Sunday Herald Sun

GRAMPS GRYLLS’ GHOSTLY SECRET

- CLAIRE BICKERS

IT WAS a national secret kept under wraps since the dying days of World War II until survival expert Bear Grylls uncovered it in his mother’s attic while helping her move.

And it proves that truth is stranger than fiction.

The famed adventurer this week revealed the inspiratio­n behind his first novel,

was none other than his own grandfathe­r, Brigadier Ted Grylls, whose role during WWII was vastly different to what his family thought they knew.

“My grandfathe­r was a brigadier in a tank regiment — I always thought that was his job in the world war,” Grylls (below) said this week. “He died when I was 19. “But it was only last year that the 60-year Official Secrets Act came up and we were uncovering a bunch of old boxes in the attic at home, found one of his military boxes with all of these top secret documents and it didn’t really make any sense.

“The official war office basically came back saying his role in the Second World War had been to command the most clandestin­e unit set up by Churchill during the dying days of the war.

“(It was) something called ‘Target Force’ which was basically tasked with getting out all of the Nazi highrankin­g scientists, weaponry (and) technology and protecting them from the new enemy, which was the bigger enemy, which was the Soviets at that time.

“It was sort of morally quite dubious but it was like the enemy of your enemy is now your friend.”

It was an incredible secret his softly spoken grandfathe­r, who encouraged Grylls’ own military career, had never alluded to in life.

“I think at the end of his life he had a few things that one of the vicars said he needed to get off his chest that he never spoke about that I think he’d lived with for a long time,” Grylls said. “He was an amazing man and a great grandfathe­r and I just wish I’d known when he was alive, we could have talked about it more.” is the story of Will Jaeger,

an ex-military man haunted by a “malevolent force” who is drawn into a dark adventure in the Amazon jungle. It’s the start of a new series Grylls has co-written with war correspond­ent and author Damien Lewis.

“Will is a former Special Forces guy who is an expedition leader but he’s a broken man at the start of the book because his family’s been abducted,” Grylls said.

“He’s on the run to get away from life and he gets dragged into an adventure to hunt down this hidden war plane that’s been discovered in the jungle.

“And it all eventually starts to unravel into a very dark plot intertwine­d around the role of what his grandfathe­r did as a job in the Second World War.”

Grylls might have drawn on his own time in the military, survival experience and family history to craft the hero but he hopes that’s where the comparison­s end because Jaeger’s family is put through a “pretty brutal experience”.

The survival expert — one of the youngest people ever to climb Mount Everest, the star of and the current head of the Scout Associatio­n — warned the novel was definitely not for his younger fans as it could be “quite harrowing” at times.

But he relished the opportunit­y to inject some real-life survival knowledge into the book.

“I’ve read so many books over the years thinking, ‘Oh, it just doesn’t happen like that’, so it’s nice to be able to write and show how a lot of that stuff — how the survival stuff, the jungle stuff, the military stuff — how the reality of it works,” he said.

The novel was “a mix of Wilbur Smith and Tom Clancy” who were both natural inspiratio­ns, Grylls said. He is working on the second Will Jaeger novel while juggling filming for his television series

and

as well as a new project for the Discovery Channel.

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