2017
06.11

With Andy McNab on his ‘Line Of Duty’ tour we were fortunate Jan Radovic was (extremely) willing to act as Grey Man’s Land on-the-scene reporter. If you’ve never been so fortunate to attent one of Andy’s meetings here’s her report of what you’re missing out on! Betting you’ll be as envious as we are!!
Jan also got Andy to answer a few prying questions – we’ll post that soon too so keep watching this space 🙂
Thanks so much Jan, it’s a great read 😀

AN EVENING WITH ANDY MCNAB CBE, MM, DCM – Part 1
October 2017 by Jan Radovic

What’s it like to spend a night with SAS legend Andy McNab? You’d have to ask his nearest and dearest that one, but an evening spent listening to this man of action’s life of blood, guts, mayhem and war is thrilling stuff…

The variety of audience members is something I have found intriguing over the years; back in the day 50 or so people would gather in an upstairs room at an upmarket book store with a good mix of male/female and youngsters, and all for the princely sum of a fiver. These days the venue is more likely to be a conference room at a motorway-friendly hotel or, as last night, in the auditorium of a school. Attendance numbers are up noticeably, as is the cost: £20 for entry which also included a hard copy of the latest book and, of course, a talk and Q & A session, following by the book signing. Last year the event I attended had over 300 bodies, almost all men with the majority being squaddies or ex military. The testosterone level was so thick it was almost oppressive. Last night’s event was a far more genteel affair – well, the Woodhouse Grove School is a fee-paying public school so one would expect a somewhat different audience – and the split between male/female/6th form students was fairly equal. I asked Andy why he thought this occurred and he informed me that it’s all down to who arranges the bookings and where. What hasn’t changed one iota, though, is Andy’s obvious commitment to reading, and enthusing others with his mantra that knowledge is power.

After a brief welcome and introduction from one of the school’s pupils, who was framed by an array of camo-draped backdrops displaying a rather long finned rocket and flanked by what I think was a GPMG (or Gimpy) and a couple of bergens (the large rucksacks favoured by the military) the stage was set: enter Mr McNab to rousing claps of applause.

To anyone attending these events regularly they are somewhat formulaic in that Andy usually gives a brief description of his childhood and the antics which led to his incarceration at Borstal (think of the film ‘Scum’ and you’ll have an idea) but went with an option to join the military instead. If you want chapter and verse on this period read his autobiographical book ‘Immediate Action’.

From his early years Andy moved on to talk about THE defining moment, although he didn’t fully appreciate that at the time. The regimental Sgt Major informed the newly signed up boy soldiers that their average reading age was 11, but that was all about to change. Contrary to what these lads thought, they weren’t thick, they were merely uneducated. That night Andy read his first book – a Janet and John book. Aside from learning never to climb trees with either as they always seemed to fall out, he discovered that every time he read something new, he learned something new. And, as the man said, knowledge is power to do the things you only dreamed of previously.

The Bravo Two Zero job was the next topic up and it’s clear that Andy feels great pride that this is still the top selling military book of all time, and that following its publication recruitment figures for the military shot up. As the majority of this part of the talk was all known to me, I took the opportunity to study some of the audience surrounding me which included a mix of mainly men, but also a handful of women, and youngsters. The chaps were all leaning forward in their seats and it was obvious they were dying to ask questions, while I noticed half a dozen women wincing at the matter of fact bluntness of talk of ‘taking out the enemy’, describing a colleague who didn’t make it as a ‘sad bastard who was too old and too fat’ to catch a goat herding lad. The youngsters in the audience didn’t seem a bit phased by all the talk of war, dead bodies, or torture. This apparent cold bloodedness is common in those who put their lives on the line. People like soldiers, firefighters, and police officers I have spoken with say it’s a defence mechanism to protect their sanity; whatever works.

When Andy touched on the ‘tactical questioning’ AKA torture, which he and others underwent during their incarceration he was very philosophical about it all: they – the Iraqis – wanted information and questioning prisoners under duress was one of the quickest ways to get it. One of the audience members asked Andy if he would still slot the Iraqis who carried out the worst of the torture and his response was typical: ‘Yeah, yeah. If I could get away with it.’ C’est la guerre.

We heard a few tales of his time in Northern Ireland (the primary reason he still refuses to be openly photographed as there are still people out for his blood), as well as his introduction to jungle training after earning his sand coloured beret. He didn’t mention his crescent shaped scar (which was acquired via a leech and is probably every man’s worst nightmare. Read ‘Seven Troop’ for the full gory details).

Andy touched briefly on his time within a PMC (private military company to the likes of us), and informed us that when he went out to Iraq with others from his PMC they ‘stole an hotel’. As you do. Despite having no water or electricity they offered it as high end accommodation for hoards of broadcasters and, presumably, made a financial killing. You can take the boy out of South London, but…  Andy McNab is, and I suspect always will be, a hustler at heart. I didn’t get the chance to question him about Bravo2Burgers or his range of camo bras and knickers (Fact), but diversity seems to be key with this man.

