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Nine men. 2,000 enemies. No back-up. No air support. No rescue. No chance...
First in - the official motto of one of the British Army's smallest and most secretive units, 16 Air Assault Brigade's Pathfinder Platoon. Unofficially, they are the bastard son of the SAS. And like their counterparts in Hereford, the job of the Pathfinders is to operate unseen and undetected deep behind enemy lines.
When British forces deployed to Iraq in 2003, Captain David Blakeley was given command of a reconnaissance mission of such critical importance that it could change the course of the war. It's the story of nine men, operating alone and unsupported, fifty miles ahead of a US Recon Marine advance and head straight into a hornets nest, teeming with thousands of heavily-armed enemy forces. This is the first account of that extraordinary mission - abandoned by coalition command, left with no option but to fight their way out of the enemy's backyard.
And it provides a gripping insight into the Pathfinders themselves, a shadowy unit, just forty-five men strong, that plies its trade from the skies. Trained to parachute in to enemy territory far beyond the forward edge of battle - freefalling from high altitude breathing bottled oxygen and employing the latest skydiving technology - the PF are unique.
Because of new rules introduced since the publication of Bravo Two Zero, there have been no first-hand accounts of British Special Forces waging modern-day warfare for nearly a decade. And no member of the Pathfinders has ever told their story before. Until now. Pathfinder is the only first-hand account of a UKSF mission to emerge for nearly a generation. And it could be the last.
day’s fighting. The A10 tankbuster ground-attack aircraft had pounded Charlie Company’s armour with their fearsome, seven-barrelled 30 mm GAU Avenger Gatling-type guns. One of the most powerful cannons ever flown, the GAU Avenger fires depleted uranium armour-piercing shells, and Charlie Company’s AAVs had barely stood a chance. The Bradleys up ahead of us were packing a cannon of only a slightly smaller calibre – an M242 25 mm chain gun – one capable of taking out Iraqi T55 main battle tanks.
because your weapons were key to your survival. Being PF armourer was about as much responsibility as Steve ever wanted in life. Some saw him as a shirker, but whilst I knew he’d take the easy path he’d never do so at another patrol member’s expense. He was bird happy in the PF, and didn’t give a fuck about progressing his career or sucking up to anyone. He was an excellent soldier, and I liked his calm, chilled exterior, and the fact that he was always – always – talking about women. Steve was
selfish prisoners who didn’t share tended not to make it, whilst those who were generous with their fellows somehow had the strength and the will to survive. Against the odds it was the good guys who made it through, reflecting how mental fortitude was the absolute key to survival. As Farrar-Hockley had talked us through all this, I’d wondered whether Jason was the type to share his bowl of rice with you. Back then, just a few months ago, I’d figured that he most likely was not. But right now on
SA80, and moved off, ghost-walking, to join him. As I did so, I saw him glance over his shoulder. The expression on his face said it all: We’ve got fucking company. CHAPTER NINETEEN Steve turned back to whatever it was that had spooked him. His stance was fire-mode, eyes down the barrel of his weapon pointing northeast. I picked my way through the undergrowth, silently feeling a route through, my weapon in the aim. I came to a halt just behind and to the left of Steve. It was the
in – the red mist of battle all around us – I’d just imagined it all. Who knows? Either way, reliving those lines had taken me back to the warm familiarity of the PF Interest Room, and my very first day in the Pathfinders. As soon as I’d stepped into the Interest Room, the difference between this and any other unit that I’d served with had hit me in the face. Here, there were men of all ranks sharing a brew and a chat together, as equals. I guess the closest analogy to the Interest Room would