Fifty years ago this month I was planning my first real Christmas.

Not back in Scotland with family, I ran away from them at 14. No, instead with a group of young lads who had quickly become my brothers. Brothers in arms, military brothers.

I was rapidly coming towards my first year in the services, and what a year it had been.

From basic training as an undernourished young laddie who had just turned 17. Then my RAF Regiment training course of 10 weeks. Followed by my pre para and jumps course…then off to my first war…as green as they come.

Dhofar, Oman…the secret war, as the UK electorate were kept in the dark about it for the first few years…eventually the event getting out. A great time learning the trade from great lads, NCOs and officers. And seeing the SAS in fine form fighting in the mountains 3-4 miles to our front at night. Green tracer rounds firing into their positions. The SAS answering with red tracer rounds firing back out towards the enemy locations. Explosions, para illuminating flares dancing down from the sky…awesome to observe for a young man such as myself.

Later in the year off to jungle training in Kota Tingi, Malaya at the British run Jungle Warfare School…chalk and cheese from the war in Dhofar. From seeing for miles to your front to seeing inches to your front, and having to learn to look through and not at the trees.

Then back home, a few parachute jumps onto Wiltshire drop zones and off for Christmas and New Year.

What a way to end the year for me personally.

My first Christmas with family. Family who I’d trained with, family who I’d fought alongside, family who I’d shared a brew and rations with. Family who I’d played football with. Family who now at the age of 68 I still very much treasure, and I’m still in touch with…well those still kicking anyway.

You see, not everyone gets to go home for Christmas, because not everyone has a home to go to. A nice wee tight knit group of sad no hopers with no homes to go to, remained in camp and had an awesome time…Christmas in Bath, our awesome local city.

My first Christmas…real Christmas…spent with a few young mates who quickly became brothers, in Colerne, Wiltshire. A camp full of important people in my life. People who I didn’t realise at the time, who would shape me as a person and as a young soldier…and spend their own time to make me better and better than I was already…thank you brothers from the bottom of my heart. x

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

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  1. Lovely sentiments Bob ,I look back on my time on 2sqn has the best time of my life I was lucky to have family not very far away in Bracknell and so to my great regret I didn’t stay on camp at weekend that often and also got married which takes you further away from the lad’s but that said I still feel a very close bond with the lad’s I served with even the ones that have known idea who I am🥴😁wishing you and family a merry Christmas and a happy new year 👍

  2. Hi bob.
    You probably won’t remember me I too was 17 yrs in 1972 salalah in 72 and 73 Hedgehog bravo SW FLIGHT Ireland in between bishops court. I remember you tabbing around the airfield at catterick with a large pack on your back training for your move to the SAS I often wish I’d followed in your footsteps but unfortunately I had to leave the squadron in 78 for family reasons. Stay well.

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