The heart of this book is the diary of Lieutenant John Thornton, a Royal Marine who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008. His diary is supported by two of his colleague's diaries and two personal recollections of John. The book finishes with the Afghanistan diary of John's brother Ian, who survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011-12. Profits from the book go to the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation, a charity founded to honour his memory.
Neither of the Thornton brother's diaries were written with publication in mind (Ian's even includes the diary entry where publication was first being considered), and as a result they feel more 'chatty' and filled with contemporary military slang than is the case in more edited diaries. There is also no hindsight - we are reading events as they occurred at the time, and without the inevitable messiness of a military campaign tidied up - (an example being a major patrol that was the subject of a long diary entry on one day turns out to be cancelled on the next). One also gets a feel for the different characters of the diarists, with a more formal tone from the Officer Commanding C Company.
One of the more unusual features of this book (at least for me) is the clash between the light-hearted tone of most of the diary entries and the melancholy mood of the reader, knowing John's fate. One gets a sense of enthusiasm for their task in all of the diaries, alongside an awareness of the risks (inevitably more prominent in Ian's diary).
These diaries also give an interesting picture of the situation in Afghanistan, and the way in which things had changed between 2008 and 2011 (mainly improvements, at least in some areas). This book provides a compelling series of eyewitness accounts of the defining conflict of the first part of this century, and a worthwhile memorial to John Thornton.
Introduction - The Road to Helmand
Lieutenant John Thornton's Deployment Diary
Op Herrick 7 - OC C Company
Iain Sutherland's Recollections
Chris Fletcher's Diary
Reverend Stuart Hallam's Memories of John
Lieutenant Ian Thornton - Diary of Operation Herrick 15