Ben joined the army in 2000 aged 16, joining the Junior Leaders course at Harrogate Army Foundation College (AFC). He always intended to join the Paras, and subsequently joined 7 Para RHA in 2001 straight from AFC. 7 Para were deployed to Iraq for the start of the war in 2003, and Ben was in the first vehicle over the border. His gun fired the first shot of the war and as the youngest on the gun, Ben got to keep the shell case.
On his return, Ben did a stint on a Green Goddess fire engine during the firefighters’ strike. He always said this was okay, as long as the fire was small and in a straight line, as the Green Goddesses only went in straight lines at 20 mph and couldn’t turn corners. Ben then completed a winter tour of Kosovo spending seven months on operations, searching for war criminals.
During his first five years at 7 Para, Ben attended P company seven times before gaining his maroon beret. Ben deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 under instructions from the defence minister; John Reid, who at the time, stated “there would never be a shot fired”. Ben was injured on September 12, 2006, by a 30-year-old Russian anti-tank mine which had been washed down a dry riverbed. Ben was a rear gunner on a WIMIK Land Rover. Fortunately, the two in the front of the vehicle received relatively minor injuries.
His family was informed that he could not survive his injuries, but they were attempting to bring him back to the UK to be with them when he died. Ben had 37 separate injuries ranging from the loss of both legs above the knee, spine broken in three places, pelvis broken, spleen lost, both lungs collapsed, four fractures of his cheekbones, jaw and skull, and subdural and extradural haematomas. The latter two injuries leading to a severe brain injury including the loss of all memory and speech. The prognosis of un-survivable injuries was later amended to ‘May one Day sit up in bed’.
How wrong they were to underestimate the determination of Ben and his family.
PTSD - Progress Through Scuba Diving - Registered Northern Ireland Charity No NIC108392.