Extraordinary true stories of daring and valour
Published by HACHETTE LIVRE
By Michael Ashcroft
Paperback, illustrated, 331 pages including bibliography and index
Reviewed by Howard Chamberlain
This book brings together extraordinary stories of daring and valour conducted principally by members of the British Special Forces.
The author has passionately recorded and acknowledged gallantry in action from the Crimean War through to the present day, each story relating to medals which he has obtained for his collection, or deeds of daring which have come to his attention. Although each story is a brief account, the book introduces the reader to acts of valour, some of which have been written about and published in fuller accounts and others which are now not easy to find.
The bibliography lists several titles for the avid reader to follow up and pursue a more detailed story, but it is not quite complete. For example the inclusion of My Mystery Ships by Rear Admiral Gordon Campbell, VC, DSO, would have been valuable as this book details the “Q” ships, the men that manned them, and the actions that were used to counter the German U-Boat menace during the Great War.
Not all of the men covered in Special Forces Heroes were special forces, nor did they all receive gallantry awards. Some were from other units such as the Grenadier Guards and other infantry battalions but were engaged in special tasks. Michael Ashcroft’s dedication to the work of special forces and missions that entailed special service, has ensured such gallant acts have been recorded for posterity. Particularly important when governments failed to approve and issue a national award for gallantry to some of those involved.
It is noted that Ashcroft has taken pains to ensure the anonymity of some of the men about whom he has written and he acknowledges that he is not able to provide full details about some individuals and the actions that resulted in a gallant deed or deeds.
In spite of anonymity for some it would have been an interesting addition for Michael Ashcroft to include some detail about the lives of certain men after they left the Armed Forces. For example, “Blondie” Hasler of Cockleshell Heroes fame, invented a self-steering mechanism for yachts that allowed a solo sailor to do other tasks, which he used for his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and has become standard equipment on many boats.
This illustrated and indexed book is full of interest for those who have an awareness of gallantry, military history, or special forces. It is an excellent opener for further reading as the bibliography provides a good starting point of publications on specific actions. Congratulations to Michael Ashcroft for his endeavours to ensure that gallantry and valorous acts are not forgotten.