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Changing of the Guard is the result of interviews 260 people: officers of all ranks, a diplomat or two, US journalists, and even prostitutes who worked in a brothel near Fallingbostel garrison in Germany. Photo: Andrew Chittock/Alamy Stock Photo

The long decline of the British army

A new exposé of a class-bound British army reflects an organisation fast losing power. But does it take on the right target?

By Helen Parr   May 2021

The Changing of the Guard is billed as an exposé of a class-bound British army failing to get to grips with the reality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: think Stephen Fry’s General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth twitching his impressive moustache over a map of the Somme. Giving the book additional glamour, its appearance was delayed following two years of wrangles over its allegedly explosive content. It has now been released with a new publisher.

Like many writers on military affairs, Simon Akam has a relationship with the army. He joined in 2003, inspired by the enthusiasms of a teacher at his private school, undertaking a short service commission before leaving. It was this period of officer training, and the fact that schoolfriends of his stayed on, that motivated him to write this account of the army since 9/11.

He has interviewed 260 people: officers…

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