Andy McNab joined the British Army as a boy soldier in 1976, served in Northern Ireland, joined the SAS, saw action the Far and Middle East, Central and South America; by the time he left the military in 1993, he was Britain’s most decorated soldier. So it’s ironic that McNab is best remembered as the leader of a failed mission during the Gulf War (1991) – Bravo Two Zero.
Born 1953, South East London, McNab (an assumed name for his own protection) was abandoned by his mother, and raised, by an adoptive family, on the mean streets of Peckham, where as an adolescent, he soon found himself in trouble with the law. Spiralling further towards more serious crimes and prison, the 16-year-old McNab joined the Royal Green Jackets light infantry regiment.
It was during his time as an infantryman that the South Londoner received his first major decoration, the Military Medal, for his leadership demonstrated during a contact with an IRA patrol in South Armagh, Northern Ireland. McNab spent eight years in the Green Jackets, before passing SAS selection and being attached to 22 Squadron, SAS.
Serving in operational theatres worldwide, McNab gained a reputation as a thorough professional and was promoted to sergeant within The Regiment. When the Cold War ended, and Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait, McNab was put in charge of one of a number of patrols - Bravo Two Zero - and dropped behind enemy lines in Iraq to destroy Scud Missiles.
Armed with loads of high tech equipment - that didn't work - the highly trained patrol of elite soldiers was compromised by a lowly goat herder. What followed was a game of cat and mouse between the Iraqi army and patrol Bravo Two Zero ,as they made a valiant attempt to make it to the Syrian border to safety. Only one made it; the rest were either captured or killed.
The remains of Bravo Two Zero were systematically tortured in a bid to discover their real mission, as McNab and his men bravely maintained that they were on a mere rescue mission, looking for downed pilots.
The exploits of the patrol became the stuff of modern legend when, after leaving the forces, McNab penned and published the best-selling book, eponymously named after the patrol. A follow-up book, Immediate Action, chronicled McNab's time in both the regular army, and the SAS - it too became a best seller.
McNab has since established himself as a successful action thriller writer and has won plaudits for his penmanship from the likes of Fredrick Forsyth, and other high ranking names of the genre. As well as writing, McNab also lectures on security issues in the UK and USA.
Andy McNab makes it to the You2UK.com list of Great Britons, for his service to country, adaptability, but most of all, for his rags to riches story, from discarded South East London street urchin to best-selling author - with a fair bit of killing done on the way.
A case of zero to Bravo Two Zero.