There was the raid on Dieppe, a submarine landing in

North Africa, pow-wows with General George Paton,

and his amazing bravery. All published in a book, all

told to friends . . . and all completely fictitious.

Welcome to the world of Alexander Walker-Naddell


''As we moved round the vast ovens, an appalling sight met our eyes; we could hardly believe what we were seeing. As the bodies burnt, the fat given off dripped into channels below the fires. There some of the prisoners were dipping rags into the fat and sucking the cloth . . . revulsion, pity and now raw anger surged through our bodies.''

- Serve with Honour by Alexander Walker-Naddell

There is little consensus about Alexander Walker-Naddell except, perhaps, that he has made a very terrible mistake. He has friends and enemies in equal measure, and also those who believe that he is just an old man who got carried away with himself. One acquaintance describes him as someone ''with a great reputation for helping people'', while another concedes he has been ''foolish and stupid''. Then there is the senior military figure who has labelled him ''selfish, arrogant and altogether naive''. Another states bluntly that he is ''rather sad''.

So who exactly is Walker-Naddell? According to the man himself,

he was the former Commanding Officer with No 4 Commando Unit, during the Second World War. He is also the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the City of Glasgow and has been invested as Knight of the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem. As a colonel in 1942, and with talk of

a Second Front, he tells me he was one of the senior commanders

called to a conference with Churchill and Montgomery to discuss

the ill-fated raid on Dieppe. In Navrik, ''of tremendous strategic importance in the Norwegian campaign'', under the quiet-spoken Scot's command, his unit's aim was to gather up all the British and French fighting men from all services, who had been isolated there, and escort them back to the UK.

In early 1942 Naddell led No 4 Commando to Malta, where they were sent by submarine to land on the North African coast, some 10 miles west of Tobruk to destroy German fuel and ammunition dumps (when he landed he dressed in SS uniform, screamed orders at German soldiers, before signalling his men to attack and overcome them). In 1944, a short time after meeting Lieutenant-General George S Paton, the Commander-in-Chief of the Third US Army, he dressed - along

with ''his boys'' - as a German soldier and entered a concentration

camp where he came upon the gas chambers ''with row upon row of metal racks, on which the German guards placed other bodies destined to be burnt''.

It was an extraordinarily distinguished military career and one that, for the previous half-hour, I have listened to with increased amazement. His searing account of his role as Commanding Officer with No 4 Commando Unit, has been told on countless occasions, to family, friends and strangers alike. Last year his autobiography, Serve with Honour, published by Reids of Blantyre, detailed all his heroic adventures in the Second World War. In November this year, dressed in full Commando regalia, he took the salute at the Armistice Parade in Glasgow's George Square.

When I meet him in the consulting room of his private clinic in Glasgow - where he has successfully practised his own brand of medicine for curing slipped discs and migraines for more than

50 years - he tells me that the Second World War had a profound influence on his life. He began service life, he says, as an officer in

the Royal Army Medical Corp, before volunteering to join the Special Force in 1939, eventually becoming Colonel in charge of the No 4 Commando Unit. His military service extended for some 12 years into the post-war period and he was awarded many medals, including the Military Cross and the Norwegian Cross.

Yet there remains one problem. According to the Commando Association, this 88-year-old man in front of me was never the CO of No 4 Commando, indeed was never in the Commandos at all. And he never once set one foot in occupied Europe, never mind a concentration camp. According to Henry Brown MBE, president of the Commando Association, and an acknowledged authority on the Commandos, what Walker-Naddell has said and written about No 4 is absolutely ''off the beat''. From their records they know exactly who commanded No 4 Commando from its formation to its disbandment. And none of them was Walker-Naddell. ''The fellas have never even heard of the man, never mind being CO.''

From formation on June 23, 1940, until disbandment in 1945, the COs of No 4 Commando were Lt Col Legard, Lt Col D S Lister, Lt Col The Lord Lovat and Lt Col R W P Dawson. Lt Col R W P Dawson was replaced for a short time in Normandy by

Lt Col R P Menday, but later returned to lead the Commandos in Holland. Incredibly, all of these men held the rank of lieutenant colonel, while Walker-Naddell claims to have been a full colonel, having being promoted to full colonel in early 1942.

