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Eleven Bats A story of combat, cricket and the SAS

Cricket and the elite division of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) SAS unit seem to be far apart, but in reality, thanks to Anthony ‘Harry’ Moffitt, joined forces in the streets of Bagdad, the mountains of East Timor, the former palaces of Saddam Hussein, the base at Tarin Kowt and on the green playing fields of his beloved Applecross Cricket Club, in Western Australia.

A serving soldier of more than twenty years, most of it with the SAS, Harry, as he is known  tells eloquently of his life in the services and how his love of cricket often saved the sanity of the serving troops, providing at times valuable links to the locals in various theatres of War.

Begun almost by accident, Harry’s first overseas mission, a 10 day reconnaissance patrol in Afghanistan during the chill of an Afghani winter, turned out to be not as busy as first anticipated. Intense training, high stress levels and overnight patrols, saw everyone feeling the need to relax a little, when a game of cricket was proposed; a bat was acquired and a game was held on the base with a mixture of SAS, Americans and locals making up the teams.

Harry’s eleven bats have a chapter each in which to tell their story, offering a rare insight into the reality of placement into high stress, volatile locations, and the effect it has on the men, their families at home and the theatre of war they served in, often with a great cost in lives.

Told with confidence and pride in his years with the SAS and the men he worked with so closely, he tells of growing up as a young boy whose father served in the Royal Australian Navy for many years, his dream of becoming a soldier and then his passion to serve in the SAS, all building a picture of exactly what it takes in pride, determination and skill to serve in a theatre of war.

Fascinatingly told is his journey into Afghanistan in 2002; a married man in his thirties, with two small children, who had stepped out of active service life some years before; recalled to fill a role in the elite division of the SAS once again, this time in a difficult conflict, Afghanistan.

In many ways confronting, Eleven Bats is about War and also about Cricket, often in some stories neither one nor the other but both; the richness in the telling comes from a man who served with honour during his time, could see that there were serious emotional issues facing people returning from torrid war zones, learning to adjust to civilian life, when many, many years have been spent living in a high adrenalin world.

Harry decided to do something about it, even if it meant battling the establishment all the way and established a valuable retraining programme for men who wanted to further their education for a vastly different challenge, civilian life. Harry had been studying for his BA in Psychology while still serving in the SAS and realised how vitally important it was to coping with a dramatic and challenging lifestyle change on discharge.

Each chapter is its own unique story, fascinating and informative, Eleven Bats also tells a story of how this elite division slowly changed over the twenty years of his service and sadly, as this review is written, the SAS is being investigated through the highest legal levels in Australia; a unit far changed from his days in the service of his Country.

From a young man, proud in his achievements in the ADF to a mature man, saddened and tempered by warfare, Anthony ‘Harry’ Moffitt has painted a unique and very personal biography that shows the power of simple things, such as a how a game of cricket in a desolate and barren landscape, can often lead to the beginning of so much more in life, as well as providing an element of ‘normal’ in a world gone totally mad!

Author Anthony 'Harry' Moffitt
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760877842
Distributor Allen & Unwin
Released October 2020