THERE have been many chapters to Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham’s incredible life.

He frequently got into fights and in trouble with the police for things like trespassing and breaking and entering when he was a teenager.

But his life was completely transformed when he joined the military at 17 and worked his way up to become the highest ranking and most decorated SAS leader and sniper.

Then he experienced the glittering lives of Hollywood celebrities as a bodyguard and security expert for the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe, Michael Caine and Tom Cruise.

He has even appeared in front of the camera on Channel 4’s Who Dares Wins and in the 2015 action film, The Gunman, starring Sean Penn.

Now that he finally has the chance to take a breath and reflect, Billy is on the road to talk about his life’s journey including a date at Warrington’s Parr Hall tomorrow, Friday.

It is something his family is delighted about as they no longer have to worry about his life being under threat.

Billy, who joined the parachute regiment in 1983 and the SAS in 1991 as a mountain troop specialist, told Weekend that during his military days he was in life or death situations on a ‘regular basis’.

He said: “The SAS goes around the world trying to help, particularly where there are British interests.

“Generally that’s where there is death and destruction through conflict or natural disasters. The regiment is there to create stability and support for the people who really need it.

“There were very few places that we hadn’t been. I would say I’ve been to most countries in the world.

“There were places I’d never heard of that we ended up going to and dealing with situations there.

“It wasn’t all conflict. Some of it was support for whatever reason or to train people. It was a privilege to be a part of that.

“You do find yourself looking back at the impact you had and the lives you saved. At the time you don’t realise how big those actions are going to be.”

But he admitted a fear for his life was always at the back of his mind.

Billy, 53, added: “You’re always aware of it. The threats are real.

“On many missions some people didn’t come back. It’s part and parcel of what you do. There’s a massive risk.

“There is always the fear factor that you might not get home again, you might not see your kids again.

“That came in with the territory and the job we signed up to do so we tried to get on with it.

“Of course you think about it. You think about it before you deploy and you get back and think: ‘How did I get out of that?’

“You thank your lucky stars that you did but there’s always that element of: ‘What happens if?’ or ‘This could be it’.

“I’ve had a lot of close calls. I’ve been shot at from a distance and at close range.

“I could have been blown up on more than one occasion but either the bomb didn’t go off or something else soaked up the blast. I’ve been very lucky.”

That lucky streak has not given his family much comfort though.

Billy said: “The real issue is the family back home especially if they’re watching the news and know you’re in a country that isn’t a nice place and are worrying and are hoping to god they don’t get a knock on the door.

“For the people back home it really is horrific. If anyone deserves a medal it’s the families to be honest.

“At least we know what we’re going into. They have no idea and half the time they don’t even know what country you’re in.”

Being a bodyguard was, of course, safer but Billy said the principals were pretty much the same.

Winsford Guardian:

Billy with Angelina Jolie

He added: “It’s all security and safety so it’s something that you constantly do in the military and it’s just adapting it to a new environment.

“It’s just as intense in many ways because what people don’t realise when you’re doing security work is you are there to keep the family safe but you’ve also got to protect their image which is a whole new ballgame.

“You’ve got to make sure they don’t go to the wrong place or say the wrong thing. The physical side is the easy bit. It really is the last resort. The real side of the security world is the planning, the preparation and the prevention of any issues or sticky situations.

“People go: ‘What a glamorous life’ but it’s really not a glamorous life at all. When the person you’re looking after goes to bed I’ve still have two hours work to do.

“Most people I’ve looked after like Ange or Brad will go to bed at midnight at least because they’re working all that time.

“Then I’ve got to work until 2am doing all the reconnaissance for the next day and make sure everything is right for the security around the place. Then I’ve got to be up an hour before them so if they’re up at 6am I’m up at 5am. It’s a lot of work and you’ve got to be constantly on your game. It only takes one second for it to go wrong.”