Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan'
Dead Men Risen was published by Quercus in March 2011. It became a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 2012 Orwell prize for Books, Britain's premier award for political writing. An American edition is due to be published in 2014. Just before publication, the Ministry of Defence tried to block publication. After a two-week legal battle, the MoD agreed to purchase and destroy the entire first print run at a cost to the UK taxpayer of £151,450.
Dead Men Risen is the tale of the Welsh Guards in Helmand in 2009. Underequipped and overstretched, guardsmen from the coal mining valleys and quarry villages of Wales found themselves in Helmand in some of the most intense fighting by British troops for more than a generation. They were confronted by a Taliban enemy they seldom saw, facing the constant threat of Improvised Explosive Devices and ambush. Leading them into battle was Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, destined to be a general. He was passionate believer in the war but was dismayed by how it was being conducted.
It is a book that unnerved politicians and generals alike. In chilling detail, it reveals how and why Thorneloe was killed by an IED during Operation Panther’s Claw. The author, who had known Thorneloe since they first met in Northern Ireland in 1996, was on the ground in Helmand with the Welsh Guards. He drew on a trove of secret documents, including many by Thorneloe, the first British battalion commander to die in action since the Falklands war of 1982. Major Sean Birchall left behind an unvarnished account of the shortcomings of the Afghan forces that represent Nato’s exit strategy. Lieutenant Mark Evison wrote a diary that raises questions from beyond the grave. It was more than half a century since a British battalion had lost officers at these three key levels of leadership.
A visceral and timeless account of men at war, Dead Men Risen conveys what it is like to be a soldier who has to kill, face paralysing fear and watch comrades perish in agony. Given unprecedented access to the Welsh Guards, Harnden conducted more than 300 interviews in Afghanistan, England and Wales. From the searing heat of the poppy fields and mud compounds of Helmand to the dreaded knock on the door back home, the reader is transported there. Harnden weaves the experiences of the guardsmen and their loved ones into an unsparing narrative that sits alongside a piercing analysis of military strategy. Despite the horrors and the heartache, the Welsh Guards fought with astonishing bravery in Nad-e Ali, Sangin and on the Shamalan Canal, as well as waging a daring counter-insurgency campaign in Chah-e Anjir. No other book about modern conflict succeeds at so many levels. Dead Men Risen is essential for anyone who wants to learn the reality of Britain’s war in Afghanistan.
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