Wednesday, 9 November 2011

From the Royal Navy to the Scots Guards: Six Months Without Sundays by Max Benitz

Max Benitz as Midshipman Calamy
with Russell Crowe
Aged just seventeen, Max Benitz was filming the Hollywood blockbuster Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World with Russell Crowe. He left the sheltered environment of his school for what you could call a dangerous, whirlwind adventure. Away from home, with a cohort of experienced professional actors he, by his own admission, “did quite a lot of things for the first time”.

Fast forward eight years and Max embarked on a very different ‘adventure’ and a new set of ‘firsts’. As criticism of the British involvement in Afghanistan grew, and issues with equipment and supplies to troops came to light, Max ‘embedded’ with the Scots Guards – his father’s old regiment – in Helmand on operations to write a book about what the day-to-day realities are like for young guardsmen and women in a conflict most people in Britain don’t want or think is winnable.

“As a student of history I found the situation in Afghanistan fascinating but I had no clear conception of what was actually happening over there,” says Max. “There has been some excellent coverage of the conflict, but I wanted to experience it all at first hand and, being an arrogant stripling, I thought I’d then be able to explain it to a wider public who wanted to get a sense of the reality of today’s conflict.”

“Once I’d got to know the characters and customs that make up 1st Battalion the book became a testament to them and any thoughts of a ‘my personal voyage of discovery’ nonsense was dismissed. I owed them a good and lasting tribute to who they are today; perhaps who they’ve always been since the regiment was raised in 1642.”

Six Months Without Sunday: The Scots Guards in Afghanistan by Max Benitz is published on Friday, £16.99 hbk