Paperback, 16 cm x 22 cm
Publication date: 31 July 2015
The publication of this title coincides with the 25th anniversary of Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990.
After an early childhood spent in the High Range, a remote and beautiful district in the Western Ghats in South India, Bruce Duncan’s initial ambition was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a tea planter. However, with this plan thwarted, he then joined the British Army and was commissioned into the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment.
Born with a taste for adventure and travel and with a natural curiosity, Duncan was drawn to explore the challenges and opportunities offered by overseas loan service secondments. So, as a 23-year old lieutenant, he found himself on his way to Brunei in 1964 to join the Brunei Malay Regiment at a time when Indonesia was engaged in a campaign to destabilise the country.
As a young acting captain, Duncan was given temporary command of B Company, the first Bruneian troops to deploy on active service, before being appointed as aide de camp to the Sultan of Brunei. During his tour of duty, he learnt the craft of jungle survival, visited the fascinating longhouses on the Temburong River, went on a wild boar hunt and, during a visit to Britain, negotiated the purchase of a new Daimler state limousine and a second-hand London taxi for the Sultan to take back to Brunei.
What then followed was an extraordinary career encompassing secondments to Sudan, Nigeria, Oman, and Kuwait, and a final assignment as Defence Attaché in Jordan.
In the decades between the end of World War II and the close of the twentieth century, Britain’s position on the world stage was dramatically reassessed and recalibrated. Its once mighty colonial presence was diminished and its military
reach and influence across the globe was also on the wane.
Bruce Duncan found himself at the heart of this period of transition, often as part of a small advisory team designed to assist countries in the development of their own armed forces.
Accompanied by his wife and young family, life during these postings could be difficult and sometimes dangerous. Food, fuel and domestic comforts were often in short supply, but the Duncan family’s inexhaustible resourcefulness, humour and spirit of adventure invariably turned setbacks into positive experiences.
Away from the demands of his military duties, Duncan took every opportunity to explore the landscape and meet the people of each country he visited. He is fascinated by the austere beauty and uncompromising harshness of the desert; he feasts with Bedouins. He sleeps under the stars near the pyramids of Meroe in Sudan. He is caught up in the excitement of a camel race in Oman. He soars above Wadi Rum in a hot air balloon in Jordan. He also spends an unforgettable Christmas with his family at the beautiful hill station of Kodaikanal in India where he first went to school.
In 1988, however, life for Duncan and his family took a very different turn. Arriving in Kuwait just after the end of the Iran/Iraq war, tensions were high and storm clouds were building on the political horizon. After international negotiations with Saddam Hussein broke down, Duncan’s dramatic and harrowing account of the events that followed bring sharply into focus the full horrors of the unanticipated and brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990.
Against a background of gun fire and armed conflict and with often only sporadic contact with the British Embassy, Duncan and his family were increasingly isolated. Hiding in their house, they avoided detection by Iraqi patrols by living in the dark, making as little noise as possible, communicating only in whispers – and supported by two brave Kuwaiti civilians.
Duncan’s wife and daughters were eventually allowed to leave Kuwait, while he and his sons remained in hiding. Later, former UK Prime Minister Edward Heath secured the release of Duncan’s two sons but the Iraqis mishandled their transfer, with tragic personal consequences.
This is a multi-faceted narrative – a beautifully written travel book, a first-hand account of recent military history, a unique documentary witness of one of the key momentous political and military events of the late twentieth century, and, at its centre, the story of a remarkable family’s appetite for adventure and bravery in the face of overwhelming
“Duncan gives a gripping, harrowing account of the weeks he and his family were forced to spend in hiding in Kuwait, following Iraq’s invasion in August 1990. He covers both his professional duties of team leadership and his natural concerns for his family’s safety under ever increasing difficulty. These often irreconcilable responsibilities and the tragic death of their eldest son
Alex on his way to release are most vividly and movingly described. While such traumatic events brought lasting pain and sorrow to Duncan and all his family, they show great fortitude and an admirably firm belief in their future.”
– The Lord Craig of Radley (Chief of the Defence Staff at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War)
“This book summarises the adventures of a British Army family who served in eight different countries outside the United Kingdom. Bruce Duncan helped to advise and train foreign armies in six nations covering the British withdrawal from its military commitments to the Commonwealth to the days when he and his family were overrun during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It is a story of courage, adventure and then tragedy when they lost their 19-year old son during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. A unique career and a must read.”
– Gen Sir Peter de la Billière (Commander in Chief of British Forces during the 1990 Gulf War)
“A powerful, heart-rending story of courage, family, determination, tragedy and the inspiring power of the human spirit to overcome the worst adversity.”
– Piers Morgan
About the Author
Commissioned into 3RTR in July 1961, he joined the Regiment in Germany just days before the erection of the Berlin Wall. A year later, 3RTR was posted back to Catterick Camp, Yorkshire in the role of RAC Training Regiment, where he was assigned to prepare potential officers for selection to RMA Sandhurst and Mons Officer Cadet School (OCS).
In 1964 he volunteered for a loan service secondment to the Brunei Malay Regiment in Borneo during the low intensity operation against Indonesia known as Confrontation. He rejoined 3RTR in 1967 and for the next few years pursued a typical career at regimental duty.
He attended Staff College in 1972 and filled staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence
(MoD) and HQ British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), where he was appointed MBE. In 1980, whilst a Company Commander at RMA Sandhurst, he was invited to volunteer for a two year posting to Sudan, after which he ran the Army Personnel Selection Centre (APSC) at Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands for three years.
Invited again to fill a loan service appointment at the Command and Staff College in Nigeria, he went on to fill further loan service secondments in Oman and Kuwait, where he and his family were trapped and eventually taken hostage during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of the Emirate in 1990.
He returned to the Middle East as the British Defence Attaché, Jordan, for his final Army posting.