Steve Heaney joined the Parachute Regiment Juniors at sixteen, then passed Parachute Regiment selection and joined 3 PARA in 1987. Two years later he successfully undertook selection into X Platoon – more formally know as the Pathfinders. He went on to serve with that unit for over a decade, working with almost every Special Forces unit with which the British military has links.
In 1999 he was promoted to Platoon Sergeant. The following year, he was the first non-officer in the unit’s history to be awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and courage during Operation Mayhem. He was also awarded the Commanding Officer’s Commendation for finding arms caches in Northern Ireland. Sergeant Heaney left the British military in 2001, by which time he was the most experienced Military Parachutist in the British Army. He has spent the last decade working as a senior military advisor to one of Britain’s key allies.
Steve Heaney’s first book, co-written with bestselling author Damien Lewis, Operation Mayhem, the story of one of the most highly decorated missions in British military history, was published by Orion in May 2014. The follow up, X Platoon, was published by Orion in October 2015.
For three decades one of the most secretive units in the British military has been a mystery force known as X Platoon.
Officially there was no X Platoon. The forty men in its elite number were specially selected from across the Armed Forces, at which point they simply ceased to exist. X Platoon had no budget, no weaponry, no vehicles and no kit – apart from what its men could beg, borrow or steal from other military units.
For the first time a highly decorated veteran of this specialised force – otherwise known as the Pathfinders – reveals its unique story. Steve Heaney became one of the youngest ever to pass Selection, the gruelling trial of elite forces, and was at the cutting edge of X Platoon operations – serving on anti-narcotics operations in the Central American jungles, on missions hunting war criminals in the Balkans, and being sent to spy on and wage war against the Russians.
The first non-officer in the unit’s history to be award the Military Cross, Steve Heaney reveals the extraordinary work undertaken by this secret band of brothers.
PUBLICATION DATE: 24th September 2015
PUBLISHED BY: Orion
OPERATION MAYHEM – Buy it here
Operation Mayhem is the first ever account of a truly epic elite forces mission: one of the most highly decorated in modern military history.
Airlifted deep into the heart of the African jungle in the midst of a bloody civil war, twenty-six operators from the secret British unit X Platoon were sent into combat against two thousand rebels – being used as bait to lure the enemy into a decisive, do-or-die battle.
High on blood-lust, voodoo and drugs, the rebels were notorious for their brutal savagery. Equipped with captured armour, heavy machine-guns and grenade-launchers, they vastly outgunned the men of X Platoon – who were kitted out with pitiful supplies of ammunition and malfunctioning rifles, plus no body armour, grenades or heavy weaponry.
Intended to last just days, the mission mutated into a desperate siege, as the men of X Platoon – more formally known as the Pathfinders – faced what the rebels dubbed ‘Operation Kill British’. Half-starved, surviving on giant African snails, fungi and other bush tucker, this handful of elite warriors were forced to make their stand unaided and alone. They fought using grenades made from old food-tins and ‘punji fields’ – rows of vicious sharpened bamboo-stakes – as the locals joined forces with them to defend against the onslaught.
Sergeant Steve Heaney was awarded the Military Cross for taking control of the battle after X Platoon lost their commanding officer. His story is full of the rough-and-ready humour and steely heroics with which these elite soldiers carried out operations far into hostile terrain.
The ferocious close quarter combat at the village of Lungi Lol brought to an end the horrific, decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. OPERATION MAYHEM is the first ever account of this untold true story – one fought and won deep behind enemy lines.
PUBLICATION DATE: 7th May 2015