SAS-trained novelist Andy McNab undertook an operation of the highest importance in Swindon yesterday – handing over certificates to acknowledge a push for more reading among Royal Mail workers.

The Gulf War serviceman is on a nationwide tour backing The Reading Agency’s Six Book Challenge, which gives people six months to complete six books for a certificate.

It is designed to encourage people to improve them through reading, which Andy is more than happy to support.

“It’s almost imperative for employees and employers,” said Andy. “If you look at it from the employer’s point of view, if they are working in an industry with highly technical machines, they want the most literate, numerate staff available.

“That’s why firms are backing this challenge. They really wanted to get their standards up within their existing workforce. In the longer term, if the parents are getting into it, the kids will follow that habit and latch on.

“Literacy comes from reading and numeracy follows on from that. It improves through reading.”

Andy cannot be identified in photographs or in the media. As a result of his operations with the SAS, fears remain he is a wanted man by terrorist organisations, and therefore he has kept his face out of the spotlight ever since his first book was published.

Sandra Absalom, 54, is the union learning rep for the Communication Workers Union at Royal Mail in Dorcan. She is responsible for bringing the challenge into the organisation.

At the end of January the 2014 edition kicked into action, and yesterday 34 workers were handed certificates by the war hero.

Sandra said: “It’s another learning opportunity for people in the centre. The beauty of this challenge is it’s for all abilities.

“Whether they want to read one or six books, it’s a start, it’s an incentive and it’s an improvement.

“It’s another thing we can offer our employees. We want them to continue to improving as people, not just employees here.

“There are a number of opportunities for them to progress to within the business, if they do excel with the courses we offer them here.”