Tag Archives: Iraq War

Book Review – Zero Six Bravo by Damien Lewis

Zero Six Bravo: 60 Special Forces. 100,000 Enemy. The Explosive True StoryZero Six Bravo: 60 Special Forces. 100,000 Enemy. The Explosive True Story by Damien Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I make a point of reading first hand accounts of special forces operations. I started with world war two tales of the SAS and have worked up to the present time. Since the Bravo Two Zero fiasco I don’t expect much from tales of recent events.

This particular book tells the tale of a Special Boat Service mission in Iraq in 2003. It suffers a bit from excessive hypebole, presumably to garner sales. However it is actually very readable, and although much of the outcome is telepgrahed in advance the way it’s done is through a good hook to keep you reading to find out the detail of how/what happens. Well before all the debates in Parliament in 2003 M Squadron SBS were training up for their mission, changing their role from maritime operations to being vehicle borne. They then went into Iraq just before the air war started in 2003 with an attempt to contact a major Iraqui army formation to persuade it to surrender.

You know when you start to read it that the mission isn’t going to go well. In fact without even knowing anything about it I picked up that it must have gone horribly wrong. However I also knew that it couldn’t have gone that far wrong, because otherwise I probably would have heard about it since I have an interest in current affairs and military operations.

The story follows the perspective of one SBS Sergeant who was the lead navigator for most of the mission. Mainly it focusses on what he sees, and the actions of his three man vehicle crew. On the whole it is an interesting narrative and it gripped me enough to read longer than I normally do.

There’s a clear thread running through it of the forebodings, that may well have been how the central character felt, but are laboured to the extent that it comes across as 20:20 hindsight. There are also some rather strained references to Bravo Two Zero and the similarities with that patrol (both seem to have been compromised because they refused to shoot a child goat herder). That doesn’t really wash with me because the goat incident in Bravo Two Zero wasn’t repeated in the other books about the patrol and The Real “Bravo Two Zero” gives another version of events (apparently two Iraqui veterans of the Iran-Iraq War spotted the patrol, not a child goat herder).

Despite this I still think it’s worth a read, especially if you get it for the knock down price of 99p as I did.

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Making A Killing, James Ashcroft

Making a Killing: The Explosive Story of a Hired Gun in Iraq

The author is a former British Infantry officer who subsequently became a private security contractor and worked in Iraq for eighteen months from the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2005. It was co-written with a professional author.


Car bombings are a common form of attack in Ir...
Car bombings are a common form of attack in Iraq during the Coalition occupation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An insider’s account of life as a private security contractor in Iraq. In September 2003 the author arrived in Iraq at the start of an 18-month journey into chaos. In “Making a Killing”, Ashcroft provides a first-hand view of the world of private security where ex-soldiers employed to protect US and British interests can make up to $1000 a day. But he also reveals a new kind of warfare where the rules are still being written. Although hostilities are officially over, the fighting goes on. Scores of US soldiers are dying every day, Coalition Forces are struggling to defend their own bases, let alone bring order and every insurgent killed only recruits a dozen more to fight Western forces.

From the Back Cover

The Lure: $1,000 a day as a hired gun in Iraq

The Reality: For every insurgent killed, a dozen more rise up

In September 2003, James ‘Ash’ Ashcroft, a former British Infantry Captain, arrived in Iraq as a ‘gun for hire’. It was the beginning of an 18-month journey into blood and chaos.

In this action-packed page-turner, Ashcroft reveals the dangers of his adrenalin-fuelled life as a security contractor in Baghdad, where private soldiers outnumber non-US Coalition forces in a war that is slowly being privatised. From blow-by-blow accounts of days under mortar bombardment to revelations about life operating deep within the Iraqi community, Ashcroft shares the real, unsanitised story of the war in Iraq – and its aftermath – direct from the front line.

James Ashcroft is a former British Infantry Captain who served in West Belfast and the former Republic of Yugoslavia. He served as a private security contractor in Iraq from September 2003 until spring 2005.


For me quite close as the author was on the commissioning course I would have been on had I pursued joining the Army and some of the
others I know from the UOTC would have been at Sandhurst with him. Makes it more thought provoking when you know it is a career path that chance turned you away from.

Overall I found it a very readable but there were a few points where I wondered if it was an accurate reflection of what actually happened or the temptation of the publishers to sex up the story to get more sales (as was done with Bravo Two Zero, amongst others). Certainly it isn’t a wholesale celebration of war or of the situation in Iraq, and there has certainly been some thought put into why we were there by the author.

It certainly came across as being written by someone who had been there and who had taken the opportunity to understand what was going on and why it was going on, that in itself is enough to make it worth reading for all those that wonder what is going on. The news doesn’t even come close to giving you the side of the story shown here, and it isn’t entirely positive for those prosecuting the war or attempting to rebuild Iraq or maintaining the peace.

The section towards the end of the book (around pg. 210) where he asks a load of US officers why they are fighting the war is priceless, and
possibly the best discussion of the reasons behind the war and the management of its aftermath. Better to spend time reading this book
than watching the news.

ISBN 0753512343