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This book was given to me by my dad as he had read it and found it compelling reading. I felt that I had to read it as well. In fact, I read the whole book in one day - it's that good! I just could not put it down at all.
Amazon are selling this in hardback form for around £11 but I'm sure if you shop around then you can get it cheaper.
The author "Jackie George" is ex-army, and due to the nature of the book, has not used her real name for security reasons. Obviously because there are still people out there who would quite happily target her because of the work that she did back in the 70's.
There is a statement at the beginning of the book that lets the reader know that before publication, the book was handed to the MOD for checking. For obvious reasons, the book had to be checked to make sure that identities were protected and that the Official Secrets Act was not breached. It is clear that the book did pass inspection, as it was first published in 1999.
The start of the book gives a short history of who Jackie is and how she came to join the army in the first place. Her dad died when she was very young, her mother raised her as a single parent but with the support of an aunt who was involved with the Territorial Army.
After rebelling and eventually settling down in her teenage years, Jackie decided that she wanted to join the army as her chosen career but on joining, found that things were not as rosy as she had previously believed.
She managed to get through basic training, pass-out parade, and trade training before being sent on her first posting (as she was under 18 at the time she was posted in UK). Soon she became bored with her job and became involved in sports as her pastime. An officer saw some potential within her and showed her a section at the bottom of routine orders asking for volunteers for "Special Duties". Jackie was quick to volunteer.
Little did she realise at the time that she was soon to be thrust into the training given to the SAS, which is the most intense training within the British Army. There are some photos within the book but the faces of those in the pictures have been blacked out to protect their identities as some of them could well still be serving in the Army today.
After going through her training, she is posted to Northern Ireland and during her 2 year stint, she is involved in many operations from routine surveillance to raiding the houses of suspected terrorists. The book details some of the operations and gives a lot of information about what life was like for someone living on the edge. That's what they did in this situation, it was like living on the edge of a razor, they could slip at any time.
For 2 years Jackie was part of the team and then it was time to leave. Off to Hong Kong she went but it was not long before she was back to NI for another tour. Eventually she tried to transfer to the Intelligence Corps but on having a clash with an officer, she resigned and left the army for good.
I have to say that I thorougly enjoyed this book, so much that I did not once put it down until I had read the whole thing. It is so full of detail and the information is written in such as way that you can easily imagine yourself in that situation. Being married to a soldier, it's a lot easier for me to imagine it probably!
On a serious note though, it is a book mainly about one woman's struggle to be accepted in what was primarily a man's world back in the days before equal opportunities were invented. In those days women were not allowed to join regiments, we joined the Women's Royal Army Corps and the jobs then were far different from the jobs women do in the army today. She had contend with men who did not believe that women should be in the Forces but boy did she change their minds! There are some funny parts in the book as well, one that springs to mind is where she is drunk in Hong Kong and goes to the toilet. The toilet roll is soft and she finds that she is in the Officer's accomodation and is fined £40 for doing this. In the end she does state that it is the most expensive penny that she ever spent!
She does have a serious message within the book however. This is about the fact that the conflict within NI will never end until peoples' attitudes change.
I found the book to be compelling reading and literally did not put it down until it was finished. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend this book to anyone who has even the slightest interest in military history or the role of the army back in the 70's and 80's. It was chock-full of interesting facts and the fact that it is a true story of one woman's life within the Army makes it all the more interesting.
If you get the chance to read this, please do - it certainly opened my eyes to the hardships faced by women back in those days and the dangers they all faced.
Definitely a 5-star recommendation from me - I will certainly be reading it again. For me it was my dad's money well spent!
Thanks for reading. Di xx
Jackie George was one of the first women to be used by the army in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland. She Who Dared is her own frank account of the training she undertook and of the covert operations in which she took part.'