Why did you join the Army?
Simple — I wanted to be the best. I was 16, I’m from a big family and I wanted to earn my own money and be self-sufficient. The Army gives you a wage and puts a roof over your head. Plus I was very competitive and so I slowly made my way to the top. I was in the Royal Marines and thought, ‘I’m the best of this bunch’ so I joined the Special Forces and looked around there and thought, ‘I’m the best of this bunch as well.’ I always strive to be the best.
What do people usually do when they leave the Special Forces?
They go into security — close protection or training troops. I went to west Africa and trained snipers that were deployed to Somalia. I’ve trained close protection teams for presidents. Then this TV stuff fell in my lap. The Special Forces community is a small one so we knew Channel 4 wanted to do a show about doing the SAS selection programme and they asked me.
Is doing TV less exciting than training foreign soldiers?
I don’t know — I did the Mutiny programme [in which contestants recreated Captain Bligh and his crew being cast adrift in a small boat], which was the journey of a lifetime. It’s a different type of excitement. I can concentrate on my family and my work knowing I’m not potentially going to die or deal with the traumas of war. My world is expanding in a positive way.
What’s the appeal of your TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins?
People are fed up with living in a politically correct world that’s all about health and safety. You do our course and you can be what you want, say what you want and do what you want. You push yourself to your limits on our course — and society doesn’t cater for that. If you talk the way you want, society calls you a bully. We cut out all the bulls***. I’ll be honest with the competitors on the show — I’ll strip them down to their bare bones and tell them what’s wrong with them and they can change or they can sulk in a corner and cry like a baby. Some people are happy to get to their limits and stay there. Others break their limits and it opens up a new world for them.
What proportion of people sulk in a corner?
The sort of people who want to find an excuse for everything. The sort of people who don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. ‘Oh, it’s my dad’s fault because I had a bad childhood.’ We live in a blame culture. But if everyone mollycoddles everyone then people’s standards drop.
Were the Army wrong to consider dropping their ‘Be the best’ recruitment slogan?
You want the best people defending you, don’t you? You want the best people making sure our shores don’t get breached. It’s like at schools where there’s no first, second and third place. Competition is healthy, it helps people learn. If that is taken out of our military, it will start a domino effect.
How many people in the Special Forces leave with PTSD?
I can’t really comment because I don’t know many former servicemen with PTSD. It’s definitely an issue, though. I’ve seen the worst of things but I’ve been able to process things and move on. People who have PTSD need help with it for sure but I don’t know enough about it to comment on it.
What are your TV goals?
I want to re-enact some expeditions that haven’t finished successfully, where people have died, and see if I can complete them.
What can people expect from your new national tour?
It’s about my military career — how I made it from the bottom to the top and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I also talk about my TV work.
Is there a motivational speaking component to this?
There is. I talk about how I kept myself motivated in the Army and that same military mindset adapts easily to civilian life too.
What are your tips for staying motivated?
Have a positive mindset. You need to look at everything in a positive light. If you look at things from a negative point of view, you have to build up from that. I never think I’m going to fail at something but if failure comes along, then I can deal with it.
Ant Middleton’s UK tour starts on February 16. antmiddleton.com