The Fight of Faith – lives & testimonies from the battlefield SASRA
Compiled and edited by Michael Clayton and Philip Bray
Panoplia Publishing, 208 pages, £7.00, ISBN: 978-0-9576089-0-0
Star Rating : 4
Composed of 15 separate testimonies and biographical sketches, this anthology focusing on Christian servicemen is an enjoyable read. The diversity of soldiers portrayed is impressive and a great reminder of how the Lord saves people irrespective of where, when and how they lived.
A broad range of accounts are included, from the continental exploits of seventeenth-century Scot, Lieutenant Colonel John Blackadder, to more modern-day testimonies, such as that of US Army Ranger Major Jeff Struecker and his dramatic involvement in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
Complementing the overall diversity of the anthology is the common thread of Christian belief which links every account. However, the degree to which each chapter explores its subject’s conversion varies, with some going into more depth.
One chapter, written in the expressive style of Faith Cook, movingly describes eighteenth-century Colonel James Gardiner’s journey from dissolute womaniser to prayerful believer.
Another sketch, focusing more on spiritual awakening than military exploits, concerns Colonel Robbie Hall QGM, a diver and bomb disposal officer. Nonetheless, his story includes a heart-stopping encounter with an unexploded WWII bomb, an event that played a key role in his conversion.
Also included are accounts of Christians who focused heavily on evangelism in the armed forces. The history of Vice Admiral Sir James ‘Doc’ Watt was encouraging to read in a chapter which charted his pioneering work in the field of naval medicine, as well as his passion for the spread of the gospel amongst seamen, founding as he did the Naval Christian Fellowship in the 1950s.
A chapter on D. L. Moody is also included, detailing his evangelistic work amongst POWs and the sick and wounded during the American Civil War. His poignant recollection of sharing the promises of the third chapter of John’s Gospel with a dying Union Army soldier is one of the book’s centrepieces.
Generally the book is descriptive, historical and biographical, although on several occasions the prose takes a more reflective and theological turn.
Thought-provoking questions of having to choose between an army career and evangelism, of God ‘taking sides’ in war, and of the tendency of armed conflict to narrow men’s focus on eternal matters crop up in the various testimonies included in the anthology.
The book itself is well made and includes over 40 black and white photographs, as well as diagrams, to help the reader picture certain situations described.
Another great strength is its readability, achieved through its anecdotal style, avoidance of gore and military jargon, and the brevity of each chapter. The accounts are brief and stand-alone, making the book easy to dip into, if the reader has a spare 10 minutes to fill.
The only potential improvement might be inclusion of testimonies from airmen or servicewomen. Additional accounts would also have been appreciated — even at 200 pages the book was soon finished! Nonetheless, as a Christian and former soldier, I found reading about my forebears thoroughly encouraging and informative.