In a shocking moment on SAS Who Dares Wins, recruit James has spoken of how a traumatic and violent incident as a teenager has left him feeling like he fears nothing.
In episode four of the Channel 4 SAS selection process series, recruits must prove they have the necessary grit to make the grade under the most challenging circumstances. James claims he has the perfect personality for that because of the violence he endured in his late teenage years. He said:
“With regards to fear and stuff like that, there’s really not a lot that phases me.”
Estate Agent Director James, 30, says that nothing intimidates him and that his life experiences have made him develop a thick skin. He said that trait will help him complete the course. He said:
“Growing up was extremely tough but I don’t show it.”
James shocks viewers with a revelation about his unusual childhood. When he was 18, his father was on the run from the police after stealing £1,000,000 from some ‘big guys’. He said:
“About a month later they came and attacked us. Four or five men came out with balaclavas on, sprayed me in the face with some mace and hit me with a metal bar.
“I could hear my Mum screaming. They were trying to kill us.”
Video: Channel 4
Sensing James’ resistance to tell the DS about his difficult past, Billy reassures James that he can be honest about his past as they “are no f****** angels”.
James continues to explain that eventually he and his friends would threaten people as payback for other people. He said:
“When I was younger, sometimes people would get me and some friends round to, do things.”
Before the series aired, James explained why he wanted to take part in the Channel 4 series. He said:
“For the last 10 years, I have been in control of every aspect of my life.
“I knew that it was a weakness to not experience being out of my comfort zone.
“It [SAS Who Dares Wins] was … by far the hardest thing I have ever had to endure and yet, it was the only way to get to know who I really am.”
But, do the other recruits have the focus, strength and determination to complete the almost impossible tasks which are the bread and butter of the Special Forces?
How do their lives before the Channel 4 SAS selection series affect their attitude?
Out of the original 25 recruits, only 12 remain after Oliver voluntarily withdraws himself from the course at the beginning of the episode. Chief Instructor Ant Middleton and Directing Staff (DS) Foxy, Billy, Ollie and newest member Jay design challenges in this episode to root out the weakest recruits. DS Billy said:
“To be in the SAS you’ve got to want it. There’s no room for 50%. There’s no silver medalists.
“We’re not looking for average, we’re looking for way above average.
“By watching them fight through without giving up will tell us they’ve got something about them.”
For the past three episodes, Jay has been the eyes and ears for the DS, gaining the recruits trust by being ‘Jamie’ and hiding his Special Forces career.
In the first challenge, the recruits must complete a breath-taking gorge crossing across two ropes, suspended 100 feet above the freezing Scottish Ocean.
While crossing the gorge, at the halfway point, the recruits must let go of one of the ropes, attempt to get back into position and continue to the other side.
This challenge gives the DS an insight into which recruits have enough grit to keep going or whether they give up when things get a bit tough or uncomfortable.
Video: Channel 4
Another recruit who, like James, uses the lowest point of their life as fuel for their determination is Carla, 40. The mum of four works full time and is motivated by her fight for life after being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. She said:
“I found a lump on my chest end of October last year, got diagnosed with breast cancer about three weeks later.
“I had to go through surgery and radiotherapy, but the chemo was tough.
“Chemo dialled everything about me down and then I decided I wanted to get back on my feet and feel like me within a year.
“Those areas of weakness I kind of know. I hope I can stick with the pace and put my best foot forward.”
In a rare emotional moment between Ollie and Billy, the DS discuss how impressed they are by her resilience. Billy said:
“What a f****** inspiring woman. A family, four kids, cancer and a year later she’s here cutting the mustard above these young f******.”
Speaking before the series aired, Carla spoke about how close her chemotherapy treatment was to the start of SAS Who Dares Wins filming. She said:
“Post chemotherapy I was a broken soul, I had trained throughout chemo, but more to keep mentally alive than to make any physical gains.
“The time period between the end of my treatment and the SAS course was tight.
“I pushed myself as hard as I physically could, but invariably I knew I was entering the show with some huge areas of weakness.”
Speaking to Jo Thoenes on Forces Radio BFBS Brize Norton, recruit 6 Nicola revealed just how much Carla was respected by her fellow recruits. She said:
"She's the woman you should look up to. She's so strong and so brave and courageous. Loves her family.
“Her story I hope will help so many other people that are going through that."
Video: Channel 4
In another push to discover which recruits should be culled next, the DS put them through their paces in a gruelling series of endurance tasks: an exhausting casualty evacuation, a terrifying casualty two-person abseil and a punishing 3 km race across the Scottish hills to the extraction point. Foxy said:
“What we try to do on selection is look for that person that when they’re empty, they dig deep and find more to give.”
Taking charge of Team Alpha is Carla while recruit nine, Kim, leads Team Bravo. Soon, both teams realise the terrain makes it almost impossible to transport a casualty using a stretcher. Instead, they must throw them over their shoulder and stagger across the uneven land. Ant said:
“When you carry a person for real, the casualty’s not jumping on your shoulders and supporting your weight.
“This is 14 stone of dead weight.”
Carla gives the viewers a glimpse into what kept her going through this gruelling challenge. As a child, she wasn’t considered ‘sporty’ but when she started University her mother suggested she should try rowing. She discovered very early on that she absolutely loved rowing so made it her mission to excel at the sport. She said:
“Everything I did was about me trying to get myself a seat in the boat for the Olympics and I got there in 2008 in Beijing.
“When I am going through tough times, I’ve got that experience and I’ll always have that.”
Pushed Beyond Breaking Point
Half-way through the brutal challenge, recruit 19 Kiersty is struggling to keep up with her team and, overwhelmed by the extra weight she is given to carry, eventually collapses.
DS Jay proves that he is more than just someone who barks orders by immediately focusing on Kiersty and giving her the one on one attention she needs. In a heart-wrenching moment, viewers see Jay help Kiersty recover from fainting.
WARNING: Some viewers might find this video upsetting
Video: Channel 4
After this incident, the DS switch the challenge and make it a battle between the men and the women. Kiersty has her bergen, a large load-carrying rucksack, taken away from her and she becomes the casualty in the challenge to give her body a much-needed break.
James takes control of his team and, as recommended by Ant, takes casualty Pavandeep over his shoulder and forges onward. Leader of the women’s team, Carla, carries Kiersty over her shoulders. After trekking like this for two hours, the men's team win but only by 90 seconds as the women’s team are not far behind.
However, as is SAS Who Dares Wins tradition, just when the recruits think it can’t get any worse, the DS ramp up the challenge.
Each recruit is asked to abseil down a cliff edge with another recruit attached to them as a casualty. After managing to safely abseil down they then must make their way back to base across uneven ground in unforgiving Scottish weather.
After pushing herself to her physical limit during the casualty evacuation challenge, Carla falls behind her teammates. However, she proves to the DS that she can push beyond her body’s limitations and get the job done.
Finally, at their lowest, the recruits are shown video messages from family and friends back home to test their mental strength to continue. As Ant said:
“We want to see how the recruits cope when their emotions are exposed.
“If you completely break down and you’re a quivering wreck then the battlefield isn’t the place for you.”
It’s this challenge that draws the DS’ attention to James’ state of mind. He claims to have no emotions and that he’s ‘dead inside’ but the moment he watches a video from home, recorded by his Mum, he shows a previously unseen display of emotion.
He fights back the tears while watching his video message of support from the most important person in his life.
Images: Channel 4