Army Veteran Tony
In his own words.
“I enlisted in 1973 when I was almost 18 years old. I’d had a couple of jobs after leaving school but nothing I was happy with. I come from a large family, and I always say I joined the Army to get my own bed!
“I joined the Royal Engineers and over the next 13 years I would be posted all over the world including, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Germany and Belize.
“In 1976 I was in Northern Ireland and I got tangled up in a riot in Derry. It was a very traumatic experience and think this was the start of my mental health issues.
“I carried on in the Army for another nine years after that, but decided it was time to leave when I missed my baby daughter’s first words and steps. I came out of the Army and as with a good number of former servicemen I worked in retail security. I then moved over into the banking industry security and was at one time the security manager for a large multinational bank in North London, but four years later in 1990 I wasn’t happy so joined what was then the Territorial Army. It seemed like a good transition, and I felt more settled.
“With my background as a combat engineer, they thought I’d make a good vehicle mechanic in Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers but as time went on, I had to transfer to stay in service, so joined the Adjutant General Corps (AGC (SPS)) where I moved up and eventually became Chief Clerk Warrant Officer Class Two (Q) of the London Regiment, now The London Guards. I had lots of responsibility and was thrilled, but it all came to an enforced end when I was diagnosed with cancer. This, combined with some other things in my life led to a breakdown.
“When I went into hospital for an operation, I couldn’t keep busy. My coping mechanism was taken away lying in a hospital bed and everything changed. That, combined with a severe reaction to morphine, left me trying to take my own life.
“Having been sectioned and spending some time in a mental hospital, my consultant in the hospital referred me to Combat Stress where I was assessed and diagnosed with PTSD. I started a residential programme at the southern hub, Tyrwhitt House, in 2020 but when I was having my treatment the COVID-19 lockdown hit and the hub closed. I used the resulting time to practice what I’d learned with Combat Stress and use the tools I’d been given, before returning for a residential stay in late 2022 to take part in the new Veterans’ Intensive Complex Trauma Organised Recovery programme (VICTOR).
“Veterans on my cohort would stay at the southern hub during the week for treatment, but go home at weekends, which worked for me. As well as treatment we did lots of different activities including yoga, which I still do now if I feel myself going above my normal tolerance level.
“I also discovered writing poetry during my time on the VICTOR programme as part of art therapy. I’d never written poetry before, but I looked at the piece of paper and five minutes later it was full. It’s not conventional poetry but I enjoy doing it as it takes me somewhere else. I sit down and the pencil just moves on its own.