Special Forces Heroes by Michael Ashcroft was published by Headline. It is a collection of heroic incidents. The royalties of Milord Ashcroft are donated to Help For Heroes, a charity supporting servicemen injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was in the expectation of getting some insight into what makes heroes tick that I started to read this book. It had been handed to me on the understanding that it contained the answer to the difference between a hero and a coward. Lord Ashcroft has spent years studying the bravery of soldiers in battles, and it said his latest book would try to answer that question.
Maybe the book tried, Milord certainly didn’t. I found it a gruelling read, taking me from battlefield to battlefield through blood and bravery. In time, the stories started to resemble each other. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t read that one already earlier in the book.
Michael Ashcroft is a specialist, and his stories are certainly well researched and dutifully recorded. But their fascination must be for others. I felt like having walked into a stamp collector enthusing over his stamps. Expecting to see colourful stamps from the entire world with exotic animals, butterflies, and sceneries, he would show me 600 times the same grey stamp with a dot here and a printing error there to distinguish one from the other.
Ashcroft distinguishes between two types of valour, spur of the moment bravery and cold courage involving planned heroism. The book does not give any clues to where he draws the lines. Obviously, there are other forms of heroism that go unmentioned, e.g. perseverance. And still others would have been out of scope for this book.
The book is corollary damage to Five TV’s series of the same name. It is in all probability a commissioned book. It has all the marks of homework made and without joy at that.
All in all, I found the book lacking in conclusions and explanations regarding his personal views. His book should treat only heroes receiving medals for premeditated bravery. That might be his point of view, but I don’t share it. What is premeditated in a surprise attack from enemies still baffles me after finishing the book. I put it aside gladly, and it will not be one I care to read again.
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