HE HAS dodged Taliban sniper fire in Afghanistan, worked as a ‘pirate hunter’ in the Indian Ocean and has tackled the punishing selection process to join the UK’s top special forces unit – twice.
But now paratrooper Edward Askham-Spencer has his eyes set on an altogether new career: becoming a world-famous magician.
And the 32-year-old is determined to conjure success from his job shift and even has ambitions to bring his act to the world’s leading variety show, Britain’s Got Talent.
Edward, who has since left the regular army and is now a reservist paratrooper, said: ‘Magic is the calling I never thought I’d have, it’s come by almost by chance.’
Edward’s reinvention from soldier to magician comes after injury setbacks scuppered his dreams of becoming a member of the Special Boat Service in 2017.
He first joined the Parachute Regiment in 2006, completing a ‘kinetic and challenging’ tour of Afghanistan two years later.
His unit was under relentless enemy fire from insurgent snipers, with Edward narrowly dodging death twice.
‘The first time rounds landed about two and a half feet away,’ he said. ‘The second was a sniper round that was eight inches away from me.
‘It hit the armour plate of the vehicle I was top cover for. If it was was eight inches higher up it would have gone through my chests, lungs and spine.’
After leaving the Parachute Regiment, Edward had a range of careers, from retraining as an engineer, to joining a maritime security firm operating in Africa and the Indian Ocean and then working as a diver – a job he still holds.
But his first encounter of magic came during his second attempt at special forces selection when he met a Royal Marine medic in Brecon, who showed off some of his card tricks in the pub.
‘It was like a baseball bat to the face, it just knocked me for six. It was really impressive,’ he said.
Edward suffered a slipped disk in his spine, which forced him to retire from selection.
While recovering, he met a friend, who persuaded to go to a magic club in February.
‘I didn’t want to go at first but I’m so thankful that I did,’ he said. ‘We went up to the Associated Wizards of the South, which is the fourth oldest magic club in the country and used to have Houdini as a member. It’s fair to say that from that point I was hooked.
‘I was given a deck of cards and I started practising how to shuffle and deal. I was doing everything. Then I moved on to levitation and vanishes. I’ve just gone from strength to strength.’
Since then Edward has been honing his craft, touring pubs, clubs and corporate events and even performing at a gig in Germany.
He is now in the process of building up a winning act for Britain’s Got Talent, that he will take to next year’s audition process.
He hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow soldier Richard Jones, who became the first magician to win the talent show in 2016.
Edward added: ‘I thought I would be special forces. The goal before I joined the military was to get into the SBS.
‘That was my focus, my life goal - my ambition. I have changed an awful lot from a younger man to a 32-year-old.
‘Magic is now my long-term career now. I’m determined to get to Britain’s Got Talent.’