Soldier to Spy
Updated: Aug 13
Before joining the British Army, I, like most 18 year olds didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. I was my dads apprentice plumber and I absolutely hated it. Commuting to Central London every day in the van with no enthusiasm for the trade until it was time to clean up and pack up (that’s when I performed at my best) was pretty much how things went for 6 months or so. My dad had a clear passion for the job, and fair play to him. He made a name for him self in the trade and was excellent at what he did. Me on the other hand, I couldn’t think of anything worse.
One day on our way home from a job we passed the Army Careers Centre on Wembley High Street and that’s where it all started. At a young age I was always cutting about with my mates, ambushing passers by in Perivale Park whilst kitted out in full camouflage thinking we were a section of special forces. It made perfect sense, now I can do it for real.
Before I knew it, I was signed up, trained up and waking up every morning with the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets infantry regiment alongside hundreds of other like minded war dogs. We trained hard in the field and played hard in the pub. In 2006 our regiment amalgamated with a few other infantry regiments which formed the current 4th Battalion The Rifles (the largest infantry regiment in the British Army). The world began turning to shit and we were finding our selves on some fruity tours of Iraq and Afghanistan where we finally started putting our training to good use. At the time we took for granted the skills we were honing, but looking back there is no other employer in the world that progresses someone the way the army does. Without sounding corny, the army really does instil discipline, professionalism and most of all, self awareness. To this day I can still spot an ex squaddie without even having to speak to him or her. It’s a secret power I think most veterans have.
With most of my military career boxes ticked, my final posting was an instructor position at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick. Strangely enough, I found my self teaching recruits in the same section I was in roughly 10 years prior. It was a two year posting with my first year passionately passing on my knowledge to the new generation, and my second year mostly preparing my self for the next chapter in my life.
The clock was ticking and it was starting to feel like the days prior to joining the Army. What do I want to do with my life after this? I attended career shows, took advice and researched researched researched. At this rate I was on route to becoming a London plumber... The good thing about leaving the military (which I cannot understand why all servers leavers don’t take advantage of) is the resettlement package. You are basically fully funded to choose whatever career path you wish to pursue. And if it doesn’t work out, you are fully funded again in the future and then again! I soon figured it out. I attended a careers event and walked past a glossy recruitment stand (I won’t mention the company) advertising new and exciting careers in the field of covert surveillance. The bloke on the stand had an amazing sales pitch with videos of previous live cases playing on screen in the background (massive data breech). I was sold. I know all about surveillance already from the close target reconnaissance jobs we do, or so I thought... I jumped on their course and loved every minute of it. I have to hand it to the training provider because the course was outstanding. To this day, I still operate in the way they taught me, only now with my own developed style. I learnt very quickly that surveillance in the UK private investigations industry is nothing like surveillance in the military, but will take a whole book to explain why. What is similar is the sitting around for hours on end waiting for things to happen (discipline). But when it does happen, the training kicks in and all guns are blazing until the job is finished which can be at times under extreme pressure (professionalism).
I was offered a full time position with my training provider upon completion of the course and I nearly bit their arm off. So much so that I forfeited my resettlement pay as they couldn’t wait an extra month for my military termination date. Oh well, At least I had a job to go into, that was the main thing. I was going to be a full time surveillance operative investigating insurance fraud, happy days...
When I was offered the job, I was told I will be contracted to 11 hour days which didn’t include commuting time (bare in mind commutes can be anywhere in the country). I’m ex infantry though, how hard could that be? Turns out it’s really bloody hard. When being tasked at one end of the country one day and then the other end of the country the next day, 5 days a week with expected weekend days, it really takes its toll. I was leaving my house between 3am and 4am and not getting home until nearly 9pm most evenings. On a few occasions I nearly fell asleep behind the wheel, and with my first child expected I decided enough was enough. I stick to what I believe about this company and I am sure they are not all the same... They are a great training provider, but a nightmare to work for. Hopefully things have changed since my days with them.
I took a step back from surveillance after leaving the company and rolled into something completely unrelated to the investigations industry. A few years passed and I decided I wanted to get back to what I really wanted and that was surveillance. But this time I wanted it to be different, and it is. I kitted my self out and with a little help from an old colleague, I was introduced to some contacts before jumping on the circuit as a self employed surveillance operative taking on all manner surveillance operations.
Since then things have gone from strength to strength. We have a high success rate for our private and corporate clients, we regularly operate sub-contractually for one of the highest regarded investigation companies in the U.K. We hold full membership with the Association of British Investigators (ABI) who are soon to be introducing Code Status Membership which we will of course be gunning for. The next logical step for us is forming a limited company which is on the horizon in the very near future, so watch this space!
The investigations sector is an appealing route for service leavers as it does have its similarities to the military with a lot of skills in the bag ready to be transferred. It is also a logical route for ex police officers. I can’t speak for ex police but I imagine its very much the same only without the bull shit. All this being said though, there is no requirement to be ex army or ex police. If you come into this sector from a completely foreign background you are unlikely to have picked up any bad habits, you will start fresh and learn as you progress and most importantly, no one cares what regiment you were in, you won’t lose work over it. Everything in the private sector revolves around money, as long as you can do the job properly the work will always be there for you whatever the background.