I needed to see what it had been like for them. I did not want to glorify or to damn them. I had to appreciate their courage and their spirit; but I coud not ignore parts of their histories that were distressing or disquieting.
Our Boys brings to life the human experiences of the paratroopers who fought in the Falklands War, and examines the long aftermath of that conflict. It is a first in many ways – a social and cultural history of the Parachute Regiment, a group with an elite and aggressive reputation; a study of close-quarters combat on the Falklands Islands; and an exploration of the many legacies of this short and symbolic war.
Told unflinchingly through the experiences of the people who lived through it, Our Boys shows how the Falklands conflict began to change Britain’s relationship with its soldiers, and our attitudes to trauma and war itself. It is also the story of one particular soldier: the author’s uncle, who was killed during the conflict, and whose fate has haunted both the author an his fellow paratroopers ever since.
About the author
Helen Parr is a historian of contemporary Britain. She has always been drawn to stories that don’t quite fit in; and has always been interested in how Britain’s place in the world affects people’s lives. She grew up in Suffolk, County Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne; and studied history at Cambridge and Queen Mary College, University of London. She teaches at Keele University and lives near Stoke-on-Trent. Her essay, The Eurosceptics’ Moment, was co-winner of the inaugural Hennessy Essay Prize.
This is an extraordinary book. It is partly about the Falklands War itself and the terrible things that the Paras endured, and the terrible things that some of them did, but it is also about the white working class of the 1970s and why some men born into this class ended up marching across an island that most of them had never heard of. Thoughtful and sometimes heart-breaking, if I had to recommend one book about the British Army since the Second World War, and perhaps, for that matter, one book about British society in the 1980s, this would be it.
Richard Vinen, author of National Service and Thatcher's Britain
This beautifully written, intensely poignant book in which the life and death of Helen Parr's nineteen year old uncle Dave, killed on Wireless Ridge above Port Stanley on the very last day of the Falklands War, is set carefully in the context of Britain's twentieth century military, political and social history. It will leave a real mark on the minds of those who read it. She has done her uncle Dave more than proud.
Peter Hennessy, author of The Prime Minister; The Secret State; and Having it so Good: Britain in the Fifties
An outstanding account of soldiers, the Falklands and masculinity... there can be few better books about fighting men in all their bravery, terror and shame.
Ian Jack, The Guardian
I couldn't recommend Our Boys more highly
Rachel Seiffert, author of The Dark Room, Afterwards and A Boy in Winter
A highly original study of men in war... the courage and dark side of the Paras are vividly revealed
Anthony Loyd, The Times
I was moved
Sam Leith, The Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year
Parr has found a way to honour individual stories... [she] is a good storyteller and her accounts of the major battles make for harrowing reading
Lara Feigel, Prospect
Brilliant.... the best discussion of soldiers in combat, their motivation, behaviours and fears, that I have come across
Robert Fox, Evening Standard
Exposes the essential humanity of the soldiers she is writing about.... and paints a wholly convincing picture of the Parachute Regiment in 1982 and the impact of the war on its officers and soldiers... an excellent book, which I highly recommend
Adrian Weale, Literary Review
Beautifully written... Our Boys is likely to become a classic, not just of that war but of war in general and of the shifting relationship between civil and military society
Tony Gould, Oldie
News & Events
Our Boys won the Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History:
Exceptionally, the panel awarded two medals this year – one for Our Boys and one to John Hussey’s two volume history of the Battle of Waterloo:
Our Boys was the winner of the Longman-History Today book prize:
Helen spoke at the Chalke Valley History Festival: https://cvhf.org.uk/
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper has been longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing.
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper has been shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Book Prize:
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper won the Templer Medal Book Prize, awarded by the Society for Army Historical Research, at a reception at the National Army Museum
Helen interviewed by Sue Cahill on ‘Talking Books’, Newstalk:
Helen Parr talks about Our Boys, with Anthony King, author of Command: The Twentieth Century General, at Birmingham University
Realities of a Shared War: Helen Parr and Lt General Cedric Delves in conversation with Major General Arthur Denaro, at the National Army Museum: https://www.nam.ac.uk/whats-on/falklands-1982-realities-shared-war
Helen talks about Our Boys at Blackwell’s bookshop in Newcastle upon Tyne
Helen talks about the book at the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the Study of War, 6-7.30pm at the Great Hall, King’s College London. A podcast of Helen’s lecture can be found here:https://soundcloud.com/warstudies [scroll down on the page to find the lecture]
Helen Parr and Cedric Delves in conversation with Arthur Denaro at the Hay Festival https://www.hayfestival.com/p-14644-helen-parr-and-cedric-delves-in-conversation-with-arthur-denaro.aspx
Helen talks about ‘Remembering the Dead: bodies, cemeteries and mourning’ at the Westminster Theatre, Keele University
Helen talks with Dan Snow on Dan Snow’s History Hit
Helen talks about her book at Pewsey Military History Society.
Helen talks to Sam Leith at the Spectator Books podcast https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/09/books-podcast-life-and-death-in-the-falklands-and-what-happens-after/
Helen talks about her book on Radio 4’s Start the Week. Listen again at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bh423z
The Observer feature Our Boys: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/26/falklands-war-retold-helen-parr-our-boys