Lots of people have asked me why I joined the military, and why I wanted to be in the SAS. I have always said that I will never be a civilian. I was a soldier then, and I am now a veteran. People say, “OK, that’s fine, but what about before you joined?” Well, simple: Before I was a soldier, I was a potential recruit. I didn’t have too much to do with the military before I joined, but the experiences I did have were influential enough to push me to sign up. I didn’t know bundles about the armed forces when I finally went to the career office to register my interest. I had no real idea how it all worked. But I was one hundred percent sure that I was doing the right thing.
My first recollection of anything military was my first action man. It was the old type and I can’t even remember where it came from. Although it never had the eagle eyes and the grippy hands, it came with bundles of kit. I think my adopted mum had got it from a jumble sale because it all just came in a huge bag. I remember tipping it all out for the first time and going through all the kit. He had the old style 58 pattern webbing, several uniforms, loads of guns, and several pairs of boots. He then had all the gear to go in his kit, little mess tins, water bottles the list was endless. I was fascinated, who got all this stuff for real. When I asked my mum, she explained that soldiers needed lots of stuff to do their job. For the very first time I thought, “Wow that’s for me.” Eventually after several jumble sales and garage sales, I grew quite a collection of stuff. There was nothing action man did not do. He was a frogman, a parachutist, he had a jeep, a boat, a helicopter. What was not to like about wanting to be in the army? It was the coolest job in the world.
I can’t remember at what age I stopped playing with action man, but eventually I spent more and more time out with my friends getting up to mischief, that he went in a box eventually and was shipped off up to the attack. His job was done I had already decided one day I would be a soldier. The next real thing which stuck in my mind forever was an incident which is just being immortalised on the silver screen: the Iranian embassy siege. I am too young to have been on the balcony with the other two million people, although I have been asked if I was. I was still at school when the SAS burst onto the scene with the most dramatic television ever seen at the time. I remember it clearly. I was walking past some local shops near my house and there was a bit of a commotion at the Chinese take away. They always had a television in there mounted on the wall, and people were jostling to see it.
I was only young but I managed to get my face squeezed up against the window enough to see the screen. I saw the shady figures and the all the smoke and could hear the gunshots. I ran home and sure enough the telly was on and there was a news flash. It was amazing police men running around and armed men dressed in black with masks on coming down ropes and crashing through windows. My mum was saying how terrible it was. Not for me, this was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. In the following days I was glued to the news. I had never watched adult programmes before, I couldn’t miss a second of any of this. The PM Maggie Thatcher was praising the brave members of the Special Air Service who had so professionally brought things to an end.
They were Heroes, the images of the day plastered all over the newspapers. It was incredible. As kids we recreated the event a thousand times. When I was in the children’s home, there was a balcony above the front door and big old windows we used to swing down a tree and jump in and out of the old sash windows. The staff used to tell us off. I had a small air pistol, and I once shot one of the other kids with it and got in loads of trouble. They even called the police who came and made me destroy the weapon. I told the policeman that we were playing Iranian embassy SAS men. He told me I would never get in the forces if I shot anyone again, whether I was playing or not. I took heed of his warning and the games stopped. There was no way I wanted to jeopardise my chances of getting in.
I could never have guessed that years later I would serve with the same unit. I would also be privileged enough to meet several of the men who took part in the siege. I am looking forward to watching “6 Days” which has had input from the guys who were there. It promises to be a thrilling film and I am sure to review it for SOFREP. I hope I feel the same way I did when I ran home from the Chinese takeaway all those years ago.
Featured image courtesy of BBC