Dan's Bio

Dan the Younger
I was born on a sunny Monday afternoon in June 1974 in the English coastal town of Hastings. Before long, however, the Byles family moved first to Frinton-on-Sea and then to the Middle East. Perhaps it was this early exposure to travel that ingrained the wanderlust in both my sister Becky and I. I think it also opened my eyes to the wider world beyond Britain's shores and gave me a valuable awareness of other cultures and religions from a very early age.

After one year in Bahrain and another five years living in Saudi Arabia, my parents separated and my mother moved back to the UK with my sister and I to live in Cotswold market town of Chipping Norton, where my mother quickly established herself as a pillar of the town. Despite being a working single mum, my mother became the first female Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, a Town Councillor, and finally the Mayor. Our mark is still upon the town in many ways: Mum’s portrait hangs in the Town Hall, and her name engraved alongside the other past mayors, and we are both commemorated in the Millennium Tapestry that hangs in the Chipping Norton Museum (for the rowing adventure mentioned below).

As for me, I was lucky enough to be awarded an assisted place to Warwick School (a government scheme to help bright kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it to go to an independent school - since scrapped by New Labour). My time at Warwick was a very happy one, and most of my closest and dearest friends today remain my old school friends. While there, I was again lucky to be elected as a School Prefect, and chosen to be Head of School House. I was also awarded an Army Sixth Form Scholarship by the Ministry of Defence, and thus my military career was given an early boost.

After school I took a year out and spent six months working, in order to fund another six months backpacking around SE Asia (where I 180902-362467-thumbnail.jpg
Wat Ram Poeng in Chiang Mai
spent a month in a Buddhist monastary studying Vipassana meditation at Wat Ram Poeng), before becoming one of only thirty potential officers in the country to be awarded a Cadetship commission in 1993. In my case this was with the Light Infantry while reading Economics and Management Studies at the University of Leeds. I remain incredibly proud to be the first (and so far, only) member of my family to go to University.

Following university, I attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Commissioning Course 963 in Aug 1996 where I made the decision to transfer to the Royal Army Medical Corps (much to the distress of General Jack Deverell, Commandant of RMAS at the time and the Colonel of the Light Infantry!). I also won the Defence and International Affairs Essay Prize. Then in Aug 1997 I passed out from Sandhurst with a Regular Commission as a Medical Support Officer (MSO) in the RAMC.

Posted to 24 Armoured Field Ambulance in Catterick, I was immediately granted six months adventure training leave to row unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean with my mother as part of the Port St Charles Atlantic Challenge. Our trip is recorded in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records, and was celebrated in several 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books.
Mum & I in the Atlantic

Only twenty-two people had successfully rowed across an ocean to date, and six had died in the attempt. We were successful in 101 days at sea, becoming the first (and so far, only) Mother and Son team to ever row an ocean. On returning to the UK in Feb 1998, I was posted to 19 Airmobile Field Ambulance in Colchester as commander of the Dressing Station.

In Aug 1999, I was posted once again to 24 Armoured Field Ambulance as a Troop Commander and immediately deployed to Kosovo on Op AGRICOLA. Returning to the UK as a Captain in Feb 2000, I became the first MSO to attend the All Arms Regimental Signals Officer course in Lichfield as the unit re-rolled to become 3 Close Support Medical Regiment. Following the course, however, and still in my first year as a Captain, I moved to the Adjutant's job. I remained in this job until attending Junior 180902-143069-thumbnail.jpgCommand and Staff College in Jul 2001, where I one of the youngest on the course. After finishing in the top 25%, I returned to 3 CS Medical Regiment as Operations Officer in Nov 2001.

