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Painting the Sand

Raw, fascinating, enthralling and intriguing, the world of the Bomb Disposal expert is given entrée through the eyes of Kim Hughes, Bomb Disposal expert in the British Armed Forces, during a tour of Afghanistan in the year of 2009.

Hughes came from an ex-Army family background of a bullying step-father and a mother who struggled to cope in an abusive relationship, growing up in the council estate of Woodside, a rough area of Telford. He was a very poor student, could barely read when he left school and was looking down the barrel of unemployment and nothing but trouble on the streets when he decided to join the Army.

Never really believing he would succeed he was accepted but failed to last long the first time around.  On his second attempt he was older, a little wiser and realised this was the best life was offering at the time for a trade and a job. Completing his recruit training he found himself at various locations as far away from a war zone as possible, but always he would apply for any course or additional training to do with explosives and bomb disposal, eventually becoming extremely proficient at dealing with unexploded ordinances.

In 2002 the tensions towards Iraq beginning to build-up; amongst the trained soldier there was the fear the war would not last long and their chances of becoming involved in a war zone would not be great. But then Afghanistan began to fester and it was not long before the British Army were fully engaged against the Taliban.

Kim Hughes and his team were destined for Afghanistan in 2009; the incidence of soldiers and civilians being killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) were mounting. The explosive devices, manufactured by the Taliban were simple affairs to begin with but as time went on, were becoming far more sophisticated and deadly.

In the six months Kim and his team where in the provinces they defused 119 IED’s with only one casualty, that of Sam, on their first day out in a mission that was in his words, ‘fucked up’, sadly and tragically ramming home the brutality that is Afghanistan; a place where life is often short, frequently ending violently.

Hughes takes the reader right into the heart of the  action; the heat, the cramped conditions, the horror, the foul ups, the camaraderie , the huge levels of skill and nerve required and utilised by he and his team as they went about their deadly business of disarmament, at times on a daily basis.

He also underscores the story with what is going on in his personal life as he struggles to cope with a foundering marriage, his love for his very young son, often questioning why he was where he was, doing what he was doing!

On 16 August 2009 he and his team were involved in clearing a route near Sangin which went terribly, horribly wrong with lives lost. His selfless action in clearing a number of IED’s in what was considered a category A action saw him awarded the George Cross Citation, the highest level of public recognition given to be awarded to a member of the British Armed Forces.

Returning to Britain at the end of his tour he remained in the Army, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer Class I serving in the 11EOD Regiment RLC, training new groups of soldiers in what has become one of the most popular weapons of the modern day terrorist, the IED and how best to disarm these devices.

As tales about war and destruction rate, this would have to be up there in the top echelon for graphic detail as to life in Afghanistan as a solider, how the soldiers involved in the Afghan War coped with the very real issue that each time they went out to do the work they are trained for, it could be their last day alive.

Brilliant and beautifully written.

Author Kin Hughes GC
Publisher Simon and Schuster UK
ISBN 9781471156700
Distributor Simon and Schuster
Released July 2017