A new book is revealing what elite SAS soldiers are really like off duty and off guard.
Written by first-time author Monica Lavers, who writes under a pseudonym, the book is a behind-the-scenes and unfiltered look at the real lives of the famously secretive Special Air Service. Something she never thought she would be allowed to publish:
“I certainly didn’t think I’d write a book because by the time I signed all the documents I assumed I would never be able to.
“I didn’t know I could write by the way.”
The book is not about the lives of celebrities like Ant Middleton or Andy McNab, whose fame came partly from their military service. Instead, it tells the stories of soldier's lives as they were told to her, full-frontal (sometimes literally) and no holds barred.
Monica worked at Hereford Garrison between 2015 and 2018 where she got to know the “absolutely wonderful” soldiers and staff who support the regiment.
She hopes her book will help break down the hype and hard man image surrounding the SAS and reveal a more personal side to the people daring to take on the job.
Speaking to BFBS, the forces station broadcaster Hal Stewart, she explained how she decided to swap her previously high-flying career for a role in the kitchen on the garrison as she wanted a new start in life. Monica said that, despite not being an SAS soldier, she was treated as an equal, saying:
“The best part of it for me was that I went in doing a kitchen job. I was very happy to do that, I wanted a new life.
“There was no difference, there was no them and us.
“Everyone treated me really well and I found that the soldiers were just nice guys - why wouldn’t they be nice?”
Monica’s hope is for her book to reveal a more personal side to the people she got to know, men she calls the ‘geezers’. During her time there, the author had a lot of contact with the elite soldiers because she ate her meals with them. She said:
“I ate in the cookhouse, so I got to know people from the lunch tables.
“They were lovely, it was wonderful and I wish that people would know more about that.”
Her admiration for these men and the staff who work alongside them is clear to see. She said:
“I was coming onto a camp with the best soldiers in the world and that was very interesting to me, the way it all ran.
“It was extraordinary to me that some people, 24 or 26, were elite soldiers with the SAS when they hadn’t got a lot of experience of the world.”
When Monica applied for the position, she had no idea she would be working at Stirling Lines, the headquarters of the 22 Special Air Service Regiment, named after the founder of the SAS, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling. She was not given many details about the job either, just in case she did not pass the security vetting.
When she finally discovered what the job was and where it was based, she could see how different people’s perception of the SAS was from the reality. She said:
"All the programmes, the books, they are showing the action but nobody had talked about the lunch queue.
“The fact that they scrape the leftovers into bins. There’s no frills.”
GEEZERS: Up Close And Personal: On Camp With The SAS is published by Orphans Publishing