In Apr 2002 I was posted to the then Surgeon General's Department (now Defence Medical Services Department) in the Ministry of Defence with the rank of Major as SO2 Medical Manning, where I was the youngest staff officer by six years. This was a fascinating job, and I was heavily involved in planning and preparation for the war in Iraq. My eyes were really opened at this point, to just how much political and financial considerations drove many of the military decisions being made. I was also the principle staff officer responsible for developing a multi million pound Force Generation system called DMS-FORGE. I was pleased to be granted the rank of Acting Major at the unusually early age of twenty seven after barely 2 years as a Captain - making me the youngest serving Major in the British Army at the time.

In Dec 2003 I was selected for promotion to substantive Major in the Beige List 04, which was the youngest that the system would allow (I was one of only 4% of officers promoted in their thirtieth year), and was selected for a place on the first Intermediate Command and Staff Course commencing Sep 04. By then, however, I had made the firm decision to leave the Army the following year. I therefore turned down the place at Staff College, asked to be removed from the sub-unit command board that was shortly due to sit to choose the next batch of Squadron Commanders, and volunteered for an extended operational tour in Bosnia. I was therefore posted in Apr 2004 to the Multinational Task Force North West in Bosnia-Herzegovina as SO2 Medical Operations and Plans for nine months, where I was responsible primarily for planning and implementing the emergency medical response plans for the task force. It was a great job, involving the planning and running of numerous emergency response exercises for simulated incidents, 180902-980458-thumbnail.jpg
Flying by helicopter in Bosnia
and allowing me plenty of opportunities to get out and about by helicopter. Nine months, however, was a very long time to spend in Bosnia!

I returned to the UK in Jan 2005 to 4 General Support Medical Regiment for my last few months in uniform, before commencing my Resettlement Training and final leave.

After nine years of service I felt I had earned a break and I spent a few months travelling in SE Asia and Australia. I learned to sail and spent some time working for Sunsail delivering yachts between Thailand and Malaysia, which was fantastic, before travelling onto Australia.

While travelling, I saw an advert looking for sailing crew to man the support yacht for the next ocean rowing race, and so I applied and was lucky to be accepted (five of us were out of sixty applicants). I therefore cut my travels short and returned to the UK, then flew out to La Gomera in the Canary Islands ready to embark for what would end up almost three months at sea in the worst sailing conditions for decades. The Woodvale Events Atlantic Rowing Race 2005 was the most difficult and dangerous ocean rowing race to date. Of the 27 boats that took part: 19 capsized, over half had serious rudder problems, around half had serious watermaker problems, 3 were quite literally attacked and holed by sharks, and a staggering 6 had to set off their emergency beacons and be rescued due to life threatening problems. Being on the support yacht Aurora we were kept very busy, and our most dramatic incident involved a night rescue of the Spirit of Cornwall in strong winds and waves, poor visibility, and under sail as we had damaged our propellor while rescuing the crew of Sun Latte several days earlier. You can see some fantastic photographs from the race in the photo section of my website.

After returning to the UK, I threw myself into full time training and fundraising for my next adventure - walking/skiing to the Magnetic North Pole with my mother and my friend Richard. You can read more about that expedition by following the links of the RHS of this page. av-zopa-12.gifI was also accepted to study for a full time Master Degree in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

2007 has been a busy year.

On Thu 8 March, I was selected by the North Warwickshire Conservative Association to be their candidate at the next General election. To learn more about this, you can visit my political website.

On 1 April our team flew to Canada for our Polar expedition - and on 2 May 2007 we successfully reached the Magnetic North Pole after 24 days on the ice. Between us, Mum 1183602-693542-thumbnail.jpgand I set two Guinness World Records, and we are showcased in the 2008 Book (see pages 94 and 96).

In June, I married Prashanthi at St Mary's Church in Chipping Norton.

I am halfway through my first novel, and in September I feverishly penned my dissertation for my MA, which I barely finished in time and was delighted to receive a distinction for.

In November, Prashanthi and I flew to India for a second wedding - a Hindu ceremony in her family home of Hyderabad. It was an amazing experience, culminating in a wedding ceremony attended by over 600 people.

It's been a busy year!