Afghanistan war casualty returns to shoot at Wellshead
A couple of seasons ago, on a wet Exmoor day, I greeted a team of guns at Wellshead, only to be taken to one side by the host who quietly explained that one of the guns was the last bad casualty from The Afganistan war and was in a pretty bad way...
He hadn’t heard gun fire since his ghastly ordeal which involved being shot six times and had been followed by a long spell at Headley Court. We found a quad bike to get Tom around (as his injuries were very debilitating) and decided that on the first drive we would rig the draw to ensure that he was on peg 1 – 150 yards from the lodge, so that if he felt uncomfortable, he could retire there post haste. Ironically and unusually, the first bird that appeared flew over no. 1 peg and it was cleanly dispatched by Tom – a very moving moment for the assembled company. Tom lasted the day but it was plain to see the injuries were taking their toll and he finished up exhausted and somewhat frustrated with his performance.
SO – imagine my great delight at going to collect the same team from Tarr Farm on a Friday morning in late October this year to see a fit and agile Tom who has, I am happy to say, with the aid of a new hip and endless operations and physiotherapy, made a remarkable recovery. He has a few tweaks to undergo (eg removal of an AK 47 bullet from his back) but is in top form. The keeper and I elected to do the same ‘Lodge’ drive first that day and as the luck of the draw would have it, Tom found himself on ‘his’ no1 peg. But more ironically, out came the first bird, which flew over him and it was cleanly despatched! The only difference being that he went on to shoot like a hero for the rest of the day.
I salute his bravery and shudder to think of his physical and mental ordeal. I remembered him at 11 o’clock last Friday 11th November, when we stopped, mid-drive, for two minutes. Hat’s off to you Tom!