Ten minutes with Andy McNab
We thought and thought but couldn’t remember the last time we’d met an SAS hero biker.
So before he left us, we bombarded McNab with questions for a further 10 minutes.
MCN: Are motorcycles popular in SAS?
AM: Very much so. You’re encouraged to live out of camp and people commute in from all over the place by bike. In the car park you’ll see rows of bikes. The lads get their licence through the army. I learnt to ride in the army when I was 18 or 19.
Bikes were used heavily during the first Gulf War and after that a lot of lads started getting their own. They’re the highest paid soldiers in the army so a single lad has got a couple of bob.
MCN: Have you ever had to commandeer a motorcycle in a hostile environment?
AM: No. I’ve nicked one though, as a kid from a housing estate. It was a Fizzy or something.
MCN: What was your most embarrassing moment on a bike?
AM: I did a ride last year on a Harley Electra Glide with speakers and all this male menopause stuff.
We went from British Columbia, over the border and then down Montana. It was fantastic but embarrassing because of the bike.
MCN: Describe your worst crash?
AM: I was on the M4 on the first of two BMW R1200RTs I owned. I was in the outside lane when an Estonian lorry came out and bounced me into the barrier.
The bike carried on going and I went straight over the barrier and across all three lanes on the other side on my back, without hitting a car. I ended up on the hard shoulder. I wasn’t injured. It was great.
MCN: How do you feel about having Alan Partridge as a fan?
AM: Brilliant, as long as he buys hardbacks and not paperbacks. In The Thick of It they make references to me as well.
It’s nice that it’s become a reference that doesn’t need explaining, whether it’s a joke or whatever.
MCN: What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?
AM: Two weeks in an interrogation centre in Iraq. We were whipped, burned, beaten.
I’ve got very nice teeth now because they’re porcelain. They were smashed when I got captured.
A lot of their lads had been educated in the UK. Some had gone through Sandhurst Military Academy in the nine years we backed them in the war with Iran.
This one lad said he’d worked at Guy’s Hospital as a dentist and I thought, great, he’s going to sort me out. But he didn’t, he pulled them out with pliers instead.
MCN: If you had to escape from a hostile environment by motorbike, which one would you choose?
AM: The bike I’ve got now, a BMW R1200GS Adventure. Absolutely. It’s got a big old tank. You can get loads of gear on it. Big tyres.
MCN: How many people have you killed?
AM: About 170. It’s about that. If you look at the Iraq experience, over 200 people were killed or wounded by us on the way there. There have obviously been operations where I know I’ve killed people and been part of groups that have killed people.
MCN: Tell us a secret.
AM: I like opera.
MCN: What’s the new book about?
AM: Tom Buckingham is an SAS soldier. His girlfriend says: “I’ve had enough of this soldiering business,” and gets on the Eurostar to go back to France.
He’s races from Hereford to the Eurostar terminal on his BMW R1200GS Adventure to catch her. Both of them are in the tunnel when there’s a hostage situation.
He knows the SAS are coming to attack and he wants to get everyone out before that starts. It’s out now in hardback.