Not a Real War – A Sailor’s Experiences in a Soldier’s War by Paul Longley. Published by Book Pal, Brisbane, 2015. Paperback, 224 pages with b & w photos. Available from Amazon $22.46 or Kindle $2.91.
While frequently in the news for all the wrong reasons very little is known of Somalia so this book by the then Lieutenant Paul Langley, RAN telling of his in-country experiences is most welcome. Many may have seen the film Blackhawk Down which provides some idea of the problems experienced in this lawless land during 1993 when Paul was posted as a Movement Control Officer to assist arranging logistic support to the Unified Task Force (UNITAF). This was a United States led, United Nations sanctioned, multinational force which operated in the Republic of Somalia from December 1992 to May 1993 to provide a protective environment for conducting humanitarian aid to prevent starvation.
The Australian commitment to this conflict was brief but none the less significant with a 1,000 man strong battalion sized group from 1RAR led by the then Lieutenant Colonel David Hurley, mostly embarked in HMA Ships Jervis Bay and Tobruk.The main Australian contingent returned home in May 1993 when the initial force was replaced by an expanded United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) with a mandate to help rebuild the Somalia state. The small Australian logistics group to which Paul was attached remained for another seven months finally withdrawing in November 1993.
Paul tells his story of a sailor in a soldier’s war in a unique style with ease and some humour in many small easily read chapters. It was a conflict with many and constant dangers from suicide attacks, small arms and IEDs with over 150 UNOSOM casualties, including four Australians and many more Somalia casualties. We learn how a sailor finds his feet and learns to fit into an essentially Army run unit, the varied daily routines, many mundane but all important, and others where danger lurks and quick reactions are required with adrenalin pumping. Through the author’s keen powers of observation we glimpse inside the world of combined military operations at work in some of the most demanding of conditions in a very destructive environment.
Reviewed by Arcturus