BBC Radio 4


BBC Radio 4

More from our series of letters from the Falklands War, and John Geddes, who fought in the battle of Goose Green

>> Listen to John tell of some of his memories of the battle for Goose Green
08:45 - BBC Radio 4. More from our series of letters from the Falklands War, and John Geddes, who fought in the battle of Goose Green.

Lives would be saved by learning lessons of Troubles

There are no better trained or motivated troops in the world than the British and like the rest of the nation I'm proud of the job they're doing in Afghanistan.

But I have been watching their tactics closely and come to the conclusion that lessons learned in Northern Ireland, Malaya and Borneo have been forgotten and that's costing us an unacceptable toll in dead and injured heroes. When I served as a young Para in Northern Ireland's bandit country we didn't call them IEDs, we called them culvert or roadside bombs, but they were just as lethal. The first of many bombings I was to witness was at Warren Point, where 16 of my 2 Para mates were slaughtered.

It was the turning of terror onto the enemy that had the IRA running scared, so their political leaders were eager to get to the negotiating table. We didn't do that by continuing to drive down roads in enemy territory where bombs could be laid to blow our vehicles from underneath us. It was realised that you can't take these bombs on - you leave them on the roadside waiting for a target that never comes.

During the Troubles troops did not mount vehicle patrols in bandit country - that led to casualties. Instead we gathered intelligence and moved by helicopter or at night in snatch operations and targeted raids. We used those tactics to take the war to the enemy and put him in fear. That lesson seems to have been forgotten in Helmand, where we need to adapt our tactics. We also need to live up to our reputation as the finest counter insurgency army in the world. If we don't we'll be feeding coffins on a conveyor belt through RAF Lyneham.

Former SAS warrant officer John Geddes has fought terrorists all over the world. His book Highway to Hell is widely read among British and US troops.