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What it’s not

When I was a kid in Scotland we had a playground game at school called “Best Man Falls”. We basically practised dying for The Queen: for all I know, some of my little classmates grew up to do just that. The game consisted of choosing how you wanted to die- machine-gun, hand-grenade, throwing-knife, bazooka, etc - and then running at an opponent who dealt out the requested death. The person who best simulated being blown up or torn to pieces was the winner.

The Scots are immensely proud of their military history. The Scottish Soldier is a national icon. Soldiering is something we Scots believe we do better than most. But many, myself included until I decided to write this book, base this belief on a less than complete survey of history. If you take the Queen’s Shilling, you do the Queen’s business; as determined by the politicos.  Sometimes that business is distasteful, sometimes it’s more dangerous than it has to be, and sometimes your life is placed in the hands of people who, if brains were gunpowder, wouldn’t have enough to blow their own nose.

I came across something out there on the Internet which seemed to suggest that some people feel that Scottish Military Disasters is an anti-war book. Those who know me, know that I’m no pacifist. What the book is, or at least is supposed to be, is a wry but honest look at the Scottish military experience over the centuries. The book is first-and-foremost intended to be informative and a good read. But no book worth reading is completely lacking in some sort of message. I’d be pleased if it made people think hard about what they are asking when they send our young men and women out on the Queen’s business. Those who “died” in our Lanarkshire playground games of Best Man Falls got up again. The same can’t be said of the battlegrounds of Afghanistan or Iraq.



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