Cinebook’s series of factual bandes dessinees entitled Cinebook Recounts has been on hold for some time now after titles on the Battle of Britain, The Falklands War and The Wright Brothers, but comes storming back with the true story of the British Army’s Special Air Service in The Regiment.
The first book in this new series, written by Vincent Brugeas, illustrated by Thomas Legrain, coloured by Elvire De Cock and originally published in France in 2017, trailed here last year, takes readers through the very rocky creation of the special forces unit in the North African desert in mid to late 1941 by three maverick officers, Captain David Stirling from Perthshire in Scotland, Lt Paddy Mayne from Newtownards in Northern Ireland, and Indian born Australian Lt Jock Lewes.
With the German Afrika Korps now in North Africa to support the Italians, the British are being forced back from their positions. Captain David Stirling convinces his superior that a guerrilla style raiding party parachuted behind enemy lines to attack airfields and destroy their planes on the ground would be beneficial and is given the go-ahead to choose his recruits.
However their first mission in November 1941, undertaken in terrible weather, is a disaster,with 42 men dead or captured and their objectives missed. When the remaining SAS are picked up at the agreed rendezvous point by the Long Range Desert Group, they realise that the LRDG reconnaissance tactics could be put to a more aggressive use and that trucks rather than parachutes may be the best means of entering the battle.
Vincent Brugeas’ script takes a first person narrative approach with Jock Lewes telling the tale, often in flashback. This gives a personalisation to the story that otherwise could have got bogged down in the early setbacks that the force suffered. Instead we feel the anger and frustration of Lewes and the others all the more before their realisation that the LRDG concept of move and hide added to their own inclination of short, sharp all-guns-blazing raids could actually work for them.
Thomas Legrain’s artwork is detailed and accurate for the various trucks, tanks and planes that the force uses or encounters, his people are distinctive without being caricatures, and the action when it does come is frantic and often portrayed in close up panels.
His cover design with the three leads resting on the hulk of a destroyed German fighter, while not actually portraying a scene from the story, sums up the story well as being more thoughtful and quiet than the action-packed violence that may have be expected.
The 56 pages of artwork concludes with eight pages of background information on the three men, the North African campaign, the Long Range Desert Group, and SAS through the years, which provides a good grounding for the reader in what they have just read.
The Regiment Book 1 is an impressively involving start both script and art wise to this ongoing fact-based story of the early days of the Special Air Service, a story that I look forward to seeing more of in the near future.