Thursday, June 22, 2006

SAS Warrior

How did a shy grocer's son from Northern Ireland help change the course of World War II? SAS Warrior tells the story of Lt. Col. Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, an unlikely hero whose tactical genius and extraordinary courage helped influence the way modern warfare is fought.

Half a century after his death, the most decorated allied soldier of World War II is still regarded as one of the greatest, most controversial people in the history of military special operations. Among his many feats, the handsome and daring soldier pioneered tactics still used today by the organisation he helped to form, the SAS.

Blair Mayne was one of a family of seven children and at a young age proved to be an extraordinary sportsman - by the age of 13 he could drive a golf ball further than most adults and before long representing Ulster, and then Ireland and Britain in Rugby. At Queens University he was named all-Ireland Universities Heavyweight Boxing Champion; and by 22 was chosen to tour with the British Lions to South Africa where he impressed even the opposition with his strength and stamina.

Archive material and special re-enactments tell the story of Mayne's early war years - from joining the 11th Scottish Commandos in 1939 where he earned the nickname Paddy and proved himself a skilful soldier and leader, through to his time as legendary commander of the SAS. It wasn't an easy path by any means. Mayne might even have ended up back home with a dishonourable discharge if it wasn't for the intervention of one Lieutenant David Stirling.

It was after a particularly brutal raid in Lebanon in 1941 that Mayne reacted violently against the ineptness of his Commanding Officer - a man he considered inexperienced, arrogant and insincere. Mayne hit him and was awaiting court-marshal and certain dismissal when he received the life changing visit.

Stirling had heard of Mayne's skill as a leader and fighter and sought him out to offer a fresh start. Mayne was to help lead and train a new and radical group of soldiers. They were to be called the SAS.

High profile military historian and SAS expert Anthony Kemp provides a psychological profile, giving an insight into Mayne's motivation and character. What drove a shy man to become deadly warrior? What made him excel as a leader and what frustrations drove him to terrible tempers? Why did Mayne never marry?

Through a series of letters from the Front to his family, Mayne reveals his thoughts and feelings about the war and about the fledgling SAS.

Mayne's toughness, his thoroughness and bravery made him a popular leader, his amazing deeds proving his worth as a soldier who should rank alongside history's greatest warriors.

In one of many incidents Mayne disabled a German fighter plane by pulling out the control panel with his bare hands; and on another occasion showed audacity by returning to enemy territory to count the tally of destroys from the previous night, just to settle a bet with Stirling.

Mayne's life after the war seemed to lose direction. A back injury forced him to retire from an expedition to the Antarctic while any adventures back home usually involved alcohol-fuelled escapades that sometimes got out of hand. An eventful and dramatic life filled with achievement, adventure and success came to a sudden and sad end in a car crash at the age of 40.

Late one night in 1955, a car was driving down a quiet Newtownards Road when it spun out of control and crashed, killing a living legend at the age of forty. After miraculously surviving six years in the thick of war, Blair Mayne could not survive the peace.


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