Note: This is part two of a series. You can read part one here. When I got back from seeing the No Surrender motorcycle club in Holland, I set about tracking down a foreign fighter or two who planned on volunteering to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq. I had been asked to make a documentary for Sky Atlantic about why people were going to fight, and the producer thought that the best way to get insight into what made these people tick was by hiring someone who had lived it, seen it, and done it.

And you know what? They were right.

I soon worked out that most of these volunteers were hooking up on social media, and through one group in particular. It was a Kurdish group called the Lions of Rojava. Rojava means “west” in Kurdish, and that meant the fighters would be based in that part of the region of Kurdistan. That meant Syria and northern Iraq—the scene of some of the very fiercest fighting against the Islamic State.

A lot of the lads I managed to track down and talk to had similar stories. Take Jonathan (I’ve changed his name at his request) from the Midlands. Jon grew up doing a series of shit jobs in a shit town in Britain. Out of boredom, he joined the RAF as a mechanic, stayed a few years, then went back to doing more shit jobs in civvy street. He had reached a stage in his life when he was bored out of his skull and wanted something to live for. Fighting alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State gave him that purpose.

I liked Jon, and I could see a lot of my younger self in him. I’ve said many times before that my early life was a mess and I needed something to sort me out. For me, it was joining the Army; the day I signed up with the Royal Hampshires, everything changed. But there was a big difference between what Jon was signing up for and what I went through. I joined a regiment that had a long, distinguished tradition that trained me to the very highest level of soldiering and fitness, laying all the groundwork that got me into 22 SAS. Jon was going to get none of that.

I spent quite a lot of time asking him if he really understood what he was getting himself into. There was not much info on the type of training they would receive or what kit they would be issued. What about the language barrier? Did he understand just how ruthless ISIS could be on the battlefield? He would be up against the most dangerous enemy of all, driven by a lunatic fanaticism and not afraid to die.

Jon didn’t know a lot of answers to these very basic questions, which worried me. He also didn’t understand where he stood legally. Although David Cameron (then prime minister) had made it clear there was a world of difference between those British fighters who were volunteering to fight for the Islamic State (a depressing number) and those fighting alongside the Kurds, there were already signs that foreign nationals returning from the Middle East were facing questioning and or imprisonment in their country of origin. Crazy, I know, but there you go—that’s politicians for you.

At least I had managed to get the interview on camera, so I was pleased with that. I felt that at long last we were getting somewhere.