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  • - We deployed in Iraq in 2006,

  • we then deployed to Kosovo.

  • From there we then deployed to Afghanistan.

  • - Well you've been through quite a lot son, haven't you?

  • - Yes.

  • (solemn music)

  • - Hi.

  • - Hello young man, how are you?

  • - Nice to meet you.

  • - How are you?

  • - Pleasure.

  • (solemn music)

  • - How have you been?

  • Are you okay?

  • - Not so bad, yourself?

  • - On the spot.

  • - On the spot.

  • - There is a stack of them here, isn't there aye?

  • - Oh yeah.

  • - Which war did you fight in?

  • - The Second World War, my flotilla was the third flotilla.

  • And there was 12 of us.

  • We took part in the North African Campaign.

  • And then we went on to the invasion of Sicily

  • - How long were you away for?

  • - Two years.

  • In them days it was a different war,

  • you had to go where you were sent.

  • And some lads went to North Africa and went right through,

  • and never got home till war after D-Day.

  • The other wars that followed this,

  • it's an entirely different war then what ours was.

  • - I think it goes through generations,

  • it goes from one war to another.

  • - It frightening to see what happens to these modern wars.

  • You're fighting an enemy,

  • you do not know where they is.

  • For a start like in our war,

  • As long as you were going forward,

  • you were going the right way.

  • You get in Afghanistan,

  • he can come up behind you and you don't know he's there.

  • From my way of thinking I wouldn't like to have fought

  • in that war, I'll be honest with you.

  • - See that's where I think the two change because

  • I wouldn't like to fight in your war.

  • Because in my eyes being on a ship.

  • - Probably safer on a ship son.

  • I can't swim.

  • - You can't swim?

  • I thought you were a sailor?

  • - They never taught me.

  • Where would you swim to?

  • If you're a long way from home,

  • don't matter whether you can swim or not.

  • - After training I got to battalion,

  • and then we deployed to Belize.

  • We went for 6 weeks in the jungle training.

  • And that was pre-training for Iraq.

  • We deployed to Iraq in 2006.

  • That was a six month tour, turned into a seven month tour.

  • And we were deployed to Saddam's Palace in Basra South.

  • Where we patrolled and did Strike Ops.

  • After there we come back.

  • I went on to do my promotion.

  • We then deployed to Kosovo,

  • that was for peace keeping.

  • And then from there we then deployed to Afghanistan.

  • So completely different operations all together.

  • From armored to foot.

  • - You've been through quite a lot son haven't you?

  • What are your feelings towards the enemy now,

  • in comparison to at the time?

  • That's a good one that.

  • - At the time I didn't,

  • it's weird because I'm probably going to stand out here.

  • I didn't have any hate for them.

  • I believed that we were fighting in someone else's country,

  • and they were defending it in a way.

  • But I think that is one of the reasons why I left.

  • Because I didn't believe in it in the end.

  • I think I fought that hard, I was fighting an enemy so much,

  • that I was equal to them.

  • If some one can get a number of men,

  • in front of me and fight me and my men.

  • To the extreme that they were fighting,

  • us, then hats off to them.

  • What about yourself?

  • - Well we fought the Germans to win the war.

  • That's what was bred into you.

  • And it took me until about 1970,

  • before I could really,

  • see me way clear.

  • I have nothing against them now.

  • It took me all that time to realize,

  • they were the same as us.

  • Doing what they had to do.

  • - Have you ever fired a weapon?

  • - Yes on the landing craft.

  • I was an anti-aircraft gunner.

  • We had six Oerlikons and a 12 pounder on her.

  • I fired that many times through the war.

  • It's a different thing,

  • it's not like firing a rifle.

  • Like a soldier has to rely on a rifle.

  • I had to rely on me anti-aircraft gun.

  • Whenever you're in imminent danger,

  • you're called to action stations.

  • And if the planes come at you,

  • then you have to fight back.

  • And on the Oerlikon you had a shield which you look through,

  • the gap so to speak.

  • It always give you that feeling that

  • they couldn't hit you.

  • Which was a silly way of thinking,

  • but it give you a bit of feeling of comfort,

  • if you know what I mean.

  • - With us, we were just rifles,

  • well rifles and GPMG's (General Purpose Machine Gun),

  • which are 7.62 belt fed.

  • - You'd be lost without your rifle or your gun wouldn't ya?

  • - Yeah.

  • (laughter)

  • - Afghan,I had a section of eight lads,

  • very good lads as well.

  • We would be getting in 360 ambushes.

