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TV Interview

Andy McNab ('Tour of Duty')

By
Andy McNab ('Tour of Duty')
Eight years of war in the Middle East has killed tens of thousands of people - but you already know enough about that, claims ex-SAS hero Andy McNab. With on-the-ground action footage, and personal testimony from those fighting, his new ITV4 show sets out to prove that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are "not all doom and gloom". The Bravo Two-Zero author promises that his Tour of Duty will be both entertaining and honest.

Why did you decide to make this series?
"I go to Iraq and Afghanistan a few times each year and visit units as part of my job. These lads out there were always showing videos they were taking and saying, 'have a look at this.' From there I started thinking, 'some of this is just so good and people don't get to see it'. People should know what is going on over there, because it is not all doom and gloom. So I went to the Ministry of Defence to have a chat. They were up for it, and gave us access to the units to interview people."

What sort of reaction did the soldiers give?
"We have been talking to some of these guys, 18-or-19-year-old riflemen, and they are extremely articulate and really honest at talking about what happens. I thought there would be a bit more bull***t, but actually they said, 'I was scared, but you have to get on and do it.' Some of these lads are loving it, because that is what they joined up for. They know what they are getting into if they join the infantry - and in general they actually enjoy it."

Are there any personal stories you have heard which stand out?
"There was one 19-year-old in a video there on his very first contact, and he only fired six rounds of ammunition in the whole contact that lasted 20 or 30 minutes. When he got back everybody was taking the p*** out of him, because they were all emptying magazines. But then it transpired that with those six bullets he had killed three insurgents. Obviously the p***-taking stopped. It is amazing - not only does it show that the training is working, but also how cool and collected this guy was. I want to get all that out there and say it is not like what you see in the newspapers."

Are you able to give a tactical insight into what is going on as well?
"Yes, we have done that. For example, what does an ambush actually mean? We are trying to explain it very simply. An ambush might look chaos but the Taliban know exactly what they are like and our lads know what they are doing. The first episode is about a very big ambush at a place in Afghanistan on Three Para's last tour. We have got all the footage that they took, including aerial footage, then we went out and interviewed everyone, from the company Commander on the ground down to the private soldier. We have also used some computer generated stuff, and get arty sometimes, drawing maps in the sand and trying to break things down and explain it."

Obviously some there are some very negative elements and serious issues around the wars. Do you feel the need to confront them?
"It is pointless - all we want to do is [tell the story] from the soldiers' point of view. They are intelligent too and they have got their own views about what is going on. But I want to look at what they are doing, not why they are doing it. That is the most important thing. People can now distinguish between the soldiers that are fighting and the politics that have got them fighting it."

Andy McNab's Tour of Duty airs Tuesdays at 10pm on ITV4.

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