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New Milton soldier joins challenge to recreate cockleshell mission
10:50am Tuesday 7th January 2014 in News
Both his legs were blown off when he was serving as a soldier in Afghanistan two years ago but Jim Wilson has never felt sorry for himself.
So for him, the Pilgrim Bandits charity, which is based in the New Forest and helps injured servicemen live life to the full, is a perfect fit.
As his rehab continues – his latest pair of prosthetic legs were fitted before Christmas – Jim is preparing to take part in a recreation of Second World War mission Operation Frankton, later immortalised on film as The Cockleshell Heroes, being organised by the charity.
The challenge was due to be launched today at the House of Commons by former Royal Marine and ex-Liberal Democrat leader Lord Paddy Ashdown and Labour MP Caroline Flint.
Pilgrim Bandits organises challenges for seriously injured soldiers such as trekking across deserts and jumping out of planes.
Jim’s family has a military history – his brothers, dad and granddad have all served. Jim, 31, joined the Royal Marines at 20 but said it “wasn’t for me at the time”.
He went back to Civvy Street, working as a labourer and in a special needs school.
He joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper in 2008 aged 26 and it was in the first month of his first Afghan tour in 2011 that disaster struck.
“I was flown to (Camp) Bastion and then I was flown back to Birmingham the next day.
“I woke up ten days later.
“I can’t say I wasn’t bothered about it, but it had happened and my target was to get out of intensive care, get mobile and get to Headley Court (rehab centre) and get prosthetic legs.
“I wasn’t upset about it, I thought I had to pick up and get better.”
Little did he know, but Jim’s first encounter with the Pilgrim Bandits was before he’d even woken up.
“They came to see me when I was in intensive care but I didn’t find that out until early 2012. They later came to visit me at home. I’ve been in contact on and off since.”
Jim went to Dubai with the charity before Christmas to watch rugby and it has paid for a hand-bike for him to ride with his stepchildren.
His injury was not the first tragedy to hit his family. In 1997 Stuart, just 20 and serving in the Royal Logistics Corps, was killed in Bosnia when the truck he was driving crashed.
The first Stuart Wilson Memorial Rugby Match took place at Christmas that year in tribute to the former New Milton Rugby Football Club player and is now an annual fixture, raising cash for military charities, most recently the Pilgrim Bandits.
Jim said his brother’s death made him “more determined” to have a career in the Army.
“I wouldn’t change it; I’d still join up, especially with what happened to my brother.”
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