Andy McNab didn’t know how to read at 16, now he’s a bestselling author

The ex-SAS patrol leader has the Ministry of Defence to thank for teaching him how to read and write properly

Andy McNab revealed how the Ministry of Defence underlined the importance of literacy to him back when he was a “thick as shit” junior soldier.

The celebrated military author spoke of how the MoD taught him how to read and write properly at the age of 16 in his Letter to my Younger Self in this week’s Big Issue magazine.

That paved the way for McNab to immerse himself in books and rise to the top of the British Army’s elite special forces unit the SAS before penning bestsellers.


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

And he reckons that his experience is a firm example of why books matter.

“The educator came in and he said, those guys over the fence, they look at you, junior soldiers, and they think you’re all thick as shit,” he said. “But you’re just uneducated. And that’s going to change, starting today. And I began to think, this is amazing.

“I starting reading adventure books about the military, then I got into non-fiction, then I got into the classics. Dickens. I’d heard people in the media talk about these famous characters, so I decided to find out who they were. And I realised, take out the coal fire and put some central heating in and he could be writing now.”

Read more from McNab in this week’s Big Issue magazine. Available now from vendors and The Big Issue Shop.

Get Me Out of Here! By Andy McNab and Phil Earle (illustrated by Robin Boyden) is out now (Scholastic £6.99)

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