Author: Aileen Phillips
Photography: Images supplied by Harry Moffitt
Anthony Moffitt, or Harry as he’s known, wears many hats – he is a Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment veteran, a registered psychologist, a human performance consultant, a father, husband, cricket tragic and now an author.
His first book, Eleven Bats, hit the shelves late last year and provides a fascinating and captivating insight into the often-untold world of an SAS soldier.
As the title suggests, Eleven Bats is the story inspired by Harry’s infamous 11 cricket bats he accrued on his 11 active service deployments, including one deployment in 2008 in which he was wounded in action.
"“I always had a sense that the bats probably had a bigger place than my garage…”"
With his psychology background at play, Harry has a great appreciation for the benefits that reflection, journaling and reviewing his life and life experiences has in helping to process, as he describes, “what was, at times, a pretty extreme career.”
In 2015, Harry was compelled to travel to England to write, with the aim of capturing his thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The time seemed right. He’d been home from his final deployment for a couple of years and he’d finished a lot of the house he was building. But still, he had his wife Danielle and two children to consider. “I think Danielle was jealous….” he said laughing.
“Whilst it was probably a little unreasonable and she wasn’t too happy about me spending the time…but I think she got it and it was a negotiated outcome. I wanted a bit longer; she wanted a bit less. I think in the scheme of things she got what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do.”
But how did an inexperienced writer know what to do? His answer caught me by surprise. “I Googled it!” he said. And then more seriously he added that he researched and then channelled many of the great writers that influenced him throughout his life. “A few things kind of shone though, the main thing was that you need to have the discipline to write and then have targets, like word counts, to hit.”
And so, from a room above a pub in a village called Wargrave, Eleven Bats was born. “I just got up and wrote every morning and penned the best part of 200-thousand words over three months.”
Much like his time on operational duties, which saw many hours as he describes “sitting around in craggy rock for hours on end, which is punctuated by brief moments of excitement, fear or emotion,” Harry successfully blends comedy with tragedy throughout his book. “The reality is 99 per cent of soldiering is just boring, mundane, sitting around trying to keep sane. That’s where the black humour kind of comes from I suppose in those contexts.”
Two photographs in muted tones dress the book’s front cover and of course, have been chosen for their own interesting back stories. One image is of Harry staring off into the distance. “I think that was maybe my second last trip away. That was at the end of a pretty long day. In fact, I think it was two days we hadn’t slept. It was late afternoon and there was a lot going on. We’d been fighting and I’ve got almost like a vacant stare, I remember how I felt. Completely shagged.”
The image below it shows a cricket match underway. “I almost think it’s the iconic photo of Australia’s service over the last 20 years. It was taken by Sean McCarthy hours before he was killed, of us playing cricket. We were in an ambush and a contact only hours later when Sean was killed. The photo, for me, just highlights this fine, wafer thin veneer between tragedy and humour.”
While the book has received rave reviews from the likes of fellow author and journalist, Peter Fitzsimons and sports commentator Jim Maxwell, Eleven Bats hasn’t come without controversy. As many know, the world of SAS veterans is shrouded by confidentiality and privacy – something Harry has started to lift the lid on. “The Australian Army has banned it from review in the Australian Army newspaper, which is a pity.” The timing of the book launch also coincided with the much-talked about Brereton Report. “It was the worst ever timing, but I’ve reframed it in my mind that it’s now hopefully a good news story amongst some pretty grave matters.”
With his own love of reading, his knack for storytelling, which he credits to his father, and a life story worth telling, Eleven Bats is an extraordinary memoir that may only be the start of Harry’s writing career.