Brothers In Arms – Basra Review: Insightful Iraq

BROTHERS IN ARMS – BASRA: Monday 17 August, Sky 1, 9pm ALERT ME

It is now over six years since 45,000 British troops invaded Iraq, and even after the full withdrawal of UK forces earlier this year, the steady stream of documentaries doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

We have seen programmes like this come and go, with most asking how, but not enough asking why.

Hopefully now that the last soldier from these shores has left the country, we might get a few more programmes which ask the most difficult questions.

Brothers In Arms is not that programme, but it does paint a vivid picture of the events which took place in Basra and may yet provide strong foundations for more daring pieces of TV journalism in the years to come.

The documentary centres on a couple of key individuals from the 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 Rifles), one of which is Lieutenant-Corporal Matt Faulks-Williams.

He describes how he cut his teeth in the first ever assault on the city, before guiding the younger recruits on their first manoeuvres some years later, and through him we begin to understand the ebb and flow of the battle for Basra.

The soldiers tell us how the British forces were initially greeted as liberators, how that welcome degenerated into violent confrontation, what it felt like to live in constant danger and the sense that they were not getting sufficient support from the government or the British public.

Faulks-Williams words are both unambiguous and strangely disarming: “The smallest thing – like a bullet – what it does to a person. It f***ing rips them apart.â€?

However, this insightful documentary captured a number of different angles cleverly and one of its strongest attributes was the open nature of the opinions on offer.

As always the suffering of the families was nearly on a parallel with that of the soldiers and seeing a person breakdown when they hear that their son or husband isn’t ever coming home still breaks your heart after six long years.

Clips of the long-since departed Tony Blair throw their agony into full relief.

So was it all worth it?

“It just has to be worth it – otherwise Matthew died for nothing,â€? says Abbey Cornish.  

Sean Marland