I grew up in central London, where my Welsh father taught chemical engineering at Imperial College and my mother did various things like being a school secretary and running her own successful children’s playgroup. I went to the local primary school, followed by the Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith and the University of York where I got a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
At some point in my late teens I decided that I wanted to be an army officer and whilst I was at university I sat the army’s Regular Commissions Board which I – somehow – managed to pass, so after I graduated, I went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps.
As a regular officer I served on operations in Northern Ireland – including a tour as an infantry platoon commander with the 1st Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire – and Central America, as well as helping to set up the humint teams which debriefed the returning human shield hostages from Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Since my regular service in Northern Ireland and Central America, I’ve served on operations in Iraq, where – amongst other things – I organised and supervised the first democratic local elections in Iraqi history in the summer of 2003; and in Afghanistan. In training, I’ve been all over the world.
I left the regular army after seven years having decided I wanted to be a writer. A chance encounter with literary agent Andrew Lownie led to my first book contract a few months later and I’ve been writing professionally, as well as taking photographs and illustrating, ever since. I’ve written a number of books under my own name – mostly history but also including the best-selling Fighting Fit – and also ghostwritten several military and intelligence related autobiographies. I also write occasional features and news stories for newspapers and magazines – including most of the British national dailies at one time or another – and I’ve appeared in or been involved in making various documentary films for TV. In addition to this, I also make fairly regular appearances on various broadcast news outlets – TV and radio – in the UK and overseas, usually talking about military related subjects.
Aside from writing, I’ve continued as an officer in the Army Reserve (the Territorial Army as was) which currently takes up a lot of my time, for various complicated reasons.
I have a lovely family and we’re fortunate enough to be able to live in both London and in South Shropshire, near Ludlow and the Welsh border.