Book Review – Combat Camera: From Auntie Beeb to the Afghan Frontline by Christian Hill

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Ordinarily I shy away from hot-button issues and current events and prefer to think about things in fictional worlds, so this book isn’t something I would usually read, yet I found it to be an absorbing read. The war on terrorism and the presence of our military in the Middle East is a highly controversial subject that has perhaps left the forefront of our conscious minds. The world has moved on, but there are still many problems out there and this book is the account of one man’s experiences while he served out there as a journalist for the BBC. 

Despite all the controversy surrounding the subject, Combat Camera doesn’t stray into putting forth a political agenda and it doesn’t descend into arguing whether the war is a good or necessary thing. Instead, it’s a very human account that shows the realities of day to day life. There’s always a foreboding sense of danger pervading the book that makes the read a gripping one, as we’re never sure what danger Christian is going to find himself in next. Accompanied by field reports of injuries and many accounts of first-hand interactions with the wounded the book can sometimes be grisly, but Hill never shies away from depicting the brutality of the war. 

Combat Camera isn’t an entirely grim read though, as the horrific side of war is tempered by the wry observations of the author. It is a dry, sardonic kind of humour that may not be for everyone but I appreciated it, and enjoyed his tales of chatting with Ross Kemp, and the attitudes of some of the officers regarding journalists; the interactions between Hill and Faulkner were darkly amusing. There are many touching parts as well, so I found that it elicited a range of emotions. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of my review I tend not to keep up to date with current events, so I found Combat Camera to be very informative. I had no idea, for example, that the focus had shifted to the drug trade. Perhaps this is just a demonstration of my own ignorance, but I thought the book did a great job of showing what the political landscape is like without making it sound like propaganda. 

Above all this is a human account, and with it entails shocking material that may be hard for those with a sensitive disposition to read. However, it’s not too gruesome and I think there’s no sense in trying to avoid the realities of the situation. This is a war and there are casualties, but while we are in England it is far off, this book brings it to the forefront of our minds and gives us a view of the day-to-day lives of the people over there, and in a very touching passage at the end we also see how it has affect Christian Hill. It’s a thoroughly engaging read and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

Combat Camera is written by Christian Hill and published by Alma Books. It is available now.

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