Fighting Mad

Guardian story from the Sedgefield constituency!,15803,1475960,00.html

Fighting mad

Dave Corrigan was proud to be a British soldier serving in Iraq. Then he was wounded and his nightmare began. He tells Ed Vulliamy why, as the only war casualty in Tony Blair's constituency, he'll be voting against the PM - and why his old comrades should all be brought home

Wednesday May 4, 2005
The Guardian

There are few soldiers who wear their medals and the blazer and tie of the Parachute Regiment with as much pride as Corporal Dave Corrigan after 22 years in both the regular and territorial army. So when he was called up to go to Iraq in March 2003, at five days notice, "I was proud to be there, serving my country". But then things started going wrong.

First, Corrigan was wounded, and endured what he calls a "catalogue of negligence" by the army, so that he is now suing the Ministry of Defence. Recently, his closest friend - "the brother I never had" (and whose identity he wishes to protect) - was killed in Iraq. And now come the latest revelations about the dubious legality of the war: "We were sent there, and boys are coming back in coffins, all because of a massive lie", says Corrigan.

"I'm not politically minded in any way, but I've got a brain. I'm not anti-regiment or anti-military, but now I can see that we should not have been there in the first place. All this about Iraq in the news now, it's really getting under my skin. Tony Blair has let me down, let the troops down, and let the country down."
Here comes the twist: Corrigan lives in Tony Blair's constituency of Sedgefield. At the last election, he voted for the prime minister; this time he will vote for Reg Keys, father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys, who was horribly killed along with five other Royal Military Policemen in Iraq in June 2003. "And if Reg wasn't standing," says Corrigan, "I wouldn't vote at all."

While families have spoken out, the voices of soldiers who served in - let alone were wounded in - the war in Iraq are seldom heard. Earlier this year the MoD refused requests by the Guardian to interview casualties. At one point, the authorities of the hospital in which most of the 900 wounded in Iraq are treated, at Selly Oak in Birmingham, were happy for the Guardian to visit a ward where military and civilian casualties are treated alongside one another. But the MoD has vetoedtheir permission.

But Corrigan has now - finally - been medically discharged from the territorial army to which he has devoted most of his life, "and now that I can, I want to speak for the lads out there. Let's face it, there are a lot of lads in a much worse position than me. And there are many more who feel even angrier than I do about it all."

Corrigan joined the TA, attached to the 4th Parachute Regiment, in 1983. He was named champion recruit and promoted to full corporal within three years. From 1989 to 1991, he served as a regular, professional paratrooper, but resumed his territorial status in order to study for a degree in sports sciences. He commuted from County Durham to Nottingham in order to "stay airborne" with the paras. By 2001, Corrigan was working as an ambulance technician, and "changed my cap badge" to the Royal Army Medical Corps, 144 Parachute Medical Squadron.

As such, mobilisation to Iraq was compul sory - TA medical personnel are subject to conscription. On his birthday, March 22 2003, Corrigan "went through the breach" from Kuwait into southern Iraq as a field ambulance commander with the 16th Air Assault Brigade. "I was proud to be there. I was serving my country, and I was doing good; putting kids into the back of my ambulance with no limbs."

On the night of April 8 came a vicious fire fight at Adaiya, in southern Iraq. Corrigan's regiment took 25 casualties in 45 minutes. During a frantic operation to treat the injured - "I'll never forget chest-draining one soldier; we saved his life" - Corrigan fell from the ambulance, badly damaging his knee. He was evacuated back to RAF Halton, near Luton. There, what he calls his "nightmare" began.

No one had told Corrigan's wife that he was injured, let alone back. After a two-minute examination, he was, according to his papers, "discharged to care of civil GP" - although mobilised TA soldiers are subject to the same care as regular soldiers, until discharged. Corrigan, carrying 100lb of battle kit, had to hitch-hike as far as Catterick, Yorkshire, then get a friend to take him home to Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

There followed a litany of neglect. A baffled local GP referred him to the military wing of the Duchess of Kent hospital in Catterick (he had to organise and pay for all his own transport) where he was booked in for an operation three months hence. He demanded one immediately and got it: most of the cartilage was removed. But the knee worsened, and a second operation five months later revealed a huge tear in his cartilage. Despite this, Corrigan was declared fit for a tough rehabilitation course at Catterick, in November 2003, with a view to returning to Iraq. After three weeks of agony, his knee was so bad he was finally demobilised, in February 2004. It was only when he appeared in front of a medical board in York in August that anyone in the army acknowledged the extent of the neglect. The board's president, retired colonel Jimmy Weir, wrote a memo on the history of the case, saying Corrigan had become "desperate" and was "at the end of his tether".

