Jon Watt, Tuesday 17 July 2012
Jon Watt talks to the former Special Forces soldier turned author whose debut book, Pathfinder, has been an instant bestseller. He lives in Fulham.
JW: What are the Pathfinders?
DB: We were born out of the SAS and Parachute Regiment and made up of selected personnel who are experts in reconnaissance and communications, capable of going into combat zones ahead of the main force and providing intelligence.
Why is this billed as the ‘last Special Forces operation book’?
After Bravo Two Zero, the MOD got all SAS and SBS people to sign Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which essentially gags them for life, and so there haven’t been any others since Chris Ryan’s. But when I joined the Pathfinders, I didn’t have to sign one. It’s a loophole that’s now closed.
What went wrong with your mission in Iraq described in the book?
We’d driven into Babylon to reccie behind enemy lines for a landing site for the Paras. We were told the area was clear of resistance, but when we drove in it was like Aldershot! Iraqi troops and barracks everywhere. Eventually the nine of us were surrounded by about 2000 Iraqis.
And you feel you were betrayed by your commanders?
The way we were trained is that we were at war when we went in and there would be air support and a combat recovery team available if we needed it. I called for both twice and I was instantly denied twice. It’s never been explained. Even if it was not their intention to betray us, they effectively said we were expendable.
When did you decide to write the book?
It’s a decision I’ve struggled with. It was only when I was approached two years ago by a literary agent that I began thinking seriously about it and even then I’ve waited for things to die down a little bit. I have felt that I wanted to wait until we were definitely out of Iraq so there was no chance of endangering operational security. And I’ve waited to be in the right position in my life to do it. I think there is a public interest in knowing about these missions. It’s an important story to tell – one of the most outrageous missions that most people have never heard of.
Pathfinder is out now published by Orion, £18.99