Who is the real Hampshire soldier behind BBC Two's new drama Danny Boy?

Brian Wood

Bordon resident Brian Wood MC is the soldier who's real life story is the plot for BBC Two's latest drama, Danny Boy - Credit: Brian Wood

Some people, upon meeting, stay in your mind for far longer than the hour or so you spent in their company; their words, ringing in your ears for days, months or even years. Bordon resident Brian Wood MC is one such person. Former Colour Sergeant for Hampshire’s Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, his intensity is intimidating, yet his passion captivating.  

Keep Attacking is a mantra which Brian lives and breathes; and when you listen to the story of his military career, you begin to understand why. On 14 May 2004, Brian and his men were ambushed by Iraqi soldiers close to the city of Amarah in Southern Iraq. Taking a split-second decision, he led his men into the teeth of enemy fire in the first bayonet charge by British soldiers in 25 years. Under his command, Brian’s men defeated the enemy without sustaining any serious casualties themselves. Their actions that day saved many other soldiers’ lives, and it is now known famously as The Battle of Danny Boy. Brian was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery, but the aftermath of the battle had taken its toll and Brian returned with severe PTSD.  

Imagine then, the horror that ensued when, five years after the event, Brian and his fellow men received communication alerting them to the fact there would be a public inquiry into allegations of unlawful killing and ill treatment of Iraqi nationals by British troops in Iraq. This time the battleground was a courtroom, and with his mantra at the forefront of his mind, Brian and his men managed to clear their names, and the Al-Sweady inquiry was thrown out.  

Brian’s book Double Crossed: A Code of Honour, A Complete Betrayal, was a Sunday Times Bestseller which propelled him in to the public eye. Suddenly, this soldier from Hampshire was being invited to speak at events halfway across the world; and to share his story and the lessons he had learnt from his experiences. Now adding business owner to his list of accolades with his fitness clothing brand named after his ‘Keep Attacking’ mantra, Brian has never been one to sit still and is driven by a passion to help others, he explains, 'I felt by opening up about my own journey, whether it be mental health, resilience, decision making in extreme situations or leadership, that I was making a bit of a difference.' 

Brian Wood in Afghanistan in 2012

Brian Wood in Afghanistan in 2012 - Credit: Brian Wood

Brian’s book is now about to be brought to life when the new BBC Two drama Danny Boy airs on May 12 boasting a stellar cast; with Anthony Boyle playing Brian and Toby Jones playing the lawyer Phil Shiner, who was instrumental in bringing the Al-Sweady case against Brian and his comrades. Written by Bafta-winner Robert Jones and directed by Luther’s Sam Miller, the drama has everything in the making of what will surely be an award-winning success. Brian says, ‘To be honest I can’t believe what’s been going on. I’m just a normal guy from a small village in Hampshire and this stuff doesn’t happen to people like us. All I’ve done was volunteer to go and serve my country because I wanted to make a little bit of a difference. Being picked up by a fancy car and driven to a film set was unreal. Anthony Boyle, who is playing me, will go to the stars. Spending time with him and getting to know him was a pleasure, we are now really good friends. He knows my life now better than I do.’ 

Promoting the series is something Brian has loved doing, with interviews on Good Morning Britain and behind the scenes previews filling his Instagram feed, it’s clear Brian is proud of what the highly anticipated series has achieved. As Danny Boy was being filmed, Brian was also starting a new chapter in his life with the launch of his clothing and fitness brand with a focus on building a community of like-minded people using exercise as a way to survive. He explains: ‘The story behind the brand comes from personal experience. Like so many, I’ve been through some adversity and it was a grind. I was really in some dark places and I needed something to support me with my moving forward. I knew if I was to stand still, to feel sorry for myself, to play victim, then I would slink away and that’s not who I am.’ 

As the country manoeuvred through lockdown after lockdown, Brian finally felt in a position to launch his brand, which he confesses to being ‘in love with’. Not one to second guess his decisions he shares, ‘I've always been a bit of a risk taker because of my job as a front line solider, I’ve taken many risks. Serving your country is a risk, but you do volunteer for that, and I know that sometimes you do get rewarded.’ 

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Feeling hopeful that his brand would strike a chord with people who were struggling during the pandemic and turning to activity and exercise to help them get through each day, even Brian couldn’t prepare himself for the tsunami of orders that flooded in. With support from his wife, Lucy, (who will be played by actress Leah McNamara in Danny Boy) who left her job to take on the management of the day to day running, Brian’s Keep Attacking brand has taken off in a way that he never imagined. Looking back, he says, ‘It’s been a crazy year and I’ve learnt so many lessons. It’s lovely to have a business which I’m passionate about, but the message to me is more important. It’s more than a brand to me, it’s a way of life’.

Brian uses running and fitness as a way to keep his PTSD under control

Brian uses running and fitness as a way to keep his PTSD under control - Credit: Brian Wood

Brian is now focusing on building an online community whereby people can come and be inspired by others’ stories; and he is keen to start up a Keep Attacking Foundation, saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to give back, it’s so important. I’ve made five donations to my former regiment so far and I would love to do more.’ 

Speaking to Brian as he enters in to this next chapter in his life is a privilege. His excitement for the future is enchanting, and once the public get to see the horror which Brian has survived through this new drama, we think the sky will be the limit for him and his family. keepattacking.co.uk 

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