On one of the first days after we breached the border, our section went firm while the American gunships’ Cobra helicopters cleared a village. It was an awesome sight, but an hour or so after it was chaos as cars came racing out of the village. I remember one car came up to me. Immediately I knew there was something wrong as the driver started to get out. His wife and kids had been shot to pieces and were bleeding badly. This man brought them to me to help them. All I could do was look at them in shock knowing that we couldn’t use our kit on them to help because we only had enough for ourselves. The father was told to carry on down the line until he finds a medic. I don’t think they would have survived much longer anyway.
Things were OK for a while after that. We got shot at, mortared, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] fired at us but that is what we were trained for so that didn’t bother us too much.
About two weeks into the battle Fusilier [Kelan] Turrington was shot in the neck by a sniper and died there and then on the spot. He was just lying there because no one would go near him because of sniper fire. It seemed like he was there for hours. It was like time stopped, not nice at all.
One night our section was dug in, in trenches on Bridge 3 and in the middle of my stag [guard duty]. We got hit hard by enemy artillery which was landing 10 to 15 metres away. It was the most awful sound and it felt like the ground just opened up and tried to swallow us.
Because we were the initial fighting force, we didn’t stop to mess around with dead bodies [Iraqis]. There was a little girl clinging on to her dead dad screaming her eyes out. We never had time to stop. We just pushed on past as the next line of soldiers behind us would sort it out.
Once we got to the outskirts of Basra, we went firm, put a ring of steel around it. No one could come out. It was like the wild west. The enemy were constantly trying to have a pop but they never had a chance. I was watching them get cut down by our tank shells, cut in half by our machine guns. I was next to my best mate, Chris McDade, who was on the machine gun when he shot a raghead in half. Chris is now being treated for PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] as well.
I look back on these incidents a lot. Some of them haunt me and have ruined my life. I get bad flashbacks and nightmares. It makes everyday life very difficult for me.
When we came back from Iraq there was no help, no nothing for any of us as the army don’t believe in PTSD and it is frowned upon.
It didn’t affect me straight away. I couldn’t tell I was on the path to self-destruction but it all started going wrong for me during our tour in Northern Ireland. Our platoon commander killed loads of kittens and I just flipped because I had seen enough deaths in Iraq and now this.
Every time I went out with my mates I was like a timebomb waiting to go off. I was fighting three or four times a night. I wouldn’t sleep because of the dreams. I was living on Pro Plus to keep me awake. Lucky I never turned to drugs like some other lads did.
When I used to come home I was sleeping in the garden. I couldn’t go in any clubs because the loud music used to sound like tanks firing and used to trigger me off, I was that bad. One minute I would be fine, the next I would be back in Iraq – that’s how intense the flashbacks were. In the end I ended up having an SA80 rifle with me at home because I never felt safe without it and because no one was helping me. I ended up taking matters into my own hands.
To this day I still have to spend nights sleeping on the floor of my cell. I have received no help for my condition since I have been in Colchester prison. The doctors just tell me that there is nothing wrong with me and say it is down to a personality disorder.
The only doctor who has helped me is Dr Jones. I have spent a month in an intensive care unit under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. All they did was pump me full of anti-psychotic drugs. It was only at a hospital in Wales [Dr Jones’s clinic] where I was getting the proper treatment and help for my condition. I was there for six months. Then one morning the civvy police came and took me back to Birmingham for questioning on some motoring offences which I was supposed to have committed the night before – which sounds crazy because I was in Wales. I was then released from police custody to go back to the hospital. But the military police were waiting outside for me and took me into army custody.
It seems the whole thing was a set-up to take me out of the hospital because the following week the civvy police got in touch and said due to no evidence, no charges are being brought against you. If this is the case why was I not returned to the hospital? I have turned into a political prisoner. I’m a hot potato. No one wants to get involved with me.
There are four of us from the same area who have grown up with each other and joined the army together: myself, Elliott Nash, Chris McDade and John Connelly. All four are on our way out of the army because Iraq has changed us mentally.
Chris is being seen by doctors for PTSD and is awaiting medical discharge. Elliott Nash went Awol because it all got too much for him and the army was offering no treatment and he is now waiting for his discharge papers. John Connelly went Awol for the same reasons as Elliott and is now in Colchester with me awaiting his discharge.
That’s four young lads the army has mentally screwed up and not helped, who put their life on the line not just for Queen and country but to look out for their comrades, including the officer who wants us all out of the unit.
So, the future looks dim for us four. No one in the army has looked out for us. Now we face being in and out of hospitals and prisons because the army has simply neglected us.