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Colin Armstrong, MM (born 1961),[1] usually known by the pseudonym and pen-name of Chris Ryan, is an author, television presenter, security consultant and former Special Air Service sergeant.[2]

Chris Ryan
Birth nameColin Armstrong
Born1961 (age 57–58)
Rowlands Gill, County Durham, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1978–1994
Service number24496702
UnitParachute Regiment
Special Air Service
Battles/warsThe Troubles
Gulf War
AwardsMilitary Medal
Other workAuthor, television presenter

After the publication of fellow patrol member Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero in 1993, Ryan published his own account of his experiences during the Bravo Two Zero mission in 1995, entitled The One That Got Away. Both accounts have been heavily criticised by former SAS member and explorer Michael Asher, who retraced the patrol's footsteps and claimed to have largely debunked both accounts as well as the then-SAS regimental sergeant major Peter Ratcliffe and the other surviving members of Bravo Two Zero in their own published accounts, as largely fictionalised versions of events.[3][4]

Since retiring from the British Army Ryan has published several fiction and non-fiction books, including Strike Back, which was subsequently adapted into a television series for Sky 1, and co-created the ITV action series Ultimate Force. He has also presented or appeared in numerous television documentaries connected to the military or law enforcement.

Early life, education and military serviceEdit

Ryan was born in Rowlands Gill in County Durham. After attending Hookergate School, he enrolled in the British Army at the age of 16. Ryan's cousin was a member of the reservist 23 SAS Regiment and invited Ryan to come up and "see what it's like to be in the army".[5]:85 Ryan did this nearly every weekend, almost passing selection several times, but he was too young to continue and do 'test week'. When he was old enough, he passed selection into 23 SAS. Shortly after that he began selection for the regular 22 SAS Regiment and joined 'B' Squadron as a medic. Needing a parent regiment, Ryan and a soldier who had joined 22 SAS from the Royal Navy, spent eight weeks with the Parachute Regiment before returning to 'B' Squadron.[5]:100–102 He spent the next seven years carrying out both covert and overt operations with the SAS around the world.

Journalist John Pilger wrote in October 2009, "Incredibly, the Thatcher government had continued to support the defunct Pol Pot regime in the United Nations and even sent the SAS to train his exiled troops in camps in Thailand and Malaysia."[6] In March 2009 Ryan admitted that "when John Pilger, the foreign correspondent, discovered we were training the Khmer Rouge [we] were sent home and I had to return the £10,000 we'd been given for food and accommodation."[7]

Bravo Two ZeroEdit

Ryan was a team member of the ill-fated eight-man Bravo Two Zero SAS patrol in Iraq during the Gulf War. The patrol was sent to "gather intelligence,... find a good LUP (lying up position) and set up an OP" on the main supply route (MSR) between Baghdad and North-Western Iraq, and eventually take out the Scud TELs.[5]:16 However they were compromised and forced to head towards Syria on foot.

Ryan made SAS history with the "longest escape and evasion by an SAS trooper or any other soldier", covering 100 miles (160 km) more than SAS trooper Jack Sillito had in the Sahara Desert in 1942. Ryan completed a 300 kilometres (190 mi) tab from an observation point on the Iraqi MSR between Baghdad and North-Western Iraq to the Syrian Border.[5]:233

During his escape, Ryan suffered injuries from drinking water contaminated with nuclear waste.[8] Besides suffering severe muscle atrophy, he lost a potentially fatal 36 lb (16 kg) and did not return to operational duties. Instead, he selected and trained potential recruits, before being honourably discharged from the SAS in 1994.

On 29 June 1991 Ryan was awarded the Military Medal "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Gulf in 1991" although the award was not gazetted until 15 December 1998 together with the equally belated announcement of Andy McNab's Distinguished Conduct Medal.[9]


Ryan was also a member of an SAS team sent to protect the British Embassy in Kinshasa, Zaire. The team were to ensure that all British diplomatic staff were safely evacuated from the country before the First Congo War. The operation was meant to last only three days, but eventually took one month.[10]

Post-military careerEdit

Since leaving the SAS, Ryan has written several books. The One That Got Away, his fictionalised account of the Bravo Two Zero mission, is well known, as are fictional best-sellers like Strike Back (2007), which was adapted into the TV show, and Firefight (September 2008). He also writes fictional books for teenage readers, including the Alpha Force Series and "Code Red", and has written a romantic novel, The Fisherman's Daughter, under the pseudonym Molly Jackson.[11]

In addition to his writing Ryan has contributed to several television series and video games. In 2002 Ryan co-created and appeared in ITV's action series, Ultimate Force, playing the role of Blue Troop leader Staff Sergeant Johnny Bell in the first series as well as acting as the military adviser for the video game I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike, helping to make the game more accurate to real-life military operations, tactics, weapons and equipment.

Ryan was the titular star of BBC One's Hunting Chris Ryan in 2003 which later aired on the Military Channel as 'Special Forces Manhunt'. In 2004 Ryan produced several programmes titled Terror Alert: Could You Survive, in each programme he demonstrated how to survive disasters including, flooding, nuclear terrorist attack, mass blackouts, and plane hijackings. In 2005, Ryan presented a Sky One show called How Not to Die, detailing how to survive various life-threatening situations, including violent burglary, mugging, and violent attacks. In 2007 Ryan trained and managed a six-man team to represent Team GB at Sure for Men's Extreme Pamplona Chase in Spain during the Running of the Bulls and also appeared in an episode of the Derren Brown series, Mind Control with Derren Brown, where he booby-trapped a course for Brown to follow whilst blindfolded. Ryan presented the television series Elite World Cops, also broadcast as Armed and Dangerous, which aired on Bravo in 2008. In the show, Ryan spends time with various law enforcement agencies around the world, giving him an insight to the war on terrorism and drug trade but from a law enforcement perspective.

Personal lifeEdit

Ryan is married with a daughter, but his experiences in Iraq caused him to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Following his consumption of radioactive water during his Bravo Two Zero escape, he was warned not to have any children in the future.[8]


Ryan has written the following books:[12]



  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  2. ^ Asher, Michael (2003). The Real Bravo Two Zero. Cassell & Co. p. 2. ISBN 0304365548.
  3. ^ Burke, Jason (26 May 2002). "Battle of SAS Gulf patrol gets bloody". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  4. ^ Freeman, Simon (16 March 2003). "The new Battle of the Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Ryan, Chris (1995). The One That Got Away. London: Century. ISBN 9780099641612.
  6. ^ "The Holocaust In Cambodia And Its Aftermath Is Remembered : Information Clearing House – ( ICH )". Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Chris Ryan: Me & my money". 11 March 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  8. ^ a b Manger, Warren (27 August 2014). "SAS hero Chris Ryan: I drank radioactive water in Iraq, which meant I'd never have children". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  9. ^ "No. 55340". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 December 1998. p. 13620.
  10. ^ "Q&A With Chris". Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  11. ^ Edemariam, Aida (27 October 2008). "The new star of romantic fiction: ex-SAS hardman Chris Ryan". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Chris Ryan". Retrieved 8 January 2010.

External linksEdit