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Freewheeling Andy

Boys Own Excitement! But real...

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I'll put in a word for one of my favourite ever books. How many of these are there? I being to hear you cry. Too many, of course, is the answer.


Anyway, this one is "Eastern Approaches" by Fitzroy MacLean.


It's all a true story (although you do begin to wonder how much the author embellished and polished the story to make himself seem even more brilliant). He was a diplomat in the foreign office, and a bit bored posted in Paris. So he was the first person ever to ask to be posted to the fairly new Soviet Union in the mid 30s.


Off he went, hoping to see a more exciting side to life. Which he did. Partly by travelling completely illegally through Stalin's Russia, through to the Caspian and Caucasus, which were out of bound to foreigners, whilst he was being tailed by the NKVD (precursos to the KGB). He jumped ships and ended in the middle of nowhere.


Later on, he travelled into Central Asia, which was even more forbidden and closed. He kept deliberately losing his NKVD tail when going off to see the ancient cities of the silk road. Wonderful adventure stuff.


But it got better, as he was also the only westerner to see the legendary Stalin show-trials.


This is just the first of three sections of the book.


In the second section, it's the beginning of the second world war, and he's in the government beaurocracy, but wants to get out and fight in the war. He's stopped because the authorities say that they need him in the diplomatic corps, and he can't be released from the government. He works out that the only way to do this is to become an elected MP. If he's an MP he can't be a civil servant. So he gets himself elected, gets kicked out of the civil service, and promptly joins up with the army leaving a friend to run his constituency.


This lead him to Cairo and Alexandria, where he met up with a disorganised group who were starting a special squadron, which later became the SAS. Maclean writes about the beginnings of the SAS, their early assaults (and occasional mistakes), before the North Africa part of the war begins to come more under control.


The third part of the book is in Yugoslavia, where he is posted to liaise with the Partizans. It turns out that he ends up as a confidante of Tito, and as the point man between the Allied generals and Tito's Partizans.


A fantastic account of war, an amazing adventurer, and a man who did more in 10 years than most people would do in 100 lifetimes.


Andy McNabb, eat your heart out. This man is the business, the proper dog's rubbish.


This isn't the kind of book I'd normally read, but it's seriously good dope.

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