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
Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?