More Thrills than Skills – A Half-life in Journalism, Part 16

Over the next few weeks, allmediascotland.com is to publish, each weekday, extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More Thrills than Skills: A Half-life in Journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

There were few defensive positions remaining for the Croat defenders. We went to one in a modern flat block on the outskirts of the town. Surrounding blocks were, unpromisingly, shattered by what appeared to be aerial attack. We ran from the car into the block where several flats were still occupied.

Not by the normal quota of domestic residents but, almost exclusively, by what appeared to be a mixture of soldiers in a hotch-potch of imaginatively-created uniforms, and civilian enthusiasts, all bearing an extraordinary range of weaponry.

I was shown the technique of moving about the rooms and stairs: close to walls, at the backs of rooms and at the double past windows and through open areas. There was a distinct air of unreality. Like we were preparing for a movie shoot rather than a shoot-out.

We sat down in a curtained room for the usual beer with brandy chaser. A body lay behind the sofa a few yards from where we drank. It was very still. I wasn’t sure whether it was dead or dead drunk and didn’t feel inclined to find out.

The talk was all of when the EEC or the UN would come in to relieve the siege. I found it impossible to disillusion these embattled and dedicated men trying desperately to defend their homes. I was embarrassed by their touching faith in the toothless lion of the EEC. Flavia Kingscote felt the same way in 1941 when she wrote from personal experience about the German attack on Yugoslavia: “I cannot convey in adequate words the faith, the expectations of those people. I pray they may never be disillusioned and that may see the day when we justify their confidence in us by actions equally worthy of their trust.”