One Hundred Years Ago Today…

Emerson MacMillan and Dallas Ireland were caught in the middle of the tumultuous crowds that gathered at Mansion House in Dublin, when the new Members of Parliament declared independence for Ireland.

Read about their extraordinary love story that provides the backdrop to Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners, available from Casemate UK.




Churchill’s Promotion

One hundred years ago, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, appointed the MP for Dundee, Winston Churchill as his third Secretary of State for War.

Within a week, he journeyed to Paris for the opening of the Peace Conference with delegates from 26 countries.  By then, he was already in deep disagreement with the Prime Minister over the Government’s policy on Russia, which he described as “nebulous” in a note to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

Leading the large anti-Bolshevik  contingent in the House of Commons, Churchill wished to increase the British commitment and support the White Government in Omsk, led by Admiral Alexander Kolchak.  However, Lloyd George,  representing the wider view, wished to withdraw British troops from Russia after the Armistice.

Only volunteers from the British Army deployed to Siberia in 1919. One of them was an electronic engineer, named Emerson MacMillan, who was sent to repair and operate the Trans-Siberian railway.  Little did he know that he would become one of the last prisoners of war in World War One, suffering an horrific ordeal with his fellow inmates.  Their story is told in Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners, which will be launched in London in March 2019.

IMG_1561.JPGOne of the Moscow prisons, where the last British Army prisoners of World War One were held. 

Centenary Armistice Lecture

“All the Services’ charities are precious, but I am especially full of admiration for the work of Combat Stress and am tremendously honoured to be invited to join the list of distinguished speakers who have stood at this lectern…

Reflecting on reconciliation, everyone in the audience who supports veteran’s charities will be acutely aware not only of some of the challenges of care, but also the wider issues of human resilience.  I know as we approach the Centenary of the Armistice many people’s thoughts turn to the symbolic poppy, but I hope that you will also remember the leading veteran’s mental health charity, which is particularly busy in the run up to Christmas.”

I was delighted to meet the generous sponsor of the event at RUSI, Hilary Meredith and the Chief Executive of Combat Stress, Sue Freeth:

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Armistice Event in Whitehall

The Armistice discussion next week will explore whether it matters or not who was the last soldier to be killed in World War I and what sort of person came out of the trenches at the end of the war.

There is a media narrative that oversimplifies the story about those who fought in the War to End All Wars and alienates many who continued to serve their country all over the World.  There are disturbing similarities in today’s media – do we need a fresh perspective that balances the case in the Generation Z era?

All proceeds are going to Combat Stress – tickets are available at:

Combat Stress


Cambridge Student Union Vote

By voting against a motion for the Union to “ensure that remembrance day becomes a well-established and well-marked event across the university”, its student members have isolated themselves from the hundreds of alumni and staff from the 31 colleges who will be attending the centenary services of remembrance in the college chapels and churches of Cambridge.

On Sunday, 11th November, the Remembrance Sunday Service and Armistice Day ceremony will take place as usual in the beautiful Christopher Wren designed chapel of my old college, Pembroke.  The wreath laying ceremony at the War Memorial that commemorates hundreds of Pembroke students who died whilst serving their Country will, as ever, be a moving event.

It is not glorifying war to remember the fallen, the wounded and the families who grieve.


Centenary Armistice Talk

On 1st November, I will be giving the Centenary Armistice lecture at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, London.

Titled  Armistice 1918: The End of the War to End All Wars? the talk will discuss the aftermath of the First World War for the people affected and remind the audience that 1919 was full of conflict all over the World.  The event is in aid of Combat Stress, the leading Veteran’s charity for mental health.

Tickets are available at:

Combat Stress


Army Negligence Case Ended

It is gratifying that the two young officers facing court martial in Bulford over the death of three soldiers in Wales have been acquitted.

The tragic accident, that took place in 2013 when I was working as head of Defence Training Capability, shocked everyone in the Army.

We all have the utmost sympathy for the grieving families, but there have been too many recent cases of lawyers chasing soldiers doing their best for Queen and Country.  The Army must be allowed to maintain demanding tests for soldiers hoping to serve in elite units.  In the long term, this will save lives on the future battlefield.


Tarhuna Militia Attacks Mitiga Airport

Mitiga Airport has been closed due to the advance of the Tarhuna 7th Infantry Brigade and the spread of fighting from southern Tripoli to the northern part of the city.

Mitiga is the most important air base in Libya.  It was the only safe landing zone when the International Airport was closed for four years and the Foreign Secretary flew there for his Libyan visits last year.

This shows that the current crisis is more than just a “turf war” and could cause the downfall of the US backed Serraj government.  Look out for pre-emptive retaliation!

See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for my arrival at Mitiga and our meeting in Tarhuna where Libya’s famous wine used to be made.


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Kofi Anan

As one of the closest British peacekeepers to Srebrenica in July 1995, I always felt the UN in New York could have done more to prevent the genocide.  It is clear that Kofi Anan learned a similar lesson because he sent a much stronger capability into Eastern Slavonia six months later and said: “We went in with such strength that we didn’t have to use force and we successfully fulfilled the mandate”.

Although his time as Head of Peacekeeping coincided with the low point of the UN, his record as Secretary General was bettered only by Dag Hammarskjold.  The adoption of the Eight Millenium Development Goals, the reform of UN Peacekeeping and the endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect by all member states at the 2005 Summit are testament to his diplomatic leadership of the highest order.  We have lost a good man.

See Chapters 3 and 4 of Belfast to Benghazi for UN Peacekeeping in Bosnia and the British work to reform the UN in 2001.

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Libya-Tunisia Border Closed

Tunisians living close to Ras Ajdir have been harassing Libyans travelling into their country due to the clamp down on smuggling oil and other subsidized commodities across the border.

The Serraj government, which seems to spend much of its time in Tunis speaking to the international community, needs to secure an agreement for safe passage of travelers.

When I visited this frontier in 2011, the security problems made it one of the seven priorities for the government; it is disappointing that seven years later the border problems have still not been resolved.  See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for the other six areas of strategic concern.