It is January 1991 and the Gulf War is underway - as we learn from a BBC Newscaster who is reporting on Scud Missile hits on Tel Aviv. Coalition leaders are concerned that the provocation will force Israel to defend itself, and thus become directly involved in the war, which would fragment the Coalition.
We are introduced to eight men, all clearly on their way to an early morning meeting point. Sgt. Andy McNab gets out of the shower, and his wife Jilly makes him write a birthday card for his young daughter Kate.
Dinger urges his children and his dogs to be quiet when he opens the front door to leave. His wife stocks him up on cigarettes and sun cream while she kisses him goodbye.
In the Social Club at the army base, Tony dances and sings the new day in, floating in an alcoholic haze.
Baz Brown bids farewell to his wife, young son and baby, just as Dinger roars up on his beloved Harley.
At the gates of the base, Chris Ryan and his wife say their fond farewells - all "Gucci and Ray-Ban's".
As Ray locks up his mountain bike and the men troop into their quarters to collect their gear, Stan realises that Tony is missing, so Mark Warner dashes across to the Social Club to bundle him onto the bus where their journey begins.
Since they are the last to arrive in Saudi Arabia, Andy and his men are soon busy scrounging and stealing the basic gear they need to go to war. Andy is given command of a special mission behind the Iraqi lines - and learns that they have only three days to prepare.
Avoiding missile attacks, they are ferried into Iraq by helicopter and are left near the Main Supply Route (MSR). Their mission is to destroy the Fibre Optic Cable which has been laid parallel to the route to carry targeting information from Baghdad to the various mobile Scud launchers
Things are wrong the moment the team lands: their briefing photographs are outdated and they have been dropped in the middle of two divisions of Iraqi troops, dangerously close to a settlement on one side and undocumented anti-aircraft battery on the other.
Ironically, bombing during the day results in the MSR being so busy at night that it is impossible to sabotage the Fibre Optic junction boxes. During the day the road is less used, but Andy and his men, in the emptiness, would easily be seen from the nearby settlement.
This all becomes academic very soon, since they are discovered by an Arab shepherd boy who alerts the nearby troops. The Patrol has no option but to fight their way out, the eight of them wreaking havoc among the Iraqis in a hard fought battle.
When it is safe enough to move on, the patrol collect their gear and decide to cross the MSR and head west to safety while there is still an hour of daylight. There, they can sort themselves out and then double back once it is dark. For the next hour, they fight a running battle as they are pursued across the plain. They have to abandon most of their equipment to enable them to move quicker, leaving their belt kits to carry the essentials - water and ammunition.
When they eventually stop to rest, Stan is dehydrated, Ray has badly injured his leg and the medi-kit has been destroyed in the fighting. It soon becomes clear that they have lost radio contact with base and that they are going to have to escape via Syria, 170km away. They begin to move ahead, but then the weather changes - the worst the region has experienced in thirty years. Andy tries to make contact via an Air Force tactical beacon radio, but Chris, Stan and Ray do not realise that the others have stopped and carry on. The two groups never meet up again.
That night, Andy, Dinger, Baz and Tony cover 85km before stopping to find cover from the bitter cold whilst Mark recovers from hypothermia. They wait until the next night to make the last 70km to the border, hijacking an absurdly out of place New York Yellow Cab of fifties vintage. They make good progress, but have to blast their way out of a roadblock, leaving behind another self-sustaining battle.
Meanwhile, the Patrol is successfully tracked by an Iraqi Colonel. He has virtually caught up with them by the time they reach the Euphrates river, and in all the confusion, Tony goes missing. Dinger and Baz attempt to swim the freezing river and are swept downstream - Baz also loses his life.
Having now lost everyone, it takes Andy and Mark most of the night to work their way through the Iraqi positions. When Mark gets hit, Andy thinks that he has been killed, and we see Andy the next day walking the final 2kms where he finally gets captured and taken away for interrogation.
The Iraqi Colonel takes over the interrogation of the team from a Captain who thinks him to be Israeli, but Andy reveals no more than Name, Rank and Number. We also discover that Dinger has been captured and is being set upon by an elderly father whose son has been killed in the fighting.
We witness the interrogation and torture of Andy and Dinger who have now been turned over to the Iraqi Secret Police (the dreaded "White Socks") in a secret service prison in Baghdad. Their interrogator is well-spoken and relentless. Andy is continually beaten - his teeth are smashed and at one point a dentist is brought in, not to repair his teeth, but to increase the torture.
After a couple of cover stories, Andy decides to almost tell the truth, leaving out a few salient points. This seems to be successful as Dinger and Andy are moved to a military prison where they are reunited with Stan (who was also captured at the river). They are no longer tortured, but Andy is humiliated by Jeral, a warden who makes him unblock toilets.
They learn that Chris has successfully made it over the border into Syria. Stan and Dinger are then given the news that they are going home. Andy is at his lowest point and reflects on his life, remembering his daughter. He convinces himself that he has been kept there for the firing squad, but when the war is declared over, he too is finally released. At the Red Cross Hospital, he is delighted to see that Mark is alive.
Back in Hereford, Andy notes that the debriefing
psychiatrists were more stressed than the team members were, and
reaffirms that he is a professional soldier - and that of course
he will go back to Operations. His final thoughts are that if
he ever met any of his tormentors in the street and he thought
he could get away with it, he would slot them.
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