Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sending My Laundry Forward: A Review

Sending My Laundry Forward: A Staff Officer's Account of the First Gulf War is based upon author Stuart Crawford's diary, which he wrote for the duration of the conflict. While his unit as a whole was not sent to the Gulf they did make up the numbers in other regiments, and for various admin tasks.

Stuart Crawford was assigned as a staff officer based in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and while his time in the Gulf was not spent in the thick of combat in the front line his account is no less interesting for this.

Instead of an account of modern-day combat, you instead get a glimpse of a side of a British military campaign that some might not be happy to let you see. It is clear from this account that there was a large element of making things up as they went along, of improvising and figuring out things on the hoof.
The supply situation in particular makes for interesting reading, as the tank regiments remaining in Germany are stripped of every serviceable part and engine, leaving them with tanks which were nothing more than empty hulks. Copious amounts of supplies are ordered but never reach their destination, and units send men on scavenging missions which further confuse the supply situation. Crawford makes clear in his book that one of the lessons which had to be learned from the first Gulf War was to take a leaf from private businesses and sort out some kind of inventory system.

The situation at headquarters appears confused and disorganised, taking time to get into any kind of routine, but it remains clear that communication between the front line troops and headquarters is patchy at best. Once air superiority is gained the flow of information becomes a deluge, often leading to an overload of information of little use to those who need it.

Being written from a staff perspective actually makes this a more refreshing read than some modern-day combat memoirs – this gives a different viewpoint from that which you would normally expect to read and it is all the more enjoyable for that. Having said that it would be unfair to say that this was a story of a cushy position well out of danger – with regular missile attacks this was in no way a danger-free position, and you do get a sense of concern for the well-being of himself and his colleagues. Despite this it is clear that the end result of the war was never in doubt, and you can feel the sense of distaste as the killing continues beyond the point where it might have been necessary.

I must admit to not having read many books on the first Gulf War – Bravo Two Zero being possibly the only other memoir I have read, but Sending My Laundry Forward joins the engaging Gulf War One by Hugh McManners on my Desert Storm reading list, and it has made me determined to seek out others like it. Truthful, humorous and enlightening; I recommend you seek out a copy.

Sending My Laundry Forward can be purchased direct from the publisher or through Amazon.