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Mark's story. "You find a lot of ex-vets who are in prison or on the streets. I’ve bumped into a lot of them over the years."

01.01.2018 4768 XX

“ I joined the navy in 1973 at 15 years old. We had a years training first, and that’s where I met my best mate Gary. We joined the HMS Ganges in Ipswich together. I was a radio operator and he was in ordinance, guarding the missiles. We went all over the world. Singapore, India, America, The Middle East, The Mediterranean. We delivered arms and supplied gun support during the civil war in Lebanon. We even guarded the Royal Yacht all around the Caribbean. It was stressful at times but we loved the sea life.

After one seagoing mission we were assigned to remove the missiles from the ship before docking in Chatham. My friend was operating a huge hydraulic hoist to move them, but one of the petty officers set the machine in motion without warning us. I managed to get out the way just in time and grabbed him by the hand but he was too slow and it crushed him to death in front of me.

The petty officer was quietly removed from his position, and I just had to carry on. I had recurrent nightmares for years and when I finally left the Navy ten years later I was still having them. I still am today. I worked in a boat yard for a while but I couldn’t adjust properly to normal life. There was a big drinking culture in the Navy and I dealt with a lot of my problems after leaving by drinking as well. After a while my marriage broke down and then I just sat in corner for three years not able to do hardly anything. I thought I’d lost the plot. I just shut down. Since then I’ve never been in one place more than eighteen months.

You find a lot of ex-vets who are in prison or on the streets. I’ve bumped into a lot of them over the years. They just can’t seem to settle down. I’ve had some help and advice from an ex-forces charity, but the Navy just let me get on with it. I hope things are a bit different now, but what use is an infantry man, or a radar operator in normal life?”

Mark, London.

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