& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Mothers are full of passion for their offspring. That is why we love them.  But what when the creature they nurture becomes, not to put too fine a point on it, a trained killer? And what if that son goes to war and is himself killed? It is an heartache that has afflicted too many mothers over the centuries. But few have documented the emotional turmoil, and yet fewer are, as is Margaret Evison, a trained psychologist, and therefore perfectly placed to document that turmoil.


I read the book some while ago, and have been somewhat tardy in writing this review. Other deadlines came first. The publisher was (and is notoriously) unhelpful. And also because my main initial interest in the book left a nagging emotional legacy of its own. Mark Evison, the book’s subject, was just a little too like SODtm, indeed they had been in the same CCF at school, until Mark gained a music scholarship at Charterhouse, and moved on. The chronicle of the life of a parent with a son in Afghan - it was all rather close to home.


The book starts as it means to carry on – at full emotional throttle. Margaret describes the dread knock on the door by an Army officer, the rush to Selly Oak – the end of the medevac conveyor belt that took Mark from battlefield to Brum in a matter of hours. Then there is the clinical debate on when, and whether, to turn off his life support.

Death of a Soldier:

A Mother’s Story

Margaret Evison

Biteback, 2012

ISBN: 9781 849 544498


There was Mark with his beautiful brown lithe body, his sunburnt feet strapped with flip-flop marks, his handsome broad-boned face, peaceful and asleep. This was my Markie, the Mark I knew, despite the tubes and the huge wound in his side, apparently raw flesh taped over with see-through dressing, and his swollen right arm in a solid plastic sling.” There were two humans in great pain in that room, and only one was receiving elephantine quantities of analgesics. At least her professional background enables her to make more sense of the hospital environment and the clinicians’ utterances.


Having split up with Mark’s father some years previously, Margaret only has her daughter to share this dreadful burden. After his death the book steps back to Mark’s Army career. On Herrick 10, he died in July 2009 – which turns out to have been the worst year for British fatalities in that campaign. She makes heavy use of Mark’s diary. A thoughtful young man, his words are always of note. As he remarks on the surrounding population’s reliance on the poppy harvest, and his squaddies’ eagerness to use their sophisticated weaponry “I seem to be the only one here who believes that war might  not be the answer to this particular problem.” The strategic vacuum that has bedevilled Britain’s presence there is soon evident even at his lowly level “I am yet to be given a definite mission and clarity as to my role out here.”.......

Mark Evison