A blog by Mike Ramalho, Global Sales and Marketing Manager (and also awesome!)
After wrestling with the question of which book to pick as my favourite for our annual advent calendar I decided to flout all of the rules of the game and pick three books... because they all share the same reason. I am usually a massive fan of Raid or New Vanguard, but this time I have chosen three of our General titles. This is why:
There is one aspect of my job that in my mind turns what is already a pretty enjoyable experience into a once in a lifetime opportunity. And that is the chance to meet some truly incredible individuals - men and women who have in some way influenced the world of military history. Sometimes this involves meeting fantastic authors and illustrators who have devoted their careers to exploring military history. Sometimes it is meeting TV personalities or celebs who are involved with a good cause related to the military. But what I really treasure is the chance to meet veterans, to spend time chatting with people who experienced events that I have read about.
Over the last few years I have had the chance to meet three incredible individuals in the course of working on three very special books.
The first of these books is SAS Heroes: Remarkable Soldiers, Extraordinary Men written by Pete Scholey. While I was working on the promotion of this book I got to spend a great deal of time with Pete - himself a long serving member of the SAS. Pete earned the moniker "The Joker" while he was in the SAS (and you can read his full story in the book of the same name) and it is clear why. Bubbly, chatty and effervescent, Pete simply cannot let the chance to crack one of his (quite often groan-inducing) jokes go by. He was a pleasure to work with, and even today - years after the book came out - is always up for a quick chat. He is such an institution within the SAS that it seems that whenever I call him he has at least a couple of veteran Troopers in his lounge devouring his biscuit supply and slurping up cups of tea. There are two great stories that Pete told me that have stuck with me ever since. The first involves him barging into a room with two crates of beer on his shoulders only to discover that the Queen was at that moment in the room thanking the men who had broken the Iranian Embassy Siege. The second involves him climbing a tree to be attacked by, if memory serves, an startled and rather outraged orangutan. He alleges that the creature lost its footing and fell through the jungle canopy. His comrades at the base of the tree thought that Pete had slipped, so attempted to catch the falling form, only to discover they were cradling a now quite terrified animal in their arms.
Pete's book is a tribute to some of the most incredible SAS troopers to have served in the Regiment. But in my mind there is one chapter missing - Pete you forgot to write a chapter about yourself!
Book 2 is linked quite closely to my first book - because the man who wrote it actually also features in the first book. Back in April 2010 we published Soldier 'I' - The story of an SAS Hero by Pete Winner. Pete Winner served with the SAS for 18 years and was at the fearsome battle of Mirbat, parachuted into the icy seas of the Falklands and was one of the men who famously stormed the Iranian Embassy. The first time I met Pete Winner he was describing the planning and execution of the Iranian Embassy raid - using a scale model of the embassy to do so. The audience were absolutely enthralled (as was I). Being able to spend time with someone who along with his colleagues had faced some of the most incredible odds was an honour - and a signed copy of his book is one of my prized possessions. He wouldn't necessarily call himself a hero (although he would reserve that moniker for a number of his friends who lost their lives in battle) but he does still have an impressive aura surrounding him. But, as with Pete Scholey, some of the most interesting stories that Soldier 'I' has in his locker is not about combat - but about life in the Regiment. One particular anecdote talks about how terrible the rations were, and how the best way to liven up one of their curry ration packs was to smuggle a few onions into their belongings as these could be fried up and added to the curry to improve its flavour. All went well until Pete was in Holland with a few colleagues just before being deployed. Realizing they didn't have any onions, men were sent down to a local market to pick some up. It was only when they were sitting down to their first meal in the field that they realized that they had bought a packet of tulip bulbs... not onions!
And last, but not least - pulling myself away from SAS Troopers to a World War II Paratrooper. A few months ago on a trip to the US i had the chance to meet up with a man who has had a fantastic impact on one of our books, Tonight We Die As Men : The Untold Story of Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment from Toccoa to D-Day. This book contains a foreword by Ed Shames, a veteran of the unit who became the first enlisted man from the 506th to be awarded a battlefield commission following his exemplary actions in Normandy. He was subsequently posted to 2nd Battalion before taking command of 3rd Platoon "E" Company, the famous "Band of Brothers." Ed Shames went on to reach the rank of colonel.
And it was Colonel Shames that I met last summer, at his club - where we is something of a minor celebrity. He is one of those military men who you just have to address by his rank - he gives off that fabulous air of command. In the 4 or so years that Tonight We Die as Men has been available Col Shames has attended hundreds of events, signing copies of the books and talking to interested customers.
As we sat down for a glorious steak dinner (plus a few of Col. Shames trademark Martinis) he regaled us with some truly incredible stories - his sly humour in abundance wherever you turned. Desperately trying to not make any terrible blunders i listened, fascinated, as he told us about some of the tricks that he has played on people trying to get his autograph in recent years - including a story he quite often tells about only being a cook on D-Day and jumping out of a plane with a lit stove attached to his back "So I could start brewing up coffees and making breakfast for the boys as soon as I landed."
When the sequel published (Deliver Us From Darkness: The Untold story of Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment during Market Garden) he started to 'test' customers on their knowledge of the first book... and if they failed he would force them to buy a copy of the first book before he would agree to sign the copy of the sequel. And trust me... you don't argue with the Colonel. Over the years we have estimated that he has pretty much single-handedly sold around 5000 copies of this book - and remains as passionate today about getting the real story across about the regiment.
So if you are at an event, do go across and chat to him - he is an absolute revelation. Just make sure you study up first!
So there you go - three great books and three great men. Meeting them has been the greatest privilege that I think working for Osprey bestows and I look forward to working with many more incredible men and women over the coming years.
Incidentally - all three of these books are available at a 25% discount throughout December - I would heartily recommend them all.