quick read book. It serves to get you by if caught in a queue or on a short train journey. I grabbed it quickly in a second hand book shop and read it while abroad. What surprised me about it was the degree of entertainment value it contained. I had read the war accounts of Mark Baker and Antony Beevor on the same trip, so some lighter battlefield reading was a welcome detour.

Andy McNab is a former SAS trooper who has fought in a few places but has allowed a pen to displace the gun. It seems he used both as efficiently although his outlook has hardly been displaced in similar manner.  He creates the character Briggsy to tell the story. At 18 in 2009 the youth is in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban during a six month tour of Helmand Province. His company frequently lose their comrades to death and injury.

In this account McNab conveys combat in a way that makes it real, unattractive, sans the glorification that a Rambo type character might bring to battle scenes, where ‘soldiers don’t fight for Queen or country, like they say on telly. They fight for each other.’

The male culture was pervasive and was reinforced by the mate bonding that burgeons in situations of shared danger. When John dies his mates go through his mail before sending them back home to his family. They dislike the invasiveness involved but opt for protecting his wife from any letters he might have got from a girl friend. They remember their mates like John because there is no chance that the ‘pencil necks’ at desks will. Their ire is spurred when his death gets ten seconds on the news ‘shoved between a slapper and a dog’. 

A subtext is the soldiers’ unhappiness with the government that wanted to fight a war on the cheap. ‘Why ain’t we got loads of helis and gear like the Yanks got?’ one of the squaddies asks. Theirs was not a moral critique of a warlike government, just a functional one: simply not enough gear with which to kill the enemy or whoever else got in the way.

An enduring fear was getting kidnapped by the Taliban although it never seemed to occur to the soldiers to heed the advice of comedian George Carlin when he heard that a Westerner had been beheaded in one of America’s foreign wars.
Ahhh, Beheading, beheadings! What are you fucking surprised? Just one more form of extreme human behaviour. Besides, who cares about a mercenary civilian contractor from Oklahoma who gets his head cut off? Fuck him! Hey, jack, you don't want to get your head cut off? Stay the fuck in Oklahoma. They ain't cutting heads in Oklahoma ... as far as I know.
Briggsy was luckier, getting a wound in the backside. He immediately becomes ‘the man with two arseholes’ the guy who will now use up twice as much toilet roll and talk double the shit he used to, given that he always ‘talked out his arse.’

Si, another character, reckoned if he hadn’t joined up he ‘would be in prison by now.’ The type the British like to send to stop ‘criminality’ in foreign countries.

Obsessed with drinking tea, the soldiers claimed that without the beverage the army would grind to a halt. It must be British army custom. During the battle for the Normandy beaches the British troops would use every opportunity for a good ‘brew up’. The cookhouse too figured prominently in their belligerent universe. And they liked porn as well.

In many ways not all that different from prison culture. During the blanket protest the day was largely structured around the three meals that were shoved unceremoniously into the cells. In an eight H Block jail it was said that the IRA leadership were being held in the fictional H9 because they were so dangerous and had to be kept isolated and subject to particularly intense privations. And while porn was never available it would have received a better welcome than the only reading material, put in the cell solicited or not, the bible.

If your light reading needs to pass whatever ideological test you set it this is probably not recommended. If picked up to read for reading’s sake, or pure escapism, it will deliver.

Andy McNab: Last Night Another Soldier.  Corgi 2010. ISBN 978-0552-16168-8


  1. Anthony,

    So the book is a pile of 'horseshit', that depicts a series of events that never happened, to imaginary people who do'nt exist, under the pretext of glamorising a war that has killed hundreds of thousands, and is written by an ex-member of a gang of murdering British criminals that served in Ireland during our conflict.

    I have to ask myself 'why bother'?

  2. truthrevisionist-

    " Why bother "

    Why bother reading about your enemys or friends- Knowledge- its a great weapon-

  3. I just watched a program on the discovery channel this evening, Friday 26/10/2012.
    It was about the sas, it has now become fact, "From this Program", the most damaging thing ever to happen to the sas was , "Death On The Rock", and thats from sas members and ex members.
    To see their members gunning down down unarmed people is not acceptable, But, they got a decoration for it, MI5 made the statement for them. For a very long time sas activity was , and, still is to this very day, denied by the British, that is, Only if the operation goes wrong, "how corrupt is that", google , "SAS Suicides".
    I actually read that book and found it far fetched, and, "Mc Nab"!!! has been hung drawn and quartered by his own. But, we do know they were helping loyalists/RUC/BA in setting up and participating in extreme brutal murders of Republicans. Maggie (Hatchet) Thatcher said, Let the Irish kill the Irish, so the UDR was set up, she didn't give two lumps of crap who was murdered, she got what she wanted, Irish against Irish, but you try telling that to someone on the Shankill.

  4. Last night another soldier- in Afganistan-

    This morning another Prison Guard- in Ireland-