We Were Warriors
One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat
By Captain Johnny Mercer
Anyone who follows events in Westminster should have heard of a new name on the block – Johnny Mercer MP for Plymouth Moor View. Already – he was only elected in 2015 – he is the ‘go-to-MP’ for the media on issues pertaining to defence, veterans or mental health. These were the areas he felt were not being addressed sufficiently by our government and which drove him into politics. This book provides an insight behind that motivation.
It is very much a warts-and-all tale going right back to his childhood as the sixth of 8 children living in a two-up, two-down terraced house in Dartford, Kent. His father worked in the local branch of Lloyds Bank and, perhaps more significantly, was an extremely devout Baptist, a belief system that encroached on to the Mercer family behaviour to a level that meant that “the things children or ‘non-believers’ our age knew about – TV shows, politics, pop music and so on – were totally foreign to us.” This somewhat extreme religiosity was to impinge on the mind and character of Johnny Mercer well into his early adult life.
Johnny was a talented and keen musician, which gave him an opening to escape from home early and got him a scholarship place at boarding school. Here he was to discover just how strange his home life was when compared to that of his peers. Somehow he survived this somewhat unusual childhood and perhaps it gave him the resilience, strength of character and independence of thought that ensured he passed some very rigorous and physical tests to be commissioned, aged 22, into the Gunners with the single aim to serve in their specialist regiment - 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Then, having acquired the highly cherished and necessary green beret (not easily earned as an officer in the army, rather than in the Royal Marines) and having completed his technical training, he recounts his three, all very differing, combat tours of Afghanistan. This is the ‘brutal combat’ of the title and should be required reading for all politicians, particularly those who are likely to formulate our foreign policy and commit our forces to war.
For those ex-warriors of a different generation it is absolutely gripping; for those who have never soldiered this is an insight into the brutality of combat, the team-work, camaraderie and loyalty of professional soldiers and, not least, into the psyche and qualities of leadership to be found in all ranks of the services.It explores the pressures that these young men are faced with and explains the author’s subsequent wish to influence the after-care of those who have placed themselves in harm’s way on behalf of their country.
There is a growing library of high-quality literature describing the lives of soldiers in combat, this is a very worthy addition to that library.
Reviewed by John Gaye, Sherborne Literary Society
Published by Sidgwick and Jackson (pp 344) Paperback £8.99
Johnny Mercer MP will be the guest speaker at the Sherborne Literary Society luncheon at Leweston School on 20th July. For more details go to