And so this is the story of a man who is some of the things he is supposed to be

and more of the things he is not. Walker-Naddell grew up in the Ibrox area of

Glasgow, along with four brothers and sisters. His father, John, according to Walker-Naddell, was a professional musician (though one source disputes this, alleging instead

that his father owned a retail furniture business in High Street, near Glasgow

Cross). He attended St Mungo's College and Glasgow University, where he started his medical training.

During the Second World War, a number of staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary were away in the Forces and Walker-Naddell was employed as a temporary appointment. According to one senior military figure, Naddell had been called up in 1939, but

had served entirely in the United

Kingdom, as a home-based doctor, mainly at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (the hospital

is only required to keep staff records for

a maximum of five years. After that, everything is destroyed).

In September 1939 he married Iris and they had four children. For more than 50 years he has been regarded as a bit of a medical maverick who stepped outside the health service system. Yet, despite this, by all accounts he has been a great success in curing slipped discs and back pains and, in spite of his age, he still sees patients almost every day. As well as Serve with Honour, his other publications include Fight Old Age, The Slipped Disc and the Aching Back of Man and Migraine. So how did Alexander Walker-Naddell, working in Glasgow, come to believe that he was the colonel in charge of No 4 Commando unit?

In his office, the old man sits quietly behind the eternal mask of the heroic soldier, brittle as a rusting radiator. He is a donnish figure, dressed in a grey suit and a crumpled shirt, unaware that a torrent of shocking, almost posthumous, revelations, threaten to swamp his life. What is immediately obvious is that his grasp of details are no longer the skill of his business. He remains as healthy as the dusty medical documents lying before him.

I listen patiently to his stories before finally telling him that the Commando Association have never heard of him. ''My name is Naddell. So it started off with me as Colonel Alex and then it switched to Colonel Naddy. No-one has ever bothered about my original name.'' He proceeds to tell a few more stories, charging straight on, a human rhinoceros, veering neither to the left nor the right. I read him the names of the men who were in charge of the Commandos from 1940 until 1945. ''Lovat and I were great pals,'' he says, without hesitation. ''We served together. Oh, aye. In the Commandos.'' I ask him if he held a temporary medical position at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow during the Second World War? He doesn't respond. You won the Military Cross? ''I won it because we blew up . . . we were cornered, there was no way out

of it. You worried how you were going to get out. The only way you could get through

the Panzer Tanks . . . in occupied France. My trouble is I'm not up to this. I'm not up to the mark myself. I haven't been able to walk following the Armistice (Day celebrations).''

As president of the Commandos, Henry Brown doesn't know whether to be angry or sad. In his previous 40 years as general secretary, Brown is convinced he would have come across Naddell - or at least there would have been someone in No 4 who would know immediately who he was. ''We couldn't believe it, quite honestly, some of the things he said. The poor old boy is either ill or something. It's sad, really. You see you get fellas in the unit who have served for three or four years in No 3 or No 4, and are very proud of the fact, and are proud of who they served under. They're saying you can't have this bloke saying these things, or whatever. He's taking advantage. As we used to say in the war, 'he's bumming his load'. One wants to feel that we should let the old

boy down lightly but . . .'' And he trails

off. ''The things he's said about No 4 Commando are completely wrong.''

According to retired Major R M Smith, of the Lowland Territorial Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve, the only service Naddell had, it appears, is his hospital service, although he did command a Territorial Army unit after

the war, around 1967 (he commanded a sponsored unit, which is a TA unit that had

a lesser commitment than the standard

TA hospitals. The specialist unit that

Naddell commanded had a commitment of approximately 19 days in all in peace time). Meanwhile, Captain Peter Starling, curator of RAMC Historical Museum, insists there is

no record of him, that he could find, ever winning a Military Cross. What he did

find was that, in 1967, Naddell was listed as being an Honorary Colonel of 304 City of Glasgow CCS.

For 15 minutes he clings to the belief that his story is true, although his expression is somewhat disconsolate. Momentarily he drops into his chair, grasping the brief security that the wooden chair gives. There is a curious interplay among flesh, sinew, bone and resignation. He has pouches under his eyes, hangdog cheeks.

