A FORMER SAS soldier surprised army veterans at gatherings across the county at the weekend.

Pilgrim Bandits charity patron Rusty Firmin visited Maldon and Colchester before his big appearance at the weekend’s winter gathering of historic military vehicles at Promenade Park.

Before that, Rusty popped in at other events with links to the Armed Forces.

Organiser Shaun Morgan said: “I arranged for Rusty to come up to do a presentation and book signing at the Combined Services Museum and attend our local winter gathering of military vehicles at Maldon Prom, but also we decided to surprise a few other local veteran events to meet the former troops who are helping each other and the local community.”

Rusty said: “It is fantastic to meet so many members of the public who appreciate what soldiers of the British Army have done over the years and brilliant to see the Maldon area veterans doing so much to help each other and the local community.”

The Combined Services Museum, in Heybridge, has a permanent display of Rusty’s equipment from his 15 years of service, including his time saving hostages at the London Iranian Embassy in 1980 after a tense six-day stand-off.

The siege was later adapted into the 2017 film Six Days with actor Jamie Bell playing Rusty.

Rusty’s visits started at Maldon’s Veterans Breakfast Club.

Founder Stewart Bayford said: “It was a fantastic surprise to have Rusty turning up out the blue at our breakfast meeting.

“Shaun is our event organiser and didn’t tell any of us so our members were very surprised and pleased. He joined in and chatted with them in the usual military banter way.

“He’s a lovely bloke with some interesting stories about his military career.”

Shaun and Rusty then went to Colchester to see the Ebby Project where veterans are restoring a Chieftain tank and other military vehicles.

The next stop was at Maldon Museum for an evening talk and book signing.

Manager Nick Turner said: "It was a great evening with the visitors having a chance to talk one on one with Rusty about his career and what he did after the SAS.”