Nish Bruce

  (Redirected from Charles "Nish" Bruce)

Charles Christian Cameron "Nish" Bruce QGM (8 August 1956 – 8 January 2002) was a British Army soldier.[1]

Charles Bruce
Nish Bruce.png
Birth nameCharles Christian Cameron Bruce
Other name(s)Tom Read
Born(1956-08-08)8 August 1956
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Died8 January 2002(2002-01-08) (aged 45)
Fyfield, Oxfordshire
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1973–1988
Service number24329999
Unit2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1973–78)
The Red Devils (Parachute Regiment) (1978–82)
22 Special Air Service (1982–88)
Falklands War
AwardsQueen'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 Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, where he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.[2] In 1998 he published a memoir of his life entitled Freefall, under the pseudonym "Tom Read".[3] After being afflicted with psychiatric illness for several years, Bruce killed himself by leaping without a parachute to his death from an aeroplane during a flight over South-Eastern England.

Early lifeEdit

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,[4] and the paternal grandson of Major Ewen Cameron Bruce (of Blaen-y-cwm),[5] to whom he bore a close physical resemblance.[citation needed]

Military careerEdit

Bruce joined the British Army's Parachute Regiment as a Private in 1973 at the age of 17, and served with the regiment in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s in Operation Banner.[6] From 1978 he spent four years with The Red Devils Display Team, participating in test-jumping, international exhibitions and competitions.[7] 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).[citation needed]

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.[6] and served with 22 SAS 'B' Squadron, 7 (Air) Troop from 1982–1986.[3] Whilst with 'B' Squadron 7 Troop, he served with Alistair Slater, Frank Collins and Andy McNab.[1] (In a November 2008 interview with The Daily Telegraph, McNab described Bruce as "one of my heroes").[8]

In 1982, with other members of 'B' Squadron, 22. SAS, Bruce parachuted into the South Atlantic Ocean during the Falklands War,[9][10] and took part in Operation Mikado.[3]

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 Northern Ireland, for which he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for "exemplary acts of bravery"[3][11][12] One of the operations led to the death in action of his Special Air Service comrade Alistair Slater in a confrontation with several IRA volunteers from the Provisional IRA Derry Brigade, including Antoine Mac Giolla Bhrighde and Kieran Fleming (whose cousin William Fleming was killed in another SAS operation four days later)[13], who were also killed in the incident which became known as the Kesh ambush (Slater being posthumously awarded the Military Medal).[14]

From 1986–1988 Bruce was attached to the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment's 'G' Squadron, 24 (Air) Troop.[3]

Later lifeEdit

After leaving the British Army in 1988 with the rank of Sergeant, after a clash with his superiors,[3] Bruce worked in a private security capacity for the comedian Jim Davidson,[15][16] 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 David Stirling and SAS Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Crooke.[17][18][19] 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.[20]

Following Operation Lock, for two years Bruce worked in Washington, D.C. as bodyguard for Lebanese billionaire and former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3] He trained with Loel Guinness' High Adventure Company and Kittinger.[citation needed] 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.[3] The expedition was abandoned after the death of Karl Henize from high altitude pulmonary edema on 5 October 1993.[3][21][22] 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.[23]

In February 1994 Bruce suffered a nervous breakdown whilst living in Chamonix, France, [3][24] 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.[6] The completion of the 'Skydive from Space' project was abandoned in consequence, and he began receiving psychiatric medical treatment.[3]

He came to public prominence in 1998 when his autobiography entitled Freefall was published,[3][25] under the pseudonym 'Tom Read', ghost written by Michael Robotham.[6] 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,[26] and being intermittently sectioned in mental hospitals, Bruce killed himself 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 5,000 feet (1,520 m) to his death.[27] His body was subsequently found on a football pitch at the village of Fyfield in Oxfordshire. He was 45 years old.[28] His military career and the manner of his death resulted in extensive media coverage of the incident.[29][30][31] There has been conjecture that Bruce's psychological breakdown was attributable to posttraumatic stress disorder incurred from his military career.[32]