Being a psychopath – a good one – just ask Prof. Kevin Dutton (The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success) – is possibly what drives this coiled spring of a man. Andy McNab obviously took that Sgt. Major’s words to heart all those years ago because there appear to be few topics he hasn’t read about or have an opinion on, and he has a finger in a multitude of pies. Aside from his writing, which is his bread and butter, Andy is on the board of ForceSelect, an organisation set up in 2009 to help ex military personnel make the transition into business civvy street. He has also recently become involved in PTSD999, a charity set up by a group of individuals with a past in either military or emergency services, and who have either suffered from or been involved with others who have had PTSD. Their remit is to offer help, advice, and confidential treatment. Andy also provided advice and training for a number of Hollywood films including Heat and, as he admitted apologetically, Pearl Harbour. Can’t win ’em all, lad. At least the technical side was good. ‘Red Notice’, a McNab book featuring the character Tom Buckingham has been made into a film, and Andy told me that ITV are currently fixing locations around the UK and Europe for the filming of the Boy Soldier books featuring the characters Danny Watts and his ex-SAS grandfather Fergus. And let’s not forget that for every copy of gaming video Battlefield 3 sold, Andy collects 14 pence (as he slyly told a youngster last night, urging him to get dad to buy a copy). Fingers and pies.

As always the evening was a fascinating insight into the life of one of our ex-Special Forces operatives. It’s such a pity that there is never enough time to ask all the questions that people long to know. Luckily, Andy’s lovely PR lady Laura passed on a number of my questions which he was kind enough to answer, so hopefully some of these will be the burning questions others would like to put to him. [Q&A coming soon in Part 2 ~GML]

Having met Andy three times now, two of the first things many people ask me is what does he look like, what’s he like as a person? I asked him how tall he is and which of Nick Stone’s ‘good bits’ of character are based on himself. With typical Puckish humour he informed me: ‘Good question. Far too good! Clearly anything that he (Nick Stone) does for the right reason is me and hopefully if you imagine him at 6 foot 5, blond hair, blue eyes, 4 foot wide, that is me.’ So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. It’s all lies, of course.

I can confirm that he’s medium height, has salt/pepper hair, is physically fit, (which one would expect from someone who treks to the North and South Poles, and climbs in the Peruvian Andes), has blue eyes that can change from fire to ice in nanoseconds, is dripping with sex appeal and testosterone, and comes across as a chatty, friendly, and charming individual.

As a member of the audience pointed out, he’s also quite a humble man, especially when one considers his achievements. I would concur with this, but it was a curious comment as many people I’ve spoken with believe all the Special Forces men, including Andy, come across as somewhat arrogant. I suspect what many think of as arrogance is actually just a supreme confidence in their own highly developed skillset. Remember, these men train relentlessly – Train Hard / Fight Easy – and seem to live by the 7P rule – Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. While I know pretty much all there is to know about this man on the public arena, I haven’t the slightest idea what he’s like ‘for real’. Clearly, it behooves anyone in the public eye to behave with circumspection but Andy is probably the friendliest celeb I’ve met; cocky, but very down to earth and not afraid to call a spade a spade. What is particularly likeable about him is his obvious passion to promote reading and literacy: “If I can do it, anyone can.’ He’s also an incredibly good sport. Anyone who ever watched his interview with Holy Moly Man would have been itching to deck the cocky little pipsqueak conducting the interview, but Andy took all the ribbing in good part and played along nicely without once head butting aforementioned HMM.

~To be continued.
Jan

2014
21.06

Andy McNab interview: “The advance of ISIS could see Baghdad fall”
The Big Issue 20 June 2014

As the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, former SAS man McNab fears the nation’s capital could be overthrown by ISIS extremists

As the crisis in Iraq rages on, SAS hero turned best-selling author Andy McNab has warned that the advance of ISIS could see Baghdad fall.

McNab, who was captured behind enemy lines in Iraq during the first Gulf War, said that a lack of Allied groundtroops could allow insurgents to take the Iraqi capital.

“The only country that will do something, if anything really needs to be done, because they’ve got the capability, are the United States,” McNab, pictured, told The Big Issue. “But [for the UK] to actually put boots on the ground – we’re coming up to an election year… both countries are being very wary of putting boots on the ground. So there is a possibility that Baghdad would fall.”

He slammed political moves to downscale army numbers and sees this a problem for the future, and the key thing that will stop a move back to Iraq.

“Politicians just want to get out of Afghanistan before the election – they don’t want to commit troops [to Iraq]. We don’t want to commit troops, because it will show a weakness of policy at the moment – downscaling our army.

“We’re apparently about six years behind in recruiting and training reserves for the forces. There’s just isn’t what’s called the force projection capability to go and do it [British intervention]. All nations are scaling down. But the fact is that at the moment, we really don’t have the force projection to first of all get our troops from A to B, and more importantly sustain them while they’re there.”

David Cameron warned this week of the threat to the UK if an “extreme Islamist regime” is created in central Iraq. McNab, meanwhile, claims Britain was “supporting some of those groups” recently in Syria.

