Army sergeant-turned-author Andy McNab visits Romford School

Ex SAS soldier AndyMcNab, who remains anonymous, with students from St Edwards school

Ex SAS soldier AndyMcNab, who remains anonymous, with students from St Edwards school - Credit: Archant

A best-selling military author and former Special Air Service (SAS) sergeant spoke to secondary school students about the importance of remembering those who fought in conflicts.

Andy McNab read pupils at St Edward’s Church of England School poetry written during the First World War and spoke about the power of literature in remembering those who served.

He commended the work of wartime writers such as Siegfried Sassoon – a First World War soldier and poet – and talked of how his work can be used to gain a deeper insight into the conflict.

He said: “Great writing gets you asking questions. It makes you put a book down and start thinking.

“We go through the process of us remembering the dead and then we start to remember the living, because there’s still so many people that are affected by war.”

The author, who has fought in Northern Ireland and the Gulf, encouraged students at the school in London Road, Romford, to make a connection between those who fought 100 years ago and those serving in more recent conflicts.

He told them that he felt a connection to those who fought in the First World War.

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“It’s very important to remember those lost, it always has been. This was a total war – everyone was engrossed in it, even young women in the factories – the whole nation was involved and it’s great to commemorate that.

“We need a national day of remembrance because we get to learn about what happened during the world wars – it’s just as important as it’s ever been,” he said.

Mr NcNab also spoke about changes in the public’s perception of the armed forces.

He said: “We needed something after both wars to bring us together, but then we went back to what we had before the First World War.

“We had more far-flung wars and we started to disconnect from war again.”

He added: “It didn’t really hit home to people as it once did and it’s really since the two post 9/11 conflicts that we have re-engaged with our military, which has given soldiers the ability to articulate what’s going on.

“We sort of understand and appreciate what happens during war a bit more now – it’s our next door neighbour’s kids that are fighting these wars.”

The ex-serviceman, who is never photographed because he is still considered a target, also signed copies of his novels during the visit.

The accomplished author highlighted the school’s diversity as one of the reasons he made the visit.

He wanted to raise awareness of the diversity of those who fought in the First World War, with soldiers drafted in from across the entirety of the British Empire.

“It’s important to remember that one of the first military crosses was won by a Muslim Indian,” he said.