Jonathan Davis, a business development manager for a Brighton digital marketing agency, endured two weeks with ex-special forces soldiers as they put him and other recruits through a gruelling SAS selection process in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.
The 24-year-old former Brighton College pupil said he applied for the show after years of watching earlier seasons and telling his father “I could do that”. When his dad sent him a link and encouraged him to do so in February last year, he took up the challenge.
Months later he was invited to meet the production company behind the hit show to undergo a series of fitness and tests and psychological exams. He heard nothing until September when he was told he had a week to prepare for the show, issued with navigational aids, a fitness regime, an order to get vaccinations, a pack of instructions and boots that should be worn in in time for shooting.
He said: “Before we even started, they warned us that we would be filmed 24 hours a day doing tasks that will push us to the limit, both mentally and physically and that we would inevitably do and say things we wouldn’t normally do because we were under such pressure – and that might well go on TV! Sometimes that happened for some of the guys – one guy had claimed he was in the military when that wasn’t 100 per cent true, and he broke when they realised that.
“I managed not to crack when we were under extreme mental distress – we were kidnapped in the middle of the night by men with guns, blindfolded, thrown in a small mud hut, with nothing to eat for 20 hours, at 40 degrees heat with one sip of water an hour, all the time listening for hours to terrible recordings of crying and people in pain. I managed to flick a switch in my brain where I did not think about any part of my personal life, my family, my girlfriend, my life and just endure it. That’s how I got through it."
While many candidates fell away during the series after intense training programmes, exhausting hikes in searing heat and extreme interrogation, Jonathan managed to carry on through to the last programme. The final show is this Sunday (February 4).
Jonathan, who is also a fitness coach specialising in Crossfit and trains every day of the week, says he knew that he would not fail in the physical challenges but found the mental ones much harder.
He said: “When I was at Brighton College, I loved all the CCF training and fitness I did. I guess that interest in the military continued and after I left I became very keen on fitness and eventually Crossfit. So I knew I could handle what they threw at me physically. But mentally, it was tougher. It tested our mental boundaries to new limits.
"I told my family and girlfriend, who I was not allowed to have any contact with at all during the filming, that I would not think about them at all – except for one minute a day at 9pm exactly. Then I would close that part off and focus on my task.”
When Jonathan finished filming, he and the other recruits were handed their phones, only to find a flood of messages from family and loved ones.
“It was wonderful to read their thoughts on watching me, and how proud they were of my journey,” he said. “I don’t think I am any fitter than I was before but I have learned that I am able to endure a lot more than many people mentally.”