|Birth name||Charles Christian Cameron Bruce|
|Other name(s)||Tom Read|
|Born||8 August 1956|
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
|Died||8 January 2002 (aged 45)|
|Years of service||1973–1988|
|Unit||2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1973–78)|
The Red Devils (Parachute Regiment) (1978–82)
22 Special Air Service (1982–88)
|Awards||Queen's Gallantry Medal|
He served with the British Army's Parachute Regiment, and Special Air Service Regiment during the Falklands War, and in Operation Banner in Ulster in the early 1980s, where he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal. In 1998 he published a memoir of his life entitled Freefall, under the pseudonym "Tom Read". After being afflicted with psychiatric illness for several years, Bruce committed suicide by leaping without a parachute to his death from an aeroplane during a flight over South-Eastern England.
Bruce was born in Chipping Norton, in Oxfordshire, England, on 8 August 1956. He came from a family with a military tradition, being the middle son of a father who had been a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during World War 2, and the paternal grandson of Major Ewen Cameron Bruce (of Blaen-y-cwm), to whom he bore a close physical resemblance.
Bruce joined the British Army's Parachute Regiment as a Private in 1973 at the age of 17, and served with the regiment in Ulster in the mid-1970s in Operation Banner. From 1978 he spent 4 years with The Red Devils Display Team, participating in test-jumping, international exhibitions and competitions. (At the time of his death in 2002, with nearly 30 years in military and civilian parachuting, Bruce had logged over 8500 parachute jumps. His parachute log books show that he learnt his basic parachuting skills at Sibson Airfield, Peterborough from 1974 to 1978 prior to joining The Red Devils (Parachute Regiment) Display Team and achieved his D Rating in April 1979).
He subsequently applied for transfer to the Special Air Service Regiment, and after passing its aptitude trials was attached to 22nd Special Air Service Regiment in April 1982, shortly before the Falklands War commenced. and served with 22 SAS 'B' Squadron, 7 (Air) Troop from 1982–1986. Whilst with 'B' Squadron 7 Troop, he served with Alistair Slater, Frank Collins and Andy McNab. (In a November 2008 interview with The Daily Telegraph, McNab described Bruce as "one of my heroes").
In November and December 1984 Bruce was involved with British Army counter-terrorist operations against Provisional Irish Republican Army units in Kesh, County Fermanagh in Ulster, for which he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for "exemplary acts of bravery" One of the operations led to the death in action of his Special Air Service comrade Alistair Slater in a confrontation with several PIRA terrorists, including Antoine Mac Giolla Bhrighde and Kieran Fleming, who were also killed in the incident (Slater being posthumously awarded the Military Medal).
From 1986–1988 Bruce was attached to the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment's 'G' Squadron, 24 (Air) Troop.
After leaving the British Army in 1988 with the rank of Sergeant, after a clash with his superiors, Bruce worked in a private security capacity for the comedian Jim Davidson, before taking the role of second in command of an undercover operation codenamed Project Lock, a WWF sponsored anti-poaching operation in Southern Africa (1988–1990) led by SAS Founder Sir David Stirling and SAS Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Crooke. Operation Lock's primary purpose in Southern Africa was to track down dealers in Rhino horn and ivory. Linked to this was identifying their methods for illegal export, pinning corruption against those in high places who colluded with the dealers, and helping with the training and equipping of anti-poaching teams for endangered species in general and rhino in particular.
Bruce was an experienced pilot. He held South African, American and British pilot licences as well as a commercial pilot licence which enabled him to fly both single engine fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. In July 1992 he piloted his single engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk from Washington D.C. across the Atlantic Ocean via Greenland and Iceland back to the UK.
In the early 1990s Bruce started the 'Skydive From Space' project, to skydive from the edge of space from 130,000 feet and break the highest altitude freefall record previously set by Joe Kittinger in the 1960s. He trained with Loel Guinness' High Adventure Company and Kittinger. The project was partially backed funded by NASA. As a part of it Bruce, Harry Taylor and scientist and astronaut Karl Gordon Henize, with an ascent team, climbed the North Ridge Route of Mount Everest in late 1993 to test a NASA meter called a "tissue equivalent proportional counter" (TEPC) at different altitudes (17,000 ft, 19,000 ft and 21,000 ft), the device measuring the effects upon the human body of radiation at altitude, which would be factored in for consideration of space missions of a longer duration. The expedition was abandoned after the death of Karl Henize from high altitude pulmonary edema on 5 October 1993. Although the expedition was cut short, NASA received the information it had been sent out to acquire from the meter's readings logged during the ascent.
