The generation of young men and women who joined the British Army during the mid to late 1980s would serve their country during an unprecedented period of history. Unlike the two world war generations, they would never face total war – there was never any declaration of war and there was no one single country to defeat. In fact, it was supposed to have been the end of war, a time of peace and stability. Politicians started to use the term, Peace Dividend, with government officials even planning on how and where it should be spent.
But for those in the military, the two decades following the end of the Cold War would not be a time of peace. Government spending and the size of the military was reduced but the Army’s commitments increased exponentially. Those serving not only faced continuous deployment in overseas operations, they would also be involved in immense upheavals that took place within the army. When the Berlin Wall came down, the British Army had not changed for decades.
The ending of the Cold War, combined with a technological revolution, a changing society at home, and new global threats mean that the Army of the second decade of the twentieth-first century – the army this generation of soldiers is now retiring from – is unrecognizable from the one they joined in the late 1980s. This is the story of the soldiers who served in the British Army in those tumultuous decades.