Back With The Boys – Ross Kemp Returns To Afghanistan
Sky One has brought Ross Kemp back to Afghanistan in a follow-up to his documentary last year in the trenches on what he calls “Britain’s front line”. If you have read my reviews of A Soldier’s Story (BBC) and Warzone (Channel 5) you will know I have been a keen observer of coverage of our fights
abroad. I cannot say too often how important it is for reviews, reminders and ready comment to keep us posted on the commitment made by our fighting men and women on our behalf. The media can so often assume boredom on the part of the public and drift between their shifting view of the key stories of the day.
Kemp continues with his chatting-to-the-camera style, and the obvious, digging questions to the troops from the relative calm of Camp Bastion. However, the camera quickly moved out with a platoon of Delta Division, 5 Scots Guards on operations just north of Musa Qala. Bullets and RPGs were flying within minutes of their arrival and I had to keep reminding myself this was not a Hollywood movie. Entertaining in a terrible way, “Reality TV” does not begin to describe this. Whether by luck, judgement or just great editing, the fear and confusion of being under fire came across all too well. “It’s just too damn dangerous” was one squaddie’s observation, squatting down in a hut for respite in the darkness as the platoon contemplated the Taliban’s hoped-for aversion to night time attacks.
Major Nick Calder commanding Operation Cap Fox was in the thick of it with his troops – none of the General Melchett myth of leaders esconced back at the nearest 5 star hotel. With Sergeant Danny Carter minding him and his cameraman, Kemp calmly describes their job to “draw out the Taliban” – they are the bait. Listening in to radio chatter that forewarns the goats that the lions are surrounding their prey, the professionalism of these guys is amazing. In a clear nod to the entertainment nature of Sky One programming, the episode ends there, with the Taliban poised to attack. More next week folks !
Its obvious excitement value aside, this is another education in the realities of our commitments to the major war zones of the world. In the intervening period since his last series, it seems we have captured significant ground in Afghanistan. This is an important message which we do not see on the news. Gingered up by Kemp’s references to the fallen and the mistakes of war, I hope this continues to grab an expanding audience share. Greater coverage of the war on terror is welcome. For me, I would dearly love one of the networks to commission a series which explores the reasons and objectives of these conflicts. This is not a political view – I am not suggesting there are none – just that there is another side to the covenant we have with our armed forces. That is the obligation for us at home to acknowledge and understand why our troops are there and what it is that they are sacrificing; and the duty of our elected government to inform us. Commissioning editors please take note.