More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 17

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited 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.

THREE weeks later, I was doing my ‘couch potato thing’ back home in Scotland.

As I flicked idly from channel to channel, I caught the News at Ten on ITV and some immortal words to the effect that there now followed an exclusive report from the Croatian town of Pakrac.

“Besieged for two months, an ITN crew was the first to reach Pakrac as it was relieved by Croatian National Guard…”

Now, I could have sworn that those were some of the same guys we passed going in the opposite direction.

Croatia, and specifically the town of Pakrac, provided my introduction to the shooting war.

Slovenia had really only been a warm-up. Six months after the conflict in Yugoslavia started, I would find myself in Slavonia, on the eastern front, and then in Karlovac for Christmas. It was my first ‘festive season’ at war, in Croatia on the border with the breakaway Serb region of Krajina, which first brought home the savage realities of conflict.

Christmas in a war zone is always particularly poignant and I had never before experienced the unique sensation of observing life and death at close-quarters at the time of Christian celebration.