Looking For Trouble
by Sir Peter de La Billiere
Published by Harper Collins 1995
General Sir Peter De La Billière ranks amongst the greatest of post-World War Two British military commanders. He served in every conflict from Korea to the first Gulf War and ended that career as a full General with two Knighthoods (Knight Commander of the Bath and Knight Commander of the British Empire - the latter of which superseded the CBE awarded previously) a DSO, two MCs and a Legion of Merit. He was in charge of the British special forces who so successfully stormed the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980 bringing swiftly to an end that very public siege. In 1990 he was the British Forces commander under General Norman Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War. It is interesting to note that he failed Staff College (a pre-requisite qualification for higher military office.) at his first attempt.
In this book, which has caused something of another storm - if only because the SAS do not like people writing about their activities (especially former members of the Regiment), the General tells it exactly as it was. As another reviewer said "it should be essential reading for anyone seeking to lead people" - and not just military personnel.
Leadership and responsibility are, by their very nature stressful activities - especially for those who care. Whilst not wishing to belittle - in any way whatsoever!, the stress associated with civilian occupations, stress under fire is probably the greatest stress of all. As General Norman Schwarzkopf said when being interviewed on television; "It doesn't take a hero to order men to their deaths!" It was that single statement which revealed "his" own caring nature.
Of course, there was a time when British (and other) generals did order men to their deaths in their hundreds of thousands. Today, that particular carnage is remembered as the trench warfare of the First World War. From this book, we are able to learn and understand the intricacies, professionalism and technical detail of how the SAS approach specific problems, how they deal with matters - even those which do not require soldiers operating in covert situations, and, in so doing, we learn how being a general has evolved since those unforgivable times of 90 years ago.
Having once been attached to the SAS, I can certainly say that no state secrets are betrayed here. Instead we have an understanding of how and why certain people, with a certain background, adopt a very different approach to certain problems. It's all in the training, it's all a matter of understanding the principles involved and when those leaders of people from non-military occupations read this book, they too will begin to understand the very concept of leadership itself.
I thoroughly recommend this book. It is written by a great man who will always prefer the background to the spotlight for that is his nature.
Retired British Army Major
This review is by Piotr Azia
The commander of the British force in the Gulf War 1990, Peter de la Billière, starts from his childhood, to finish with his retirement from the army after the Gulf War. Reading about his difficult childhood and his later career in the SAS, one cannot fail to notice the parallel with the author of Bravo Two Zero, Andy McNab: turbulence and misbehavior in the civilian life, make for excellent SAS troops. What is unacceptable behavior on civy street, is very desirable, tough and resourceful behavior in the special forces. Among the proliferation of books about the SAS, this is the definitive account on this special force - de la Billière was its commander and then director, he should know a thing or two about it, although he still cannot write it all. A must for the modern history and military buff, with a lesson or two about management thrown in for good measure.