  • It would basically we would get hit by an IED,

  • you would have someone from front, right left,

  • coming from the top of the compound,

  • and they're basically just spraying you with rapid fire.

  • With the 7.62.

  • Once you got into the fire fight,

  • you could never tell what was going to happen,

  • but you always knew it was going to be a well oiled machine,

  • the way your S.O.P's kick into place,

  • the way your lads - they just knew.

  • Because of the amount of training you did,

  • we knew exactly what we where doing.

  • - How do you think soldiers are viewed in society?

  • - It all depends on how the media portrays us.

  • Remember going back from Iraq,

  • we landed in the Teesside,

  • and we had groups of people,

  • that were not happy we were there.

  • They were British people,

  • because the media portrayed us as killers,

  • as murderers.

  • Flipping the coin when we come back from Afghan,

  • we were portrayed as heroes.

  • The whole country rejoiced,

  • "save our heroes".

  • Obviously your generation.

  • - Well I think the war had lasted so long,

  • with ours.

  • They were glad to see the people back home.

  • And I think most soldiers and sailors, any serviceman.

  • was looked upon,

  • and said thank you to them.

  • For getting their freedom in one way.

  • They were glad to see the war over.

  • I can understand the difference now.

  • It's a different generation,

  • - Different wars.

  • - Well you find it, I know.

  • - When your in a war zone and as you know,

  • you've got that constant stress

  • above your head of what's next, what's next.

  • You're constantly on high alert and constantly irate.

  • It only takes one person to look at you,

  • and you're ready to fight straight away.

  • Hence why when soldiers come back home,

  • and someone looks at you the wrong way,

  • you're already in fight mode.

  • It's been 12 years and I'm still in fight mode,

  • I don't think I will ever change that.

  • - If you fight in a war it's them or us, so to speak

  • that's my way of thinking.

  • And so let it be.

  • - But when I was out there it was my lads,

  • my lads are coming home no matter what.

  • I don't care who you are,

  • my lads are coming home.

  • - Have you ever lost a member of your company?

  • - I want to answer it but I don't,

  • at the same time.

  • Because we've lost quite a lot of lads,

  • from our Battalion.

  • Or our regiment,

  • I say regiment because it's one RGJ and two RGJ.

  • Today's the 10th anniversary for a lad we lost,

  • called Paul McAleese.

  • He was my screw we lost him 10 years today.

  • We lost quite a lot yeah,

  • I think I will leave it there.

  • Don't wan't to go too much into it.

  • Have you ever suffered a serious injury?

  • - I've only had a back flash from a gun,

  • which sometimes with an Oerlikon,

  • after it gets hot the thing sort of blows

  • and you get a flash.

  • But nothing serious.

  • - Apart from a few broken sprains and broken wrist,

  • and stuff like that.

  • A major one would be probably mentally.

  • And this is as you know a massive epidemic,

  • that is going through the military at the moment.

  • For veterans and for still serving,

  • is mental health.

  • Past 13 years I've really suffered,

  • like really really suffered.

  • But I've sort of like batted it backwards,

  • and kept moving forward do you know what I mean?

  • I think with my age now I've got the age,

  • where it is like I've got my family and all that.

  • I've got to stay straight, do you know what I mean?

  • But it does creep back a lot.

  • I think having me daughter is kicking it up the arse

  • quite hard.

  • But I think if I didn't it will probably still be like that,

  • you know what I mean?

  • But I know a lot of lads a lot of girls,

  • a lot of soldiers are suffering

  • Do you miss the forces?

  • - That's a good question.

  • I don't think I missed it.

  • I was away about four and a half years I served

  • and I was glad to get out.

  • No, that's my answer to that I don't know about yourself.

  • - No, a lot of lads have their issue with it,

  • saying I miss the army I wish I could go back.

  • But I think what it is is it's regimented,

  • it's such a routine where that is your life.

  • And you do that for three to seven to 22 years.

  • I left and it was like "Oh, I'm struggling here."

  • But it was because it was the unknown.

  • I don't miss it,

  • I miss the lads,

  • - Comradery.

  • - Yes

  • - That's about the only thing you miss?

  • - Yeah, although don't get me wrong,

  • I miss fire fights believe it or not,

  • I miss getting into fire fights.

  • I miss the weapon handling,

  • I miss teaching it.

  • But that can be replaced by anything

  • If you find another passion or another love in life

  • you replace it with that, you know what I mean?

  • Is there anything you regret about your service?

  • - Not really,

  • through the years I am proud to have been a part of it.

  • It took all my youth,

  • If I hadn't have been there,

  • I'd have missed quite a lot.

  • And no, I don't regret it, one hapeth.