In an increasingly uncertain world, the focus of this new edition is to prepare you for any survival situation you may encounter. Within these pages I look to identify every danger imaginable and show you how to deal with it The advice given here will prepare you both physically and mentally, and make you aware of all the hazards you may face. Being fully prepared will give you the confidence to survive against the odds—and allow you to adapt when things go wrong.
For 26 years, as a professional soldier, I had the privilege of serving with the Special Air Service (SAS). This elite unit of the British Army is trained to carry out arduous operations in all parts of the world, often isolated and far from conventional forces. Working in small groups, often in enemy territory, SAS soldiers have to become their own doctor, dentist, navigator and cook. Frequently, the operational situation makes resupply impossible and they have to live off the land. They have to handle every kind of situation and problem, whether man-made or an act of nature, and get back to safety, and must develop skills which enable them to survive anywhere.
After serving throughout the world, I became the survival instructor to the SAS and it was my responsibility to ensure that each and every member of the Regiment could apply these skills in the field. Tested in training and operations, they form the basis of this new edition.
The need for survival training has never been greater. Cheaper air travel has opened up the world, and there is virtually no place left on the face of the planet that we cannot and have not visited. This, added to factors such as increased leisure time, wealth, and the knowledge provided by television programmes, means that we are becoming more adventurous and informed about the world around us.
But we must also take into account the fact that over the last 12 years the world has become a more unstable place. The Berlin wall came down in 1999, followed by the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. These events, however, were overshadowed by the catastrophic and tragic events of 11th September 2001, the resultant ‘war on terror’ and, of course, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These global conflicts have affected everyone and one things is for sure—our lives will never be the same again.
The instinct to survive will never change, neither will the human body’s amazing ability to endure. Yet we should also bear in mind that, as we become more civilized, survival skills are being forgotten. It is doubly important, therefore, to practise our survival skills, and be prepared for anything. Survival training is the best insurance policy you can take out in an unstable world. If we are all grounded in the basic techniques of survival, and know what to do in an emergency, the world immediately becomes a safer place.
You could be isolated anywhere in the world—from the arctic ice to a desert, from tropical rainforest to the open ocean, and the problems of survival are the same for both soldier and civilian. The difference lies in the circumstances; soldiers may need to hide their presence, whereas civilians will want to attract attention to effect their rescue. In areas of instability, where the risk of kidnap is high, it may be best to remain inconspicuous. Each environment calls for special survival techniques. Mountains, jungles, open plains and swamps can seem hazardous to the survivor, but each offers some form of support and can be exploited for food, fuel, water and shelter—if you know how. The effect of climate is crucial. Intense cold and searing heat challenge the survivor in different ways. You must know how to cope with both.
You also need a sense of how your body works and how it will react in different environments and situations. Assess yourself before you travel: for instance, test your basic survival skills by sleeping outside, making sure that you can light a fire, and even going without sleep or food for a period of time. This will show you how you react in a limited simulated scenario.
Survival depends upon applying basic principles and adapting them to the circumstances. These basic principles form an essential pyramid of learning for the survivor.