“Certainly what’s going on at the moment with Isis, it is really interesting because unfortunately we’re back to square one,” he said. “And it’s really, really crazy, because some of those groups, certainly when they were in Syria, we were supporting them. But it’s just history repeating itself. We’ve done it for centuries.”

Source: The Big Issue

2014
06.06

Former SAS soldier Andy McNab, who spent six weeks as an Iraqi captive in the Gulf War, warns that Sgt Bowe Berghdal – whether hero or villain – now faces a nightmare

The Telegraph – 5 June 2014
By Andy McNab

Heroes don’t exist like they do in the films. Real-life events are totally different to what we expect. All the grainy footage of the Taliban handover of Sergeant Bowe Berghdal to US forces in Afghanistan shows is a deeply traumatised young man, struggling to hold on to reality.

He would have just been telling himself, is this really happening? Am I really being released? That is why, once airborne, he scribbled “SF” on a paper plate, asking the soldiers around him, over the drone of the helicopter engine, if they really were special forces. After so long as an enemy captive, it is impossible to grasp you are free.

I spent six weeks as an enemy captive after I was captured by the Iraqis in the Gulf War in 1991. This young man is 28, and has spent the past five years of his life in enemy hands. There will have been some horrendous times.

The first three weeks of my own incarceration were spent under physical interrogation, being whipped and burnt, and having my back teeth pulled out. I was kept in a purpose-built interrogation centre in Baghdad used by the secret police, but at the time I had no idea where I was.

After that, I was moved to Abu Ghraib jail. There, the torture wasn’t official, but Baghdad was getting bombed every night from dusk until dawn, and the guards would come and get their retribution.

<…….>

GO HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE TELEGRAPH

2013
13.03

January 1991 – can you remember what you were doing?

 Andy McNab can. It was the day his eight man patrol infiltrated deep behind enemy lines in Iraq. Their call sign: BRAVO TWO ZERO.

Now, twenty years on from the 1993 first publication of the bestselling account of this mission, Transworld publish a fully revised and updated commemorative edition, published on 23rd May.

‘Looking back I don’t regret a single thing we did during that time. I still believe we made the right decisions, tactically and morally, but what I knew about was soldiering, that and juvenile detention. I was 33 going on 17, and what’s changed now is that I am able to look at the whole picture objectively, how I felt then and feel now and how the experience of that January changed the lives of the whole patrol.’ ~Andy McNab

Product details:
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Corgi (23 May 2013)
ISBN-10: 0552168823
ISBN-13: 978-0552168823

2011
20.09

The Sun
A dark shadow over our Army – Iraq torture death report: Chief slams Brits’ assault

By David Willets, Defence Correspondent
Published: 09 Sep 2011

The sadism of a handful of Brit troops implicated in an Iraqi dad’s death was blasted yesterday as a “dark shadow” over our Army’s proud reputation.

Last night the squaddies involved were waiting to learn if they face charges as their brutality against captives in Basra was laid bare in a sickening dossier.

The report — into the death of innocent father-of-two Baha Mousa — exposed them as savagely out of control as prisoners were put through hell.

Army supremo General Sir Peter Wall said of the high standards expected of our forces: “The shameful circumstances of Baha Mousa’s death have cast a dark shadow on that reputation. This must not happen again.”

Go here to read the full article in The Sun 

MyView
by Andy McNab

“This was an isolated incident where the command and control structure completely broke down.

But don’t judge the rest of the Army on the behaviour of this bunch.

The Army is not a knitting club, we train our men to be aggressive, to fight and to kill.

Their lives depend on it. But that aggression must be controlled.

What happened here was the chain of command did not have a grip on it.

They lost control and the consequences were tragic. But it is an isolated incident. You have to welcome this report, no one is covering up.”

2011
17.01

The Guardian
On the 20th anniversary of the start of the 1991 Gulf war, politicians, soldiers and a journalist look back
16 January 2011

Andy McNab is the pseudonym of a former member of the SAS and author of Bravo Two Zero, the story of a failed special forces mission. He received the distinguished conduct medal.

“My most vivid memory of the Gulf war is the morning of 24 January when the eight-man SAS patrol I was commanding, during a covert mission north-west of Baghdad, was compromised by a seven-year-old Iraqi boy. The boy was herding goats in the middle of the desert, and happened to pick out the one tiny wadi where our patrol planned to hide up until last light, and stumbled upon us. I remember his eyes grew wide as saucers in shock and fear. After a split second, he then ran off screaming and shouting, towards the Iraqi anti-aircraft gun crew stationed close by. This resulted in the deaths of three of our patrol members, with four more of us captured and tortured by the Iraqis. Only one patrol member escaped. Being captured and tortured has had a profound effect on the way I now conduct my life. I feel both lucky and guilty about being one of those that survived. But having come through the torture and the mock executions, I endeavour never to take life for granted, and always try to do my best to help others who have experienced war and are still suffering.”

For full article go to The Guardian