The Blagger's Guide To: Bravo Two Zero

How a military failure became a marketing triumph

"Within hours of Iraqi troops and armour rolling across the border with Kuwait at 02.00 local time on 2 August 1990, the Regiment was preparing itself for desert operations. As members of the Counter Terrorist team based in Hereford, my gang and I were unfortunately not involved. We watched jealously as the first batch of blokes drew their desert kit and departed …." So begins Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero, which is republished this month to mark the 20th anniversary of the best-selling war story.

The new version contains additional material, with an account of a return to Iraq, 10 years on, to find the memorial to the fallen members of the patrol, and an update on what has happened to everyone since. It also includes a Q&A, in which McNab shares the benefit of his experience of post-traumatic stress disorder (he is "one of the fortunate guys" who hasn't suffered from it), the Army, and the most essential piece of kit (a spare water bottle to wee in, and a piece of gaffer tape wrapped around it "to make sure I never got my water bottles mixed up".)

Bravo Two Zero was the first book to tell the story of a modern SAS mission. In January 1991, eight British soldiers – each carrying 95kg (210lbs) of equipment – marched 20km across the Iraq desert to infiltrate behind enemy lines, sever underground communication links between Baghdad and north-west Iraq, and destroy mobile Scud missile launchers. When the mission went wrong, three members of the patrol died, four were captured and one escaped. Bravo Two Zero was written by the leader of the operation under the pseudonym "Andy McNab".

When it was published in November 1993, it knocked Margaret Thatcher's The Downing Street Years off the top of the bestsellers chart. (Charles Moore's Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography is now out, but the paperback Bravo Two Zero cannot repeat the trick since Moore's book is at No 2 in the hardback chart.) "Every taxi driver seemed to be reading it," remarks McNab now. It is still the biggest-selling war book of all time.

"Andy McNab" was left in a carrier bag outside a London hospital as a baby. He was adopted, rebelled, and ended up in a juvenile detention centre, where he decided to join the Army. It was not until he arrived at a training base that he discovered he was functionally illiterate – his literacy levels were less than would be expected of an 11-year-old. He credits the Army with teaching him to read and changing his life, and he now works with literacy charities to help other adults to read.

McNab is involved in this year's Six Book Challenge, an initiative organised by The Reading Agency to encourage unconfident readers to finish six books. McNab, an ambassador for the Challenge, visited Portland Young Offender Institution in Dorset on Friday to distribute 500 copies of his Quick Reads title Today Everything Changes, about his own literacy journey. "It is all about giving these lads confidence," he says. "Confidence that they can walk into a library, bank or post office, confidence that they can fill in forms and ultimately, confidence to take control of their lives and not re-offend. It's not about mollycoddling criminals, but changing things for them so that we all benefit when they come out."

Bravo Two Zero is published by Corgi, £7.99. See The Reading Agency's website at readingagency.org.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week