In February 1994 Bruce suffered a nervous breakdown whilst living in Chamonix, France,  where he without warning suddenly attempted to murder his girlfriend with a pair of scissors, stabbing her several times before being dragged off her by another male that was present. He was confined shortly afterwards by the local authorities to a French psychiatric hospital. The completion of the 'Skydive from Space' project was abandoned in consequence, and he began receiving psychiatric medical treatment.
He came to public prominence in 1998 when his autobiography entitled Freefall was published, under the pseudonym 'Tom Read', ghost written by Michael Robotham. The book detailed Bruce's military career, the 'Skydive From Space' project, the ascent of Mount Everest, and his subsequent descent into mental illness and psychological recovery. Freefall was described by Andy McNab, one of his comrades in the British Army, as "This is Bravo Two Zero meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Read's story had me on the edge of my seat – and it also made me cry".
Despite periods of psychological recovery, after eight years of recurring mental illness, and being intermittently legally sectioned in mental hospitals, Bruce committed suicide on 8 January 2002 by deliberately jumping, without a parachute, out of a private Cessna 172 light-aircraft in which he was a passenger during a flight over the South-East of England, plunging 5000 feet to his death. His body was subsequently found on a football pitch at the village of Fyfield in Oxfordshire. He was 45 years old. His military career and the manner of his death resulted in extensive media coverage of the incident. There has been conjecture that Bruce's psychological breakdown was attributable to posttraumatic stress disorder incurred from his military career.
On 16 January 2002, Bruce's body was cremated at Banbury Crematorium in Oxfordshire, its ashes were subsequently scattered by his son and former colleagues during a memorial skydive in April 2002 over Northamptonshire from the Hinton Skydiving Centre.
- Nothing else comes close to those first few seconds after leaving the plane, because once you take that last step there is no going back. A racing driver or a skier or climber can pull over and stop, have a rest, but with parachuting, once you cross that threshold, you have to see it through.
- Freefall (1998)
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|deadurl=(help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The Daily Telegraph, "Andy McNab on the battle that never ends", 22 November 2008
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|deadurl=(help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The WWF – The First 50 Years (paragraph 6)
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|deadurl=(help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The Independent report on the death of Karl Heinze, 23 October 1993
- NASA: Press Release: Former Astronaut Karl Henize dies on Mt. Everest Expedition Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 8 October 1993
- Kalpa Group website Archived 11 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
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- – Read, Tom Freefall (1998) Archived 26 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine
-  Challand, Christine. The Mirror, "Nish believed I was an Undercover IRA agent. Police had to send in a SWAT team"], 26 January 2002.
- , Allison, Rebecca. The Guardian, "Suicide Verdict – Depressed pilot leapt to death" (21 June 2002)
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- English, Rebecca. Archived 17 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Daily Mail, "How I fought to stop SAS man's suicide leap" (January 2002)
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|deadurl=(help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) BBC News, "Falklands veterans claim suicide toll", 13 January 2002.
- Dyer, Clare. "The Forgotten Army" Archived 11 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The Guardian, 16 January 2002.
- Kennedy, Michael. Soldier 'I' – The Story of an SAS Hero (2011), p. 350. Osprey Publishing; ISBN 9781849086509
- Banks, Tony. Storming the Falklands, My War and After (2012). Chapter 6. Little Brown Publishing; ISBN 9780748130603
- Michael Robotham, Isn't he afraid he'll miss the world?" Last week, Charles Bruce jumped to his death from a light aircraft. Michael Robotham, who collaborated on his life story, looks for reasons, The Daily Telegraph, 16 January 2002, p. 17.
- Freefall, Tom Read, Published 1998 ISBN 0316848786; p. 23