On the other side of the world in Queensland, Australia lives former British soldier turned author Ken Wharton. His idyllic home on the sun-kissed shores of the South Pacific is literally – and metaphorically – thousands of miles away from the life he once knew as a squaddie who served two tours of Northern Ireland during the 1970s.
In ‘Wasted Years, Wasted Lives Volume 1. The British Army in Northern Ireland 1975 – 77’ – Ken’s sixth book to chronicle the ‘Troubles’ – he draws upon meticulous and detailed research; first-hand testimonies of the soldiers who trod on the same streets he did and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of a near 30-year period of murder, violence and civil war to produce an uncompromising and unforgettable reading experience.
Published by Helion & Company – one of the world’s leading publishers of military history – ‘Wasted Years. Wasted Lives’ examines the fears of the young soldiers who patrolled the dangerous streets of the Ardoyne and New Lodge; of Andersonstown, Turf Lodge and Ballymurphy; and of the Creggan in Londonderry and the Derrybeg in Newry.
The book also looks at major incidents during the period such as the death of Robert Nairac – an undercover soldier murdered by the Provisional IRA and whose body has still to be found – the Kingsmill massacre and the Miami Showband massacre.
“In my first three books on the euphemistically named ‘Troubles’ I wrote entirely from the perspective of the British soldier and any other pieces of that terrible period of Irish history were largely treated as purely incidental,” explains Ken.
“Nothing has changed with ‘Wasted Years, Wasted Lives’ in that I still write as a former soldier. My sympathy, support and understanding of the soldier remains resolute and unconditional.
“However, in 2009 I decided that I wanted to combine our story with that of the ordinary civvy – the innocent Protestants and Catholics who were caught up in the terrorist maelstrom of bombings and shootings or the insidious evil of sectarian murder.
“Accordingly, I set out to cover in as much depth as possible the bloody seventies and in my last two offerings and indeed in this book, I have tried to cover every major – and some minor – incident (s) and every fatality which I could attribute to the Troubles.”
Ken – who began writing in 2008 as a means of conveying his unvarnished (and sometimes provocative) viewpoint of how British soldiers experienced the Troubles – makes no apologies for his ‘pro-squaddie’ stance, as he explains:
“Throughout this book – as with all my others – my commitment to the Army in which I served and my pro-squaddie stance will be evident. I do not seek – nor will I ever do – to write from anything but this stance.
“My book takes an uncompromising viewpoint of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) -both Provisional and Official – and also of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).
“My opprobrium is not just reserved for Republican terrorists, but is aimed equally at the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) and the Red Hand Commandos.”
It is this unwavering approach to his subject matter – combined with an ability to depict the atrocities of war with astonishing skill – that makes Ken Wharton’s ‘Wasted Years, Wasted Lives’ a remarkable achievement and a must-read for anyone interested in military history.
Advance orders for ‘Wasted Years, Wasted Lives Volume 1. The British Army in Northern Ireland 1975 – 77’ – priced at £25 – can be placed here.
The book will be officially launched on 25 June 2013 at 6pm at the London Club of Rifles (52-56 Davies Street, London W1K 5HR). Dress code is jacket and tie. Please RSVP to Duncan Rogers at email@example.com / tel. 0121 705 3393.
For interview enquiries and requests for review copies please contact Duncan Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org / tel. 0121 705 3393.
Further information about Ken Wharton is available on his website here.