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Righting some wrongs.
on 8 May 2016
A very well written account of someone who was there for the long haul. I've read a number of so-called "real" or "true" accounts of the SAS. I like the fact that the title does not include either of those words. Probably the authors had to push the publishers to exclude them. Of course I can't know if this account is true or real anymore than the others, but reading it, I felt that there was a high level of modesty, transparency and balance. I also like the fact that Mr Ratcliffe corrects a number of errors in the B20 accounts. If I had been in his position I believe I would have wanted to correct false claims. Seemingly trivial things like the real money value of the gold coins each soldier carried and that most where returned after all missions. B20 did not take advice of the CO or the author, taking too much equipment and not using vehicles.
Some of the most telling things to me were how many insertions by the RAF seemed to be at the wrong co-ordinates, and not just in the Gulf war. It was as if the RAF and the army used different maps. Another interesting aspect was how few sizeable deployments the regiment appeared to have in those 25 years. He makes a good point - someone can be great at training, but not cut it in the field. Maybe following the publicity of the Iranian embassy siege there were a number of members who joined for the wrong reasons. However as alluded to, their are many missions that will never be spoken of.
It's great that he is scared of heights, yet ended up in the Para's, he's rubbish at freefall but still manages to make a career in the Special Air Service (although according to Ken Connor, that "Air" moniker in SAS was a piece of propaganda from it's first incarnation). I also think that he was extremely clever in getting what he wanted, such as initial troop assignment after selection, and getting shipped out to the Falklands.
However, even though screw-ups and shortcomings are illustrated there is always a balance, for example: to get RTU'd is no dishonour and will be positive for the return unit, the RAF pilots do an excellent job, SOP's are guidelines not rules.
All in all a very realistic professional soldier account from someone who doesn't feel the need to make make themselves out to be a hero, but someone definitely wanting to live the ideal of "Who Dares, Wins".