Ipoint out the various inconsistencies in his book. He claims that, in 1940, when he was enrolled in the Commandos, he hoped to obtain ''the famous Commando beret''. Yet the award of this particular headgear was not implemented until the autumn of 1942 (No 1 Commando took it first on their raids to North Africa). It would have been virtually impossible for him to know about the green beret if it hadn't even been thought about.

He claimed that after the war, if an emergency arose in the country, his Commando unit was called into action at a moment's notice. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s there was considerable unrest in various parts of Africa. He claims he was recalled into the Commandos to lead a raid in Kenya. ''The fifties was a turbulent time in many parts of the world and it became a real possibility that war on a

large scale might develop. I, and many

like me, were recalled frequently to take part in various raids,'' he writes. Naddell also claims that, in 1956, he was recalled to overall command of a Commando exercise after ''Nasser seized the Suez Canal . . . this was a wartime situation and our guns maintained a visible presence and were always at the ready''.

Yet, according to the Commando Association, the unit disbanded in November 1945 and was never again raised. ''It would have been quite impossible for him to have been in Suez or anywhere like that because the unit was never formed again. None of the Army Commandos were. The Army ones were completely disbanded.'' When I repeat this, that the Commandos were abandoned in 1945, and never called up again, Walker-Naddell replies tersely: ''Och, come on.''

No-one seems to remember him. ''Why is there a song and dance about that? I don't know anything about it.'' The only people who could verify his claims to being a colonel in No 4 Commando are his ''best pal Lovat and Fitzroy Maclean. It was a funny bunch . . . oh, Christ. After Norway it was no good having big, heavy outfits to do a job, better to have small powerful units with all the material required.'' Who suggested that? ''Lovat. Lord Lovat. And Fitzroy Maclean. You must remember at one point it wasn't all set up as such. It was very crude.''

His memory of his ''best pal Lovat'' is, to say the least, confusing. Naddell claims that Lord Lovat, now deceased, was the CO of

No 3 Commando, while he was in charge of No 4, ''but the two forces joined up quite frequently as 3/4 Commando. I valued my friendship with Lord Lovat. We both were in the Commandos from the early stages and we thought alike about many aspects.''

Henry Brown sees things differently. ''The confusion of unit identification,'' he says, ''should be cleared up. Lord Lovat was certainly not CO of No 3 Commando, but

of No 4 Commando. These units never joined up as 3/4 Commando. They did, however, participate in theatres of war together, but there was no interplay between the units. They fought in the same areas at Dieppe, but there was no cross-activity. Walker-Naddell also mentions Fitzroy Maclean being in the Commandos, which is not true.''

So you can see we are having some difficulty, I say. ''I can see that. The whole thing about the Commando set-up it seemed to be, it was off, it was on, it was on, it was off, you never knew quite where you were with them. I was . . . I had my command. That was it.'' I tell him that the Commando Association refutes almost all of the military claims he makes in his book (excluding the broad outline of early Commando history which is generally correct, but Naddell clearly states his sources for this), but he still insists he was in charge of the unit.

The room where we sit is dark and cluttered, and there is little in the way of light through the stained-glass windows. He doesn't enjoy the orthodox comfort and looks insecure. His sense of himself seems to be myopic, focusing exclusively on himself. You sense that his bizarre fascination with his past, his (non) military record, stems partly from a desire to validate his sense of self. So, how did he get here?

In many ways, his story is a dissection of the British psyche, both during and after the Second World War. He is a product of a time and place, presssurised by the Victorian themes and demands as expressed in the phrase, 'Daddy, what did you do in the war?' Walker-Naddell stands at the heart of the post-war male malaise. He pumped his chest, flexed his arms and fattened his memory in order to make himself a real soldier, a hero.

Yet it was never masculinity on the rampage. More, I think, about dashed hopes and expectations. The fascist defeating Second World War reflected a model of masculinity that Walker-Naddell, perhaps, felt he never truly participated in because he was safe, because he was far from danger. For him, the price of admission to manhood required more than the contribution from a temporary doctor working in a home-based hospital. He couldn't fight an ''honourable war'' and conversely invented his own dishonourable one to compensate. His chest full of medals merely merchandised his decreasing sense of manliness. So he became a peacock strutting, putting himself on display. He wanted to shout: ''I contributed. I did something valuable. I was a good man.''

