On 22 November, approximately forty students travelled to Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre for a night with Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham, Channel Four’s SAS: Who Dares Wins star, former Paratrooper and ex-Sergeant Major in the SAS.
On arrival at the sold out theatre the atmosphere was electric, everybody eager to sit down for a wonderful evening, and we were not disappointed. Billingham gave his life story, explaining how, as a child, it was those much older than him who were his first influencers, especially his first boxing coach and cadet leaders. Mr Billingham also talked about his life in the Forces, his Paratrooper selection and later his life within the Special Forces. His message to us all was that: nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. He also talked about his charity ‘Rebuild Globally’ which has helped, and continues to help, families in Haiti get back on their feet after the devastating natural disaster in 2010, building hospitals for the injured and schools for the youth.
The second half of the night was devoted to a Q&A session hosted by a guest speaker. He started with stories of Mr Billingham’s life after the SAS as he became a bodyguard for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. He spent a considerable amount of time with the couple and their children in a very responsible and pressurised role. He mentioned how his body-guarding career led to him taking care of many other major celebrities including Tom Cruise and Sean Penn. He spoke briefly about the new series of SAS: Who Dares Wins and how the women were a lot tougher than expected, showing his support for women being given the chance to go through a very rigorous selection to be in the SAS and SBS.
After this he opened the floor to questions. We asked him some questions about the lowest point in his career and what advice he had for Initial Officer Training. He spoke about how training was the lowest part for him and how you just have to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough. This was nicely topped off by his famous quote, “Always a little further”, giving many of us the motivation and inspiration to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, no matter how hard it gets.
At the end of the evening we collected for a group photo, with many of us getting individual photos with him too as a lasting memory of the night!