Monday 24 May, 2010
Andy McNab was given unprecedented access to British Army welfare services as he gets to grips with some tough issues in his latest novel ‘War Torn’.
The story follows a platoon in Afghanistan who suffer both physical and mental injuries. And former soldier McNab, author of ‘Bravo Two Zero’, got some genuine understanding of the lives of the families left behind.
While counselling is available for any traumatised servicemen and women, McNab, a former SAS man himself, admits problems could arise because of the stigma about asking for psychological help.
“In the Army you’ve got this young macho environment,” he says. “ They don’t want to be seen as ‘jellyheads’.
But junior and senior NCOs are now trained to identify if there’s a problem and try and work it out at the early stages.
But believe me, you haven’t got loads of lads sitting traumatised in these forward operating bases, far from it.” [Post continues below 'War Torn' Special Offer]
He continues: “What we forget is that there’s a population of men and women in this country who like to fight. There’s a ten-month waiting list to get into the Army.
“If problems arise, it’s later on. Between 11-13 per cent of people who come out of the services have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in some form.”
McNab is now 50 and although he has been out of the army for 17 years the author is still shrouded in mystery. He has become famous for being anonymous, his picture always cast in shadow, his real name never revealed. Some wonder if all the secrecy is hype or necessity. He insists that after taking part in intelligence-gathering missions in Northern Ireland years ago, he and others could be in danger should his identity be revealed. He also served in Gibraltar, Germany and the Middle East.
But he admits that his new life as an author can be frustrating.
McNab was at one stage a technical adviser in Hollywood on movies such as ‘Heat’, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. And his play about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ‘Last Night, Another Soldier’, is due to be staged by the Old Vic this year.
He explains: “I got into a world of ‘luvvies’ but I found some things frustrating. If someone booked an appointment for 9am, I’d be there. They’d say, ‘we’ve changed it’. That really used to annoy me.”