SAS: Stories from the cookhouse at the elite regiment

A new book shines a unique and unusual light on the SAS, although its author never intended to write, let alone publish, this account of her three years working at the SAS camp.

“I didn’t even think about it,” says Monica Lavers, whose book, Geezers: On Camp with the SAS, a civilian’s eye view of the SAS camp in Herefordshire, is published this month. “I didn’t think it would be possible.

“However, The Secretary of the Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee explained that writing a book was not forbidden – a misunderstood part of signing the Official Secrets Act suggests that one can never, ever talk about the job but that wasn’t the case,” says Monica.

“It was disclosure of sensitive information that they were concerned about.”

Because Monica had kept a record, for herself she thought, of her three years working as a kitchen hand and store keeper, a memoir that she thought she’d like to have printed properly.

But when she approached Orphans Press in Leominster, they immediately saw the potential and persuaded Monica to consider publishing it as a book.

Which makes the process sound simpler than it turned out to be.

When she submitted the first draft for approval, it came back to her with 35 pages of redactions, 237 points which threatened national security.

“I think I just wanted to leave a memoir for anyone who came after me,” says Monica, adding that “people don’t realise what it’s like, and nothing was as anyone would have thought.”

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Explaining how she came to work at the camp, Monica says: “I couldn’t get voluntary work despite trying to sign up.

“I couldn’t even give my services for nothing. So when I saw this job come up I thought I had no chance of getting it.

“But when I went I discovered that they were desperate and said, ‘We would love to have you’.

“It then took six months to vet me!

“As time went on and I got to know the soldiers, I realised how ordinary and how misunderstood they were,” says Monica, who regularly ate in the cookhouse with the men and was totally accepted by them.

“If you are in, you are in,” she adds. “I was in, so nobody watched what they were saying.”

Which gave Monica the opportunity to see beyond the fearsome reputation to the people, resulting in a behind-the-scenes look at life on camp that tells the stories of the soldiers’ lives as they were told to her.

Geezers: On Camp with the SAS is published by Orphans Publishing.

Hereford Times