Colin Armstrong (born 1961), usually known by the pseudonym and pen-name of Chris Ryan, is an author, television presenter, security consultant and former Special Air Service sergeant.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. While this has led to a very successful career in writing, both his and McNab's accounts of the Bravo Two Zero mission have been heavily criticised by their fellow patrol members and questioned by other SAS members about their authenticity.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 service
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".: 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.: 100–102 He spent the next seven years carrying out both covert and overt operations with the SAS around the world. One such example was the training of Khmer Rouge members to fight against the Vietnamese in Southeast Asia during the 1980s.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. Last March, the former SAS soldier Chris Ryan, now a best-selling author, lamented in a newspaper interview “when John Pilger, the foreign correspondent, discovered we were training the Khmer Rouge in the Far east [we] were sent home and I had to return the £10,000 we’d been given for food and accommodation”."
Bravo Two Zero
During the Gulf War, Ryan was a team member of the ill-fated eight-man SAS patrol, with the call sign Bravo Two Zero. The patrol was sent into Iraq 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.: 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.: 233 During his escape, Ryan suffered injuries from drinking water contaminated with nuclear waste. 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.
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.
Since leaving the SAS, Ryan wrote The One That Got Away, which tells his account of the Bravo Two Zero mission. Both his and McNab's 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.Ryan, now a best-selling author, has written more than 70 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Many of his works are well known, such as fictional works 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.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.
Ryan is married and has 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.
Ryan has written the following books:
Ultimate Force (2002) - SSgt Johnny Bell
Hunting Chris Ryan (2003) - Himself
Elite World Cops (2008) - Himself
Chris Ryan's Strike Back (2010) - Commanding OfficerReferences
Official Facebook page
Chris Ryan at IMDb
Chris Ryan's Elite Police DVD release
List of books
Chris Ryan audio interview, November 2008 with Scottish Book Trust
Chris Ryan's Strike Back on Sky 1
Chris Ryan's Strike Back Video Trailer