• MySTV

Ex-SAS soldier and celeb bodyguard 'lucky' to be alive

SAS: Who Dares Wins star Mark 'Billy' Billingham shares his near-death experiences.

Mark Billingham served 20 years in the elite fighting force, the SAS.

The star of Channel 4's gruelling programme SAS: Who Dares Wins has also been a bodyguard to Hollywood stars including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Michael Caine.

Speaking to Scotland Tonight he said: "It's only in the cold light of day that you come back from a job, and you're having a beer and a chat about it and think how the hell did I just walk out of that? It doesn't make sense".

Here is an edited transcript of the interview.

Mark 'Billy' Billingham: There were two reasons for going to the SAS, the first was, can I do it? I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. And secondly a lot of my friends before that had gone there, and I knew that they were doing amazing things although they weren't talking about it, so I thought I just want to do it. It's like becoming a footballer you want to go to the Premier, and the SAS is without a doubt the lead in the world in special forces. So I thought I want to be part of that.

Rona: And what kind of.. It must take a certain type of person, a type of personality, to make it, and endure for the amount of time you did in the SAS.

Mark: Well yes, I'm used to hardships, you know, I came from a poor background and I was used to fending for myself to a degree. The regiment and the military in general is about that. So I suited the role straightaway. I thrived on it, I loved it. I'm one of these people who just thrives in chaos, and produces my best result in a crisis. And being in the regiment I couldn't wish for a better job to be honest.

Rona: Looking back at your time in the SAS, do you ever think it's incredible that you have actually survived it? At the time are you just so in the moment and living on adrenaline, that you don't think about the danger?

Mark: You take it all for granted. It's only in the cold light of day that you come back from a job, and you're having a beer and a chat about it and think how the hell did I just walk out of that, it doesn't make sense. The cat of nine lives, I must be a double-cat.. Honestly, sixteen, it's just crazy. Everything from being almost shot at point blank range, to almost blown up and the bomb hasn't even gone off. Or it's been soaked up by something else. I've just been very very fortunate. A lot of luck.

Rona: And do you feel a bit invincible?

Mark: No, I just feel lucky. Not invincible. I just feel like maybe there's a reason why I didn't die that day, and I'd never have the answer to it, but no I don't I feel invincible. I just feel fortunate and lucky.

Rona: You then went on to become an instructor with SAS: Who Dares Wins, on Channel 4. Are you surprised that people want to come and do this?

Mark: People seem to have lots of different motivations to come and do this, really really gruelling programme. I'm not surprised at all to be honest, people read the books and want to know more about it, and if they get a chance without doing the whole thing and being committed to it, then they'll want to do it. And there are thousands of people who apply. A lot of them want to prove a number of things to themselves, one - they can take a physical show challenge, they can prove good things to themselves. And a lot of them seem to have something that they want to get off of their chests. A lot of it is quite emotional, and some of it is disturbing. But they all walk away feeling better, and having, you know, shared a problem, and hopefully we've helped to give them some sort of solution to the way forward. And it seems to be working.

Rona: What you do fascinates everyone, and when you go on a speaking tour what are the questions that people ask?

Mark: Everyone wants to know about your life in the SAS, your operational side of it. And unfortunately I can't talk about a lot of it. But they just want to know what drove me to be there, and generally what it was like. That is the main question. You always get the odd question about how many lives have you taken as opposed to how many lives have you saved, you never get asked that question. But generally most people are very respectful and they enjoy the talk, and they want to know what ingredients did I have to get from where I was, a naughty schoolboy kid from the council estate, to being in the finest regiment in the world. And not just being in it but being one of the leaders doing amazing jobs. They're the sorts of things that people want to know.

Rona: Part of your career also has been an A-list bodyguard to people like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, what was it like going from the battlefield to what appears to some as a really shallow world?

Mark:Luckily I'm not a starstruck sort of person, they were more in awe of me that I was of them for sure. And what I really loved with everyone I worked with was respect. They totally respected what I did and what I know. And if I told Brad, Angie, Michael Caine, whoever it was, this is not happening, for these reasons. They never questioned it. Which I found was really respectful, but I was always mindful about what they do as well, so it was a mutual understanding. And it was a fantastic time, I learned a lot from most of these people. What people don't see is how hard these people work. Even when they are not on camera they are doing charity stuff, they spent time with their kids, they are fantastic time managers. And I learned a lot for them. It was an awesome time.

Rona: I suppose the question here is, when you are taken on as their bodyguard, use you supposed to take a bullet for them, how far do you go in protecting their lives?

Mark: I tell you what a good bodyguard does, is not take a bullet for anyone. A good bodyguard is not sculptured, polystyrene, 6 foot 6, big muscles, it's actually what's in there, it's thinking about it. And that's 90% of your work, understanding what the threat is, and how you can get round it, without scraping.. and being caught up in something. If you're my client and someone is shooting at you, I've got you in the wrong place. You know, someone's trying to attack you, and I'm rolling around on the floor, then I can't protect you. It's about thinking and avoiding it, that's what bodyguarding really is, you're on your toes all the time.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.