Will ran away to sea aged 15. Pretty soon, he was on board HMS Leander ‘fighting’ Icelandic gunboats in the Cod War [no medals]. The only problem being that, while the Icelanders were firing shells at our trawlers, our pusillanimous politicians in Whitehall wouldn’t let us fire back. So we lost. Which means we have less cod. But then, there’s always haddock. And hake. And we could still play dodgems with them… see the video.
One thing about being at sea is you get plenty of time to read... In fact, the Royal Navy was full of bookworms, as it was just about the only thing to do. All that frenzied book swapping must have done some good, because after seven years before the mast, Will won a scholarship to Ruskin Workers’ College to study English & Politics. From there he somehow rode a magic carpet into Oriel College, Oxford, to read French. With a light serving of German on the side.
To ease a burning social conscience, Will then became a youth worker in Lambeth, aiming to keep young offenders out of jail. Which was no easy task, given how determined some of them were to end up there. But sometimes, it worked, and they came back to visit him with girlfriends, boyfriends, babies, motorcycles [not stolen] and steady jobs…
A friend then pointed Will at a trainee writer job with Reuters TV. There a bunch of brilliant and mostly Antipodean journalists smacked him virtually round the back of the head to inculcate some basic skills in writing clear, engaging and often grammatical English.
Five years later Will quit Reuters to cover the civil war in Liberia.
He then made The Other Lung, a documentary film for Channel 4 TV on the environmental catastrophe of rainforest destruction in Central and West Africa. Unfortunately, we still need to fight for the forests, which are even now being clear-felled and burned down…
Now married, with a baby coming and no job, Will got a call from Mirror Group newspapers – seeing as you know a bit about military stuff, could you come and help us cover the first Gulf War? This led to Will’s first book, the best-selling Tornado Down, written with RAF pilot and navigator John Peters and John Nichol. Who give great copy.
The rest is as you see...