A Remarkable Memoir, Robert Fisk in the Independent

Robert Fisk

Sunday 1 September 2013

Band of Brothers

There’s a remarkable memoir just out of an Englishman teaching in Pakistan. Robin Brooke-Smith was principal of Edwardes College outside Peshawar and his story – his book is called ‘Storm Warning: Riding the Crosswinds in the Pakistan-Afghan Borderlands’ — is the almost unbelievable one of running a college amid Taliban country. Yes, he had threats and warnings and all kinds of vicious backbiting within the academic community but he maintained college standards and on the school’s hundredth anniversary – it was founded by Sir Herbert Edwardes of Shropshire – he even managed to get the band of the Irish Guards to play in college in full dress uniform.

My favourite moment came when Brooke-Smith received a phone call from the British defence attaché in Islamabad, telling him that there had been specific warnings that the school might be attacked (by the ubiquitous ‘terrorists’, of course). Did this mean that the band was not coming, Brooke-Smith asked? I loved the following reply from the defence attaché:

“No, absolutely not, they are still coming. The band is an active military unit of the British army. They have just finished a tour of duty in Bosnia. Their band playing is a sideline. The bandsmen are all professional serving soldiers.” And the Irish Guards went to Peshawar and played their marches in bandit country and that was in April of the year 2000.

And now, it sure makes Cameron look a puny man.

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