Operation Deliberate Force Review: Soldier Magazine


Tim Ripley – Operation Deliberate Force

The UN and NATO campaign in Bosnia 1995

Book reviewers can often be boringly nitpicky  about a publication on a subject in which they have a close personal interest but with Tim Ripley’s new book on the Bosnia crisis in 1995, there is little criticise necessary. It reads well, covers the ground and unlike some distinguished and recently published autobiographies by famous politicians, it tells the real story.

Tim pulls no punches and reveals new truths about “the appalling Western political and military jigsaw that was Bosnia” in the mid 1990s. The words are those of Nik Gowing who covered the war for Channel 4 News and who wrote the foreword.

For those of us who lived the Bosnian civil war vicariously in a TV studio or actually on the streets of Sarajevo, the detail is exact. The truth behind the efforts to extract the 1st battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Gorazde or the problems faced by 19 Regiment, Royal Artillery on Mount Igman are there in staggering detail. The truth about 24 Airmobile Brigade’s deployment delays and the run-up to the American attempts to bomb the Serbs “back to the Drina.” That detail is provided by the men on the spot.

Tim Ripley has gone to considerable lengths to interview the players. He has no place for the secondhand story bought in a bar for a few beers. That’s why there is so much good commentary from high-powered interviewees like the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Tory defence secretary Michael Portillo, Field Marshals Inge and Vincent. The broad brush which they bring to bare is amplified by those at the sharp end of Bosnia like General Rupert Smith and Lt. Col. Jonathan Riley.

For anyone about to go on a Bosnia tour with SFOR, the sections on the Croat and Bosnian offensives must be essential reading. The background to the warring faction forces, how they have changed and who supplied them. The covert US military actions in support of the Bosnian-Muslim forces are recounted in greater detail than even before.

Backing the text are good quality pictures, many taken by Tim on assignments for Jane’s Defence, together with computer-drawn maps of the key actions. If there is a criticism, it must be that the book is too full of information, with detailed appendices and indices.

26 October 1999

Paul Beaver, spokesman for Jane’s Defence and chairman of the Independent Defence Media Association, London