On 16 January 2002, Bruce was cremated at Banbury Crematorium in Oxfordshire, his ashes were subsequently scattered by his son and former colleagues during a memorial skydive in April 2002 over Northamptonshire from the Hinton Skydiving Centre.[33]


  • 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.[34]


  • Freefall (1998)


  1. ^ a b McNab, Andy (1996). Immediate Action. Corgi Adult. pp. 175–176. ISBN 0-552-14276-X.
  2. ^ Medals of Britain – Orders, Decorations and Medals
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Read, Tom. Freefall (Little Brown, Edition 1, 1998), pp. 112–23, 144–53, 162–63, 169–88, 190–201, 216, 224–35, 265, 284–86, 342, front/back cover quotations; ISBN 0-316-64303-3.
  4. ^ Caygill, Peter. Spitfire Mark V in Action: 'RAF Operations in Northern Europe'. Shrewsbury: Airlife, 2001. pp.42-3 & 258.
  5. ^ Townend, Peter. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 18th edition. 3 volumes. London, England: Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1965-1972.
  6. ^ a b c d Addley, Esther. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "The Suicide of an Ex-SAS Man, Into the Abyss", 11 January 2002, The Guardian (paragraphs 7, 8)
  7. ^ Nish Bruce Red Devils Stories (Newcastle Show with the Gorilla & 1993 Naked Cyprus Jump) Archived 23 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ McNab, Andy. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The Daily Telegraph, "Andy McNab on the battle that never ends", 22 November 2008
  9. ^ Sengupta, Kim. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "The Falklands Ceremony is too late for 'abandoned' Veterans", 18 June 2007, The Independent
  10. ^ Geddes, John. Highway to Hell (An SAS Veteran's Bloody Account on the Private Army in Iraq). Arrow Books, Random House: 2007, p. 180; ISBN 9780099499466.
  11. ^ McNab, Andy. Seven Troop (2008), pp. 184–87; ISBN 9780552158664
  12. ^ [1] QGM citation for Bruce in the 1986 London Gazette
  13. ^
  14. ^ Medal award for Al Slater (posthumous)
  15. ^ Davidson, Jim. The Full Monty, The Autobiography of Jim Davidson (1993), pp. 194–97; ISBN 0-7515-0737-7
  16. ^ Davidson, Jim. Close to the Edge, The Autobiography of Jim Davidson (2002), Afterward Chapter; ISBN 0091881048
  17. ^ Hanks, John. Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching (2015), p.64; ISBN 9781770227293
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The WWF – The First 50 Years (paragraph 6)
  19. ^ Potgieter, Det Wet. Contraband: South Africa and the International Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn, p. 145 (Publisher: Queillerie, 1995); ISBN 9781874901488
  20. ^ Hanks, John. Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching (2015), p.193; ISBN 9781770227293
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), The Independent report on the death of Karl Heinze, 23 October 1993
  22. ^ NASA: Press Release: Former Astronaut Karl Henize dies on Mt. Everest Expedition Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 8 October 1993
  23. ^ Kalpa Group website Archived 11 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Andy McNab's News. Remembering Nish's Dream Archived 23 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine,
  25. ^ – Read, Tom Freefall (1998) Archived 26 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ [2] Challand, Christine. The Mirror, "Nish believed I was an Undercover IRA agent. Police had to send in a SWAT team"], 26 January 2002.
  27. ^ [3], Allison, Rebecca. The Guardian, "Suicide Verdict – Depressed pilot leapt to death" (21 June 2002)
  28. ^ "SAS Soldier dies in plane plunge", CNN World News, 10 January 2002.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) BBC News, "Falklands veterans claim suicide toll", 13 January 2002.
  30. ^ Dyer, Clare. "The Forgotten Army" Archived 11 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The Guardian, 16 January 2002.
  31. ^ Kennedy, Michael. Soldier 'I' – The Story of an SAS Hero (2011), p. 350. Osprey Publishing; ISBN 9781849086509
  32. ^ Banks, Tony. Storming the Falklands, My War and After (2012). Chapter 6. Little Brown Publishing; ISBN 9780748130603
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ Freefall, Tom Read, Published 1998 ISBN 0316848786; p. 23