'SAS: Who Dares Wins' Season 6 — new instructor DS Melvyn Downes reveals what to expect: 'It brought back nightmares for me'

SAS: Who Dares Wins Season 6 instructors —(from left) Jason Fox, Ant Middleton, Melvyn Downes and Mark Billingham.
SAS: Who Dares Wins Season 6 instructors —(from left) Jason Fox, Ant Middleton, Melvyn Downes and Mark Billingham. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Since starting on Channel 4 six years ago, SAS: Who Dares Wins has become well known for its brutal beastings, daredevil challenges, as well as DS Ant Middleton’s expletive-ridden rants. 

But this year’s much-anticipated sixth series, where 20 civilians once again take part in a condensed version of SAS selection, is expected to be the most tortuous yet, with the recruits subjected to a 130-foot abseil off an oil rig, a night-vision task in the pitch black and a shock exposure to CS gas.

It’s also Ant Middleton’s last — the series was filmed before he left the show in a controversial way. But it's the first for new DS Melvyn Downes, who has 30 years of military experience under his belt.

"This series is really tough and so authentic," says Melvyn Downes, who fought operationally with the Special Forces in more than 50 countries. "It brought back memories of my selection — and nightmares, too.

"The gas attack is amazing because it takes a lot of people by surprise and it’s all about panic. If they panic, they’ll lose it. It’s a terrible thing to be exposed to gas — it feels like you’ve got a really strong shampoo in your eyes and even your face stings. 

"But if you’re calm you can get through it and we were really surprised by the people who handled it and those who couldn’t."

'SAS: Who Dares Wins' instructor DS Melvyn Downes putting recruits through their paces.

'SAS: Who Dares Wins' new instructor DS Melvyn Downes putting recruits through their paces...in the Scottish mud! (Image credit: Channel 4)

Who's taking part in SAS: Who Dares Wins Season 6?

SAS: Who Dares Wins once again takes place on the remote Scottish island of Raasay and kicks off with the balaclava-clad DS hijacking the train the recruits are arriving on, before making them race up a 4000-foot mountain carrying 40-pound packs where two recruits drop out and one collapses.

"It’s a really challenging opener," says Melvyn Downes. "What we found was the shock and the reality of the situation hit some of the recruits really hard and they went to jelly. Adrenaline can zap you and take a lot of fitness out of your body."

As for the recruits, there’s a diverse group, including Connor, a professional Irish dancer, Ricky, a firefighter who tackled the blaze at Grenfell, and trans recruit Holly. All of them have tough life stories to tell, too.

"Some of them have lost loved ones or they’ve been discriminated against. Hearing their stories can be emotional even for a tough SAS guy like me," says Melvyn Downes. "But they all end up getting something out of this process and reach some kind of closure. It’s inspiring."

A DS plant will also be joining the 21 men and women recruits from all walks of life for the first week, acting as the DS’ eyes and ears on the inside, a snoop if you like. Their true identity will then be revealed to the shocked recruits at a later date. Be prepared for some shocked faces!

SAS: Who Dares Wins start date...

You can watch Melvyn and the latest recruits in Season 6 of SAS: Who Dares Wins on Channel 4 from Sunday May 9 at 9pm. It will also be available on streaming service All4 shortly afterwards.

More about SAS: Who Dares Wins new instructor DS Melvyn Downes...

Melvyn Downes is a 56-year-old former soldier who served his country in Iraq but he likes to just call himself a 'bloke from Stoke'! At 11, Melvyn had joined his local army cadets, then school at 16, but with no qualifications. Soon after he began his successful career in the military. But it was 12 years before Melvyn went into the SAS in an infantry regiment. 

Before joining as SAS: Who Dares Wins DS (Directing Staff), Melvyn had served three decades in the British military, 12 of which saw him carrying out missions for the SAS. He's since become a Scout leader. Melvyn replaces Ollie Ollerton who departed SAS: Who Dares Wins after last year's Season 5 and he is the first mixed-race DS on the series.

SAS: Who Dares Wins is now joined by DS Melvyn Downes.

'SAS: Who Dares Wins' is now joined by DS Melvyn Downes. (Image credit: Channel 4)

You can apply to be on SAS: Who Dares Wins Season 7...

Channel 4 has started casting for Season 7 of SAS: Who Dares Wins which is expected to air in 2022.

The hit show sees contestants put through an intensive two-week course to see if they’ve got what it takes to pass SAS Selection. Putting them through this punishing process will be a group of elite leaders including Jason Fox and Mark Billingham.

To apply for SAS: Who Dares Wins you must be aged between 18 and 44 and 364 days on October 31 2021, be at least 5ft 1in tall, weigh at least 8 stone and you can't be currently serving in the armed forces. You must also be in peak condition, physically and mentally, passing the following fitness tests...

* At least 44 full press ups in 2 minutes

* At least 50 full sit ups in 2 minutes.

* Static lift onto a platform 1.45m high.

* Complete a jerry can test – that is carrying two 20kg weights over a distance of 120m in 2 minutes.

* Do a Beep test with the level of 10.1 (equivalent of a 1.5 mile run in 9 minutes 30 seconds)

So, to apply for SAS: Who Dares Wins click here

Best Channel 4 dramas

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.