HUNDREDS of readers flocked to a city centre bookshop yesterday to meet a special forces hero.
It came as Afghanistan veteran Ant Middleton paid a visit to Waterstones in Commercial Road, as part of the tour for his new autobiography First Man In: Leading from the Front.
Signing copies for and meeting scores of adoring fans, Mr Middleton – who hails from Portsmouth – dubbed the stop the ‘highlight’ of his tome’s 13-point promotional run.
Among the crowds who turned out to see the former Special Boat Service (SBS) elite soldier, were brothers Jake and Dominic Morgan – who journeyed an hour-and-a-half to get there, from Dorset.
Brandishing signed copies of Mr Middleton’s book, the pair labelled him an ‘inspiration’.
Jake, 19, said: ‘We’re big fans of everything he’s done.
‘I wanted to join the Royal Navy when I was younger, but I was told I couldn’t – so hearing about everything he’s been through and the troubles he’s faced himself put everything in perspective.
‘He was a really pleasant, down-to-earth guy.’
Many who queued for the fixture did so after taking to Ant in 2015, when he began fronting the hit Channel 4 reality show SAS: Who Dares Wins.
One such reveller was Louise Setford, 39 from Clanfield, who embarked on the store to nab a gift for her husband.
Mrs Setford said: ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins is one of the few programmes my husband and I can agree on, it’s brilliant.
‘Ant is firm but fair on the show, and he seems just as nice in real life – I like him.’
Reflecting on his return to Portsmouth, Mr Middleton said he was ‘buzzing’.
He said: ‘I’ve been really excited for this leg of the tour because it would mean I get to come back to Portsmouth – everybody looks after one another here and that’s something I can relate to.
‘The turnout has been amazing and very respectful.’
‘Amazed’ by the numbers of people who descended on her store, Waterstones manager Emma Prince said: ‘This is going to help us massively – we’re really pleased.’