Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Book Review: Soldier I by Pete Winner & Michael Kennedy

Soldier 'I': the Story of an SAS Hero: From Mirbat to the Iranian Embassy Siege and Beyond (General Military)"No publicity, no media. We move in silently, do our job, and melt away into the background. If you have the stamina, the willpower and the guts, we ll welcome you with open arms and make you one of us. And if you haven't, then it's been very nice knowing you."

The SAS has a reputation as a discrete, elite fighting force which, despite a few books over the years from those who have served among it's number, has retained much of it's mystique and cachet. I've read a few military memoirs in the past so when I stumbled upon Pete Winner at an airshow selling this book, with a donation to a military charity with each sale I was never going to walk on past. This book details Pete's amazing 18 years in the SAS plus the new demands placed on him as he adjusted to life on civvy street and his later work.

For me the best known part of Pete's career was his role in the team that stormed the Iranian Embassy in London during the infamous siege. I was young when it happened but I remember seeing dramatic photos of the assault and was keen to read more about what actually happened. The title of the book comes from Pete's pseudonym when he was called to testify about the event in court. The book includes a number of photos and an illustration of the embassy to help explains how events unfolded which I found a great addition. Other missions recounted in the book include the battle of Mirbat and his time in the Falklands. Once he left the army he moved on to various close protection roles which gave him a taste of a champagne lifestyle but also took him to conflict-hit Bosnia.

I found that it took me a while to get into the book, which may have been partly my fault for having to read the beginning in short snatches, but once I did I was drawn in by the pace, the writing with some great imagery as well as some brutal detail and the more emotional side of his story. There were some very moving parts when Pete reflected on the loss of so many colleagues, and also while he was dealing with the massive impact of leaving the regiment and considering the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The little anecdotes about minor details served to add real colour to the stories recounted, and the reading about what it takes to join the regiment only served to further increase my admiration for Pete and his colleagues.

This book recounts a roller-coaster career with adrenaline filled highs matched only by lows that could have changed the entire course of Pete's life. His career has seen him present at pivotal moments in history, some of which I had been virtually ignorant of until now. This was a fascinating read, and despite the largely serious subject matter it was a really enjoyable read.

Format: Paperback, bought by me
My Rating: 4*

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