When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s Plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier
So goes the final verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The Young British Soldier’, published in his Barrack Room Ballads collection. This final verse was the inspiration behind the title of my forthcoming book ‘On Afghanistan’s Plains’.
The book has been a long time coming and tells the story of my time as a Nursing Officer in Afghanistan in 2007. In the course of my deployment I was charged with providing medical support to various units of 12 Mechanised Brigade including 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment and 1st Battalion, The Grenadier Guards.
The story, written in the first person, is delivered in the present-perfect tense, which is intended to provide the reader with a sense of immediacy as they join me on the journey from family life in a leafy Garrison town to the heat and chaos of combat on the far side of the world and the struggle to come to terms with my experiences after my return.
I found that writing helped my recovery and in 2011, I was fortunate to have some pieces published in a collection of contemporary war poetry. The experience proved cathartic and I found that once I started, I could not stop. ‘On Afghanistan’s Plains’ is born of that creative process. Publishing my poems on Wattpad led to my experimenting with other forms of writing and exposed my work to a body of readers. Early on, my work was noticed by the wonderful Mary L Tabor, an American Professor of English who has become my mentor and a tireless champion of, not just my writing, but that of many others too. Of ‘On Afghanistan’s Plains’, Tabor writes:
‘…this is no fairy tale despite its cinematic detail. Barry Alexander’s candour, straightforward telling and eloquence never revolve into sentimentality. His is a moving memoir that reminds us what it means to be human and humane in the face of war. He never writes as if he is a hero but it is the sense of his heroism through the vivid, and, yes, often wry telling of what he’s seen and done, how he’s healed others while trying to maintain his own well-being, both physical and mental, that define why you should read Alexander.’
‘On Afghanistan’s Plains’ is scheduled for release on Amazon and Kindle on May 5 2016, the ninth anniversary of the ‘Raid on Mazdurak’, one of the key events in the book.