Andy McNab on the battle that never ends

Combat Stress is one of the charities you can support in this year’s Telegraph appeal. Here, Andy McNab, who has seen brave friends devastated by the aftermath of war, explains why it is such a vital cause.

With thousands of members of the Armed Forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is rising dramatically.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. The ancient Greeks recorded similar symptoms in their soldiers after they returned from battle. They understood that their veterans would require support. But somehow the Greeks’ lessons were lost on us.

During the First World War, a PTSD sufferer would have been placed against a wall and shot because it was believed that this condition was brought on by weakness of character. During the Second World War, the sufferer was instead sent down the coal mines and made to wear a LMF (lack of moral fibre) armband.

Even today, PTSD suffers are stigmatised. This has to stop. Any service personnel hit by the disorder are casualties of war, just as much as soldiers hit by an enemy bullet. More service personnel who fought in the 1982 Falklands War have gone on to commit suicide than the 255 killed in action.

I served in the British Army for 18 years: eight as an infantry solider, and 10 in the SAS. I have been captured and tortured as a prisoner of war in Iraq. I have been placed against a wall for a mock execution. I have stood beside friends as they have been shot or blown up in the mud, and I have killed men in many different ways, to prevent the enemy from killing me first. I don’t think I suffer from PTSD, but I am very aware that I probably just got lucky.

I’m a patron of Help for Heroes. We do a lot to help the physical wellbeing of injured soldiers, and we also work alongside the charity Combat Stress. But we need a lot more help if we are even going to begin to treat this condition properly. Combat Stress says it takes an average of 14 years before someone approaches its charity for help. And they usually do that only when their lives have already fallen apart.

I know this from experience. Two of my closest friends have committed suicide as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more have suffered terribly for years. My SAS troop, 7 Troop, was never more than 12-strong, so we knew each other very well. Frank Collins and Nish Bruce were a bit older than me and they became my heroes. I operated with both of these men in South East Asia, as well as under cover in Northern Ireland. Frank eventually left the SAS, got ordained into the Anglican Church and became an Army Padre.

Nish was decorated for his bravery and ranked as one of the top 10 free-fallers in the world. Both were tough, brave and thoughtful men. To see my two friends, and others like them, decline in body and spirit until they can’t bear to live any more, leaves me scared, frustrated and angry.

After my experience of being a POW in Baghdad in the first Gulf war, I was automatically sent for counselling. It was conducted by Dr Gordon Turnbull, then an RAF psychiatrist, and now one of the world’s leading experts on PTSD. He explains it very simply: a normal reaction to an abnormal experience.

Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, high anxiety, severe mood swings, hyper-alertness, violent and aggressive outbursts, lack of concentration, sexual dysfunction and depression, and an inability to readjust to ordinary life. It often leads to drinking, divorce, violence, unemployment, crime, prison, suicide and even murder.

Another member of my troop, Tommy Shanks, became a doctor after he left the SAS. One day he pulled an assault rifle from the boot of his car after an argument with his ex-girlfriend and gunned her down outside a pub. He is serving life in prison. Three guys who served with Shanks in the Gulf have committed suicide. Two were military doctors. Seeing young men carried into their wards scarred and with limbs missing must have taken its toll.

All sufferers of PTSD need treatment. But like the combat that is responsible for the disorder, fixing a broken mind is not a precise science. Part of the problem is that soldiers often don’t want to ask for help. Apart from anything else, they don’t want those close to them to think they are weak.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not about being weak. I have been to both Iraq and Afghanistan with our troops, and today’s 19-year-old infantry solders are as hard as any generation before them.

Since late onset of PTSD can occur up to 13 years after a traumatic event, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. About 130,000 UK armed service personnel have now rotated through Iraq and Bosnia. So far, more than 2,000 Iraq veterans have already been diagnosed with PTSD.

Charities are at the forefront of care for our veterans. But what about the NHS? The state has made them responsible for veterans’ mental welfare.

I feel the NHS could do so much more but stands back, perhaps in the hope that the underfunded but committed charities will do it for them. There is a mental health crisis facing those who have served our country. We need to act now, before we discover in another decade that more soldiers have killed themselves since returning from Iraq and Afghanistan than were killed there in action. Our veterans deserve our help, our understanding and a whole lot of respect. And what’s more, they need it now.

Source: The Telegraph


We recently received some books scans – thank you – one by Alan Bennett and the other by Stephen Leather. In those books Andy is mentioned, a funny read too! Anyone else coming up with a book, we’ll be most grateful!

Books Bennet and Leather 


Andy McNab, the SAS veteran and author of Bravo Two Zero, will next month publish his fourteenth book, Brute Force. His first book, Bravo Two Zero was an account of the now famous eight man special forces patrol McNab commanded during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.


This is like a military website where troops upload their own film that has normally been taken by a helmet cam or mobile phone. There’s not just ‘bang bang’ but also some very funny clips from guys sitting in the middle of the desert and bored.


Frontline is a media club that uniquely combines eating, drinking and thinking. The Frontline Club after the Frontline Television News agency closed down. Frontline TV was created during the chaos and confusion of the Romanian revolution. The Club was set up by the surviving (many were killed while filming in on war zones) members of the original team of maverick cameramen. The site does a great job of ensuring that stories that fade from headlines are kept in sharp focus.


This is my day dreaming site. I can spend hours checking out all the luxury yachts for sale around the world. Today I noticed that there is one of my favourite (this week anyway) yacht’s for sale in the South of France. A Sunseeker 82 and a snip at £1.8 million. I hope that includes a full tank of diesel.


