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Having recently read 'Goose Green' by Nigel Ely, it took me a while to get into Penal Company. Perhaps because after knowing little about the battle for Goose Green/Darwin, Nigel Ely had already educated me as to what happened. So, it took a while, but once I had, then I read voraciously. I don’t mean this to be a comparison of the two books, but I guess it’s going to seem that way. One book by a private soldier, one by a company commander.
At first I felt like I’d already read the story, I guess I had, but soon I found myself fully engrossed in the tale as told by Philip. It was interesting to read about the dynamics between the hierarchy as well as the interaction between the company commander and his ‘Toms’. The reader is swept along with the author as he describes the journey from San Carlos through to Stanley.
There is no love lost here between the Paras and the Royal Marines and that comes across frequently in his writing. The ‘mistakes’ made are laid out for the reader and punches are not pulled. Not something that I was unaware of, but shocking all the same. He’s not bitter about mistakes that got his lads killed, more philosophical, but you are left in no doubt about his feelings toward his lads that were killed due to a ‘blue on blue’ incident.
The best bit for me was the end. I’m not being facetious. but the last chapter and the epilogue is where the author deals with the aftermath of the war. The last chapter about being at home and how he and his men were treated. Then the epilogue where he looks back and lays his feeling bare about the war. You are left in no doubt of his personal opinions about the war, the immediate aftermath and the lessons learned.
Not sure how many other veterans reading this will have experienced an almost embarrassment in the way they were treated by their superiors who hadn’t been there after coming home. I for one can sympathise. My medal was chucked across her desk by my divisional officer when it was issued to me, as an afterthought to a bollocking and a trip to the Commander’s table for losing my ID card.
An enjoyable book, well written that found me engrossed and living the story.
4.5 stars out of 5