The amazing true story of a boy soldier's journey through the hopes and horrors of war and its aftermath.
Simon Hutt always wanted to join the Army. In 1989, aged 16, he enlisted into the Royal Artillery and after a years basic training was posted to Germany as a regular soldier. Within months the unit was deployed to the Middle east to take part in the first Gulf War...
...Simon was only 17.
The devastation and destruction left a big impression, and on his return he wondered why the Western World could mobilise its forces to fight for Kuwait, but not the likes of Bosnia or Rwanda.
Determined to make a difference, Simon goes Absent Without Leave and travels to the former Yugoslavia to join the Bosnian Croat Army. Fighting for people instead of oil...
...and finds the scars of war are not only physical.
1. Saturday, November 14th 1992; 10 AM
The house had been left for some time, it might even have once been a shop front as the window was huge, though no glass was left. It was grey and dusty inside and there were no obvious signs that the room had been used for anything in particular. In the middle of the grey floor in stark contrast to its surroundings was a large crimson puddle of liquid.
“Jesus! Look at all that blood!” I said, wondering if whoever owned it was still alive.
Joe had a good look at the pool of red liquid. I noticed now that it had footprints in and smeared marks where someone must have been dragged. There was even the sickly metallic smell of blood.
“That ain’t blood,” said Farmer Joe confidently.
“What?” I said, not quite understanding what he meant.
The pool had absorbed the dust on the floor and was a greyish-red around the edges; the centre of the puddle was a dark red, almost black.
“It ain’t blood, I’ve seen it before in ‘Nam. And that ain’t blood.”
It was a good couple of pints worth and I was no Doctor but I was sure it was blood. In the warmth of the room flies flew in zigzags above the pool of claret.
“What do you mean it’s not blood? Of course it’s blood,” I said, confused as to what else it could be.
“I’m tellin' ya, that ain’t blood!” Joe was adamant.
“We’re in the middle of a warzone, it’s a derelict house and there’s a fucking big red puddle on the floor, what the fuck else can it be?” I said wondering if Joe was just saying it to put me at ease and make me feel better.
“It’s paint. Blood don’t look like that.”
I didn’t believe this. I wasn’t sure I heard him properly.
“Yep, that’s paint all right; I know the difference between paint and blood, that’s paint.”
“Paint?” I repeated, “what’s someone doing out here with a pot of red paint?”
“Don’t know,” he said.
“Were they doing a spot of decorating before being ethnically
“Don’t know how or why, I’m just telling ya, it’s paint.” Joe looked convinced that it was paint, and his face was telling me that he didn’t like arguments, he was right and that was the end of it.
Here was a Vietnam veteran telling me that the big red pool of liquid on the floor of a derelict house in a front line village of war-torn Northern Bosnia was, in fact, paint. Joe was shaking his head.
“But you can see the boot prints in it, the drag marks…”
The deafening rumble of the armoured personnel carrier stopped any further talking, its tracks squeaking loudly on the paved road, I had been too carried away with my insane conversation with an equally bizarre friend to notice the vehicle was right next to us.
I turned and looked…