After a short time he finally relents. You were a leader of No 4 Commando, even if the Commando Association says you were not?

''If they say I wasn't then I wasn't. That's all there is to it. I've no doubt there must have been mistakes but not deliberate.''

You've not been trying to pretend

to anyone?

''It made a story out of nothing. That was it. I was just getting memories muddled up, not mixed up. Muddled up. To me that's . . . it would sound like a great story. Very often I would waken up and think did that happen or did it not happen? I was never quite sure.''

I begin to witness some deep, private humiliation. Slowly he begins to unburden himself. When you were saying you had been in France, you were just meaning all the men, the soldiers you had treated?

''I was never in occupied France. They were telling me, and, as I was telling it, it was assumed that I was the one. I wasn't doing any harm. I never thought it was going to go anywhere. Once I started writing that up,'' he points to some copies of the books he has lying in a corner, ''I knew it was a mistake. They (the soldiers) would tell me, while I was treating them in hospital, I just assumed . . . I put myself in that position, that I was telling it. I wasn't there. It was all from the men. I was trying to tell their story. It should never have been anything else but a story.''

Did a story appear and it just kept, you know, presenting itself? ''That's right. You've got to see it to some sort of conclusion. I think it was more a mistake than anything. That stupid book. I should never have written that book. Look at the rump it's causing, you would have thought it would not have caused anything, but it does. I never gave it much thought. I just wrote the thing and that's it. It's not committing any great crimes, it's not commiting any . . .'' He puts his hands to his head.

''Sometimes we just come out with stupid things and we build something up in ourselves and suddenly it becomes a bloody story. I didn't want it at all. I did my best not to have it. You'd say something and think: 'I shouldn't have said that.' Because they make something out of it, then you suddenly believe it, bloody well believe it yourself.''

And one story leads to another story? ''It does, it does. It's a stupid thing. I didn't really want this bloody book. But 'oh, come on, write that book. It's a great story. Write that, it'll be a great story'. Oh, for God's sake.'' The old man's frame heaves, his eyes fill up. There is silence in the room. It's a difficult sight, the bald man, seated in the grim chair, an unfamiliar expression across his face. It is a deep, troubled secret history that still haunts.

In its own way, sitting in this room, surrounded by walls covered in mementos from a ghostly life, a harrowing scene is played out. The photograph of Iris, his

dead wife; pictures of his children and grandchildren. Stories and legends and memories pinned to the wall. It's more sad than anything else. Yet people feel cheated. People want to believe war stories because they comfort them. If they fail, if they fall flat, and are nothing but frippery, then there is a collective desire for answers.

So what makes a war story true? Something that your insides tell you is true, I suppose. And listening to Walker-Naddell

my insides are churning. The old man. The stories. Picturing him telling his family. Looking back over almost 90 years and wishing he'd never opened his mouth. That's a true war story. Maybe the truth of war is more than just the war itself. It's about memories, both real and imagined. It's about the stories which are told that never happened and the ones that are kept hidden which did. It's about tragedy. And about wanting and needing. It's about sorrow and about shame.

Walker-Naddell became the action hero, that very modern emblem of masculinity, and has ultimately been consumed by it. The war was the central masculine crisis for his generation and he was an ornament within it. It's about feeling essential, having a relevance. In many senses it was about trying to find a sense of divine in himself, a sense of mystery. He failed. He looked for truth in the wrong places. He forgot about vulnerability and darkness. In trying to reach the most personal within himself, he has come up with the most public. It's not easy to go out and die as a young man. And it's not easy to stay at home while others die on your behalf.

Skinny and shrunken and neatly bald, the old man lowers his head in the manner of a man suffering shell-shock. His watery eyes, the same colour as dull metal, close briefly, before squeezing out a death-mask grimace. Outside it is raining. When he speaks, his delivery is quiet, slow and ponderous as he grasps for words. On Christmas Day Alexander Walker-Naddell, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Glasgow, will be 89 years old. He doesn't know exactly who he is these days and I doubt he will ever have the time to find out. I leave him, crushed by the magnitude of a life that never was.