As one SAS veteran put it, 'this was not a clinical, black balaclava, Princes' Gate-type operation: it was a very grubby, green operation with lots of potential for things to go wrong'...The British Army has earned a worldwide reputation for its skill at 'peacemaking', intervening in the Balkans and the Middle East to stop civil wars and end communal violence. It does this so well that the horrific risks involved are only really understood by the soldiers themselves, on patrol in strange lands riven by ancient hatreds. In September 2000 the dangers were suddenly highlighted by the capture of eleven British soldiers by a notorious militia gang in Sierra Leone. The so-called 'West Side Boys' had subjected their part of the country to a long reign of terror, murdering, kidnapping and mutilating anyone who stood in their way. Now British soldiers were at their mercy. Surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, any resistance would have seen them all killed; yet their hopes of a quick exchange soon faded. They were assaulted and subjected to mock executions.Negotiations with the 'Revolutionary United Front' leaders and the 'West Side Boys' proved futile: although some of the prisoners were released, the gang's demands grew ridiculous and the danger to the rest of the hostages increased.
Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered the armed forces to get the men back. The SAS and elements of the Parachute Regiment were rushed to West Africa and a naval squadron assembled offshore. The stage was set for the biggest British military operation on the continent for a generation - and their most daring rescue mission ever.
Buy Operation Barras book by William M. Fowler from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
(242mm x 165mm x 21mm)
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
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Author Biography - William M. Fowler
Educated at Clifton College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, William Fowler was land forces editor of DEFENCE magazine and a contributing editor to JANE'S INFORMATION GROUP. A long term territorial soldier, he served with British forces in the Gulf War and graduated from the French Army Reserve Staff Officers course at the Ecole Militaire in Paris. He conducts regular battlefield tours and broadcasts on radio and television. He is married and lives in Hampshire.