Martin Bell praises major new Afghan War account

Veteran BBC war reporter Martin Bell has declared a major new military memoir detailing landmine clearance efforts in Afghanistan a ‘masterpiece of its kind’.

The former independent MP was Guest of Honour at the official launch of fellow OBE recipient John Lane’s work – ‘Chicken Street. Afghanistan before the Taliban: Clearing the Deadly Remnants of War’.

In the book’s foreword Bell heaps praise on Lane, who headed up an internationally-renowned charitable de-mining mission in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1993.

“After a distinguished 35-year career in the Royal Navy, John Lane could have eased back and become a hospital administrator or school bursar like so many of his kind. Instead he decided to save the world – or at least to have a go at it…

‘If only our politicians had shared his understanding of the history of Britain’s three Afghan wars – set out in the back-light of these pages – they might not have opted for our fourth.”

‘Chicken Street’ tells the story of civil war and the broken lives of everyday citizens caught in the crossfire of events in Afghanistan. It is a tale of courage and stoicism, domesticity and death in the turbulent times that followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw the rise of Taliban control.

With what Bell describes as ‘an ear for dialogue and irony, and an eye for detail and history’, Lane outlines the destructive succession of events since that time – all of which sets the context for the current conflict.

“As Martin says in his foreword it took me 10 years to forget my experiences in Afghanistan and another 10 years to remember,” says John, who secured his book deal with Helion and Company Ltd – one of the world’s leading publishers of military history – and 30 Degrees South UK.

‘It is a country where there have been many losers in years gone by and where there will be many more. It’s a no-man’s land where no-one wins.

“This book is my tribute to all those who are hazardously engaged worldwide on the frontline of post-conflict mine clearance work.”

John has undertaken humanitarian appointments with the International Red Cross; the European Commission and the British Executive Service Overseas.

His Voluntary Service Overseas appointments have included post-earthquake Armenia and Pakistan, and Croatia during the Balkans War.

The decorated operational serviceman – who was once evicted from Tripoli by Colonel Gaddafi – now tends an allotment on the banks of the River Wandle in London. His wife comes from the Peruvian Rainforest, and the couple have a smallholding near Iquitos on the banks of the River Amazon.

Editor’s notes

Orders for ‘Chicken Street. Afghanistan before the Taliban: Clearing the Deadly Remnants of War’ – priced at £16.95 – can be placed at

For all interview enquiries and requests for review copies contact Duncan Rogers / tel. 0121 705 3393

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