'Fortunes Of War' describes the mental anguish of a soldier returning from war the nightmares, the voices, and the terrible memories. It makes a good counterpart to 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers' which describes the anguish of a soldier who is about to go off to war. It can also be linked to 'The Aftermath', although it hasn't got the same historical specificity and is delving in the dark thoughts of any soldier returning from any conflict of the 20th Century onward.
Steve Harris describes accurately what goes through the minds of those who fought when they are returned to civilian life and face those who only saw the conflict from afar: "I can't help but feel that I'm on my own, no one can see just what this conflict has done to the minds of the men who are on their way home." The feelings of misunderstanding and loneliness are heightened by contact with people who, as hard as they may try, simply cannot understand what an ordeal like combat can do to someone, and it is only natural that those who fought often seek their former comrades-in-arms in order to once again be surrounded by those who lived through the same hell and who understand. Those are mentally "scarred for life" and all too often have to face the aftermath alone, "the vivid scenes and all the recurring nightmares."
Those who have never been confronted to a combat situation dish out the usual banalities that "time's a perfect healer, that the nightmares they will come to pass" but they never really do. Most veterans end up "living in [their] own world" and often question their sanity ("Could I really be going crazy?"). Strength of character and sometimes professional help can provide the former combattants with the appearance of a "normal" life and put aside those mental scars, a necessary requisite to "carry on."
Like 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers', it starts out softly with some acoustic guitar and low singing, but then breaks into a slow and heavy rhythm that is vaguely reminiscent of Black Sabbath. There has been a bit of criticism about this song that suggested it was too "generic", but this is absolutely not the case. There is nothing remotely resembling "generic", here, and this piece is an incredibly powerful song that is full of dark emotion. It is among the best tracks of the album.