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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
SAS man McNab removes the mask
By Clare Gabriel
BBC Wales News website

Bravo Two Zero book
Andy McNab left the SAS to write Bravo Two Zero
After years of hiding, former SAS soldier turned best-selling author Andy McNab has officially "come out".

He appeared in person at the Hay literature festival to reveal his identity in public for the first time.

Beforehand there were strict warnings, enforced by dark-suited security, that no-one could photograph him.

McNab left the services to write Bravo Two Zero, about "a job" in the first Gulf War, when he and his comrades were marooned behind Iraqi lines.

He said the "security stuff" was still needed - he also did SAS work in Northern Ireland - but he had decided to appear "because it felt safe to do it and.. I like this festival".

"I did have a go at doing something like this at Oxford about five years ago," he told the audience.

"It got cancelled because they found an incendiary device under a chair."

These people are fighting a war. People die. So a guy gets a head butt, so what? They are not in the WI
Andy McNab

The Londoner who started life in borstal, a juvenile detention centre, before being picked out to join the Army has changed beyond recognition.

Stationed in nearby Hereford, he had once come to the Hay festival to see actor Stephen Fry, he said, but turned around and went to the pub when he found out he had to pay.

He told the festival audience that he would have probably ended up a panel beater or a bus driver had he not joined the forces.

Now he has found "satisfaction" as a writer and mixes in Hollywood circles and reads "Aga saga writer" Joanne Trollope - " the best dialogue writer in Britain" - to gain inspiration.

McNab also dispelled the myth that the SAS had been against him writing Bravo Two Zero, and his later work.

First kill

"The approach to write the book comes from the directorate that runs the special forces... all the books go to the MOD.

He said he had been frustrated initially by the angry reaction that the book's publication first received.

But "after a while I realised it was jealousy and they had opened up the door to where a lot of other stuff was going to come out".

As well as writing - his latest book Aggressor was being promoted at the festival - McNab said he now spends his time helping to recruit soldiers and giving talks.

Bravo Two Zero film
Sean Bean starred as McNab in a film of Bravo Two Zero

But he recalled for the first time he killed another person - in Northern Ireland - at 19.

"We were both a couple of kids... once it was all over and done you get an extra two weeks leave if you get a kill.

"Nobody wanted to know that I was scared. So I bought into it and I lied.

"Then I saw what I'd done on the news - the 10 O'clock News - and I thought 'I don't want to do that again.'"

Asked whether he could understand the alleged British Army cruelty to Iraqis going on now, McNab said he could.

He said the soldiers in a war zone were out to obtain the information which can be the difference between life and death.

He said the Army had a duty of care to keep the soldiers alive.

"These people are fighting a war. People die. So a guy gets a head butt, so what? They are not in the WI," said McNab.


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