I’m a patron of this charity that is helping to care for the wounded in Britain’s current conflicts. What is H4H all about? It’s about the blokes, our men and women. It’s about a soldier who has lost both his legs, it’s about a young guy whose jaw is wired up so he has been drinking through a straw. It’s about a young guy who was handed a mobile phone as he lay on the stretcher so he could say goodbye to his wife.


The reason I spend far too much time looking at boats (that I’ll never buy) is because I have an apartment on the Italian coast and the harbour is full of Russian gin places. I have got to know a couple of the owners these past few years and they try to trip me up with Russian emails. But with reverso.net I can instantly translate them and send my reply’s in Russian and that really annoys them.

Source Telegraph.co.uk

Well… I can only add that there is a very significant link missing there 😉


Having become a bit jaded after reading McNab’s entire output, I expected little from Brute Force.  I reckoned it would be more of the same and less of the good stuff.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Brute Force is right up there with Remote Control and Firewall, a return to what I’ve considered McNab’s strong point–using “normal” characters (as opposed to SAS commandos) to bring us into the action from our point of view while also showing Nick Stone’s concern for the people around him.

The novel has everything that makes us love McNab — the humour, the fast pace, and the exotic locations painted so clearly the book could serve as a travel guide. It also provides something that I for one have been missing with his last few — realistic details of tactical and operational methods. If you’ve been wondering how to craft a nice shaped-charge to blow a hole in a boat’s hull, Brute Force is for you.

The only criticism I have is minor. At one point in the book, McNab points out that the truck he’s driving is an automatic, allowing him to ram through a checkpoint if necessary without taking his hands off the wheel. A mere three or four pages later, the same vehicle becomes a standard shift, and he’s working the clutch like a madman. It reminds me of Dark Winter, where Sundance or Trainers (can’t remember which one) wields a revolver with a suppressor attached. You would think Mr. “Attention to detail, check and re-check,” having spent his life around weapons, would realize that attaching a suppressor to a revolver wouldn’t accomplish much (the gasses escape through the cylinder), just as you’d think a motor enthusiast would mind the difference between a standard and an automatic transmission. But that’s where I think the editors come in.

I don’t think he has a “ghost writer” in the traditional sense, but I think these two examples alone show other hands at work. And really, Andy doesn’t need them.

His own voice comes through so clearly in Brute Force and his other greats, it makes me wish he will one day send his editors the way of the Yes Man.


PS: Brute Force is in the Sunday Times Bestseller list this week at number 6


Nov 11 2008 by Katie Norman, South Wales Echo

AUTHOR and former SAS soldier Andy McNab has been inspiring teenage military hopefuls.

The Bravo Two Zero author said he was reminded of his own youth when he visited Cardiff’s Military Preparation College yesterday.

The author of the biggest selling war book of all time gave an hour-long talk as well as answering questions from young people and signing copies of his books at the college, off Dumballs Road, in Butetown.

McNab praised the college, for helping young people who struggle in school to get an education and training.

Student Kevin Watkins, 17, from Caerphilly, said he was more motivated to work hard after hearing the former soldier speak.

He said: “I found it really interesting when he was talking about selection for the SAS. I’ve always wanted to join the SAS but I want to do it even more now.”

The teenagers were enthralled and amazed by McNab’s tales of being captured and interrogated in Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. He told of how he withstood beatings and burns during his six weeks in captivity.

Donna Dawson, 16, from Bridgend said: “It’s amazing to think that he’s been through all that and he’s still an everyday person.”

The author told youngsters how he learned to read and write through the Army after joining up at the age of 16 as an alternative to staying in a juvenile detention centre. He encouraged the students to use the college and the military to learn as many new skills as they can.

He said: “These lads and girls might not all decide to join the Army, and that’s fine, it’s not for everyone.

“But if they do join, they know what they’re getting into and they’re able to make their own decisions on that.

“The ones that do join all want to join Welsh regiments and there’s every reason to think they can do really well. They all want to succeed and it’s all about getting the best out of them.”

McNab’s visit certainly inspired the teenagers to read and after his talk many of them queued to buy his book.

Rhys Johanson, 16, from Llanrumney, Cardiff, was among those waiting in line.

He said: “It’s been really good listening to him talk and it was really interesting hearing about when he was captured.”

Source: WalesOnline


Friday, November 07, 2008

Britain has some of the best military kit and equipment in the world a leading defence author and highly decorated SAS soldier has told an audience in Birmingham.

Speaking at book signing at a Waterstones in Birmingham, Andy McNab, a former member of the SAS heaped praise on the MoD for the job it was doing and the support it was giving to troops in the field.

He waved off suggestions that kit was inefficient or outdated, calling it among the best in the world. McNabb noted that the US Army is buying kit from Britain due to its high rate of performance and protection.

Using the example of the new Osprey body armour, McNab told the audience that he saw a soldier hit by a 50 calibre round and survive with the only injuries being broken ribs.

In a discussion that was far ranging and touched on a number of subjects, McNab was generally positive towards his former employer. He expressed confidence in the new Defence Secretary John Hutton, calling him ” a good lad” and said that the press office and PR teams within the MoD were “very good.”

His best praise however was for the medical treatment in Afghanistan. Responding to a question from the audience about treatments, he said that Camp Bastion was now one of the leading trauma centres in the world. When servicemen are wounded in the field an immediate response team is deployed to scene in a Chinook helicopter. On the flight back to Camp Bastion, the team begins performing the necessary surgeries to save the person’s life. Starting the surgeries and treatment regimes earlier has saved many lives and prevented more extensive injuries from developing according to McNab. Trauma specialists from around the world are studying Camp Bastion’s example.

Source: Defence Management

Kind of remarkable with the SAS chief quitting because of poor kit being all over the news in the last week. Perhaps we’ll get to learn the truth sometime. But likely not.