By now, Corrigan had been forced to seek help privately, paying Bupa £2,100 for a third operation in October 2004, which removed the remains of the cartilage and found a crack in the patella. It also confirmed grade four osteo-arthritis, which had been spotted but ignored during the first, military, operation.

The injury and subsequent neglect have dashed Corrigan's professional ambitions in the ambulance service. Despite glowing references and the promise of promotion to full paramedic status, his employer, the North East Ambulance Trust, has had to restrict his activities: he cannot work at accident scenes, lift patients or drive for longer than 20 minutes.

Shortly after the third operation, Corrigan wrote to Blair. The PM's agent, John Burton, passed on the case to the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, on December 15 2004. "We have other cases of this coming from TA soldiers, and we find it worrying," added Burton. Hoon replied to Blair on February 22 this year, apologising "that adequate transport arrangements were not provided" for Corrigan, and authorising backdated disability allowance that had not been paid.

Corrigan called the response "pathetic". "I've asked three times to see Tony Blair," he says, "but it hasn't happened. I'm surprised actually - I'm the only injured soldier in his constituency and he could have turned all this to his account. But then, one of the amazing things is that Blair and Hoon have made no effort to visit the wounded, have they, not even in hospital? I think that's disgusting."

Corrigan has formed strong views on his local MP. "I'm happy to serve my country, but for the right reasons. I've been amazed by all this that's coming out in the news, about how it was all a lie, that there were no weapons, that it was illegal. I'm prepared to fight, but not because someone is so far up Bush's rear end. He still can't accept it, can he? I think he believes his own lies. He seems to have brainwashed himself."

In Iraq, he says, "it's become horrendous. My friend who died just couldn't stand it any more. We shouldn't be there and we shouldn't have gone there. I think it's important that someone like me says that. I think there should be someone who was a soldier saying that, not someone in a suit and tie, saying it for their own ends, but saying it for the sake of the men and women left out there; that they shouldn't be there, fighting an unjust war that was lied over."


In this individual's case it seems that the errors were the Army's not TB's, apart from tha actual act of going to war, which lies with the Soveriegn or in the UK's case the PM as head of HMG. By all means seek redress for the failures of the service or individuals therein, but my own view is that we join and swear an oath to follow orders. Our own opinion of the justness of the war is immaterial. There have always been moments in all our careers where we ask "why the hell are we here", but this constant and frankly disloyal carping about the fact that we are there is disturbing. We agree to do a job and there are times when we should just get on with it. We can't pick and choose our operations just because we don't like Tony Blair!
He seems to have seriously damaged the cartilage in his knee when he fell off the ambulance (whilst under fire and treating others)

Anyone who has damaged their knees in accidents will know that it really is a nasty injury as the knee takes upto 4 times the bodyweight in shock every time you step forward.

Had it been treated properly the first time, he may have been able to return to active duty, but the catalogue of errors has left him unable to do his job and for that the army should be ashamed.
I spent 2 months on rehabilitation after a (minor) knee op and have a great deal of sympathy for anyone in this position.

By all means seek redress for the failures of the service or individuals therein, but my own view is that we join and swear an oath to follow orders. Our own opinion of the justness of the war is immaterial. There have always been moments in all our careers where we ask "why the hell are we here", but this constant and frankly disloyal carping about the fact that we are there is disturbing.
It is not a matter of picking and choosing operations. There needs to be complete faith in the political process, which in this case was subverted. Bliar followed the same principle as Hitler ie. he thought it was the right thing to do, and therefore it was justified. The evidence in the form of intelligence and legal assessments was rigged to support this view rather than being presented in an impartial manner to cabinet and parliament, who should be constitutional safeguards against bad decision-making. The Ministerial Code of Conduct was breached on multiple counts.

Until remedial action is taken, there will always be this grave doubt about future military actions. Trust is a two-way process - if the chain of command (at whatever level) is lying to you, then your own trust quickly evaporates. We are now in a very dangerous constitutional position and risk seeing the reputation of the UK Armed Forces damaged in the way that the US military was damaged in the Vietnam era.
"I'll never forget chest-draining one soldier; we saved his life"
Sorry, not as a TA Combat Med Tech, an ambulance tech or a paramedic for that matter. This guy's a bluffing c*nt.
flash_to_bang said: own view is that we join and swear an oath to follow orders. Our own opinion of the justness of the war is immaterial. There have always been moments in all our careers where we ask "why the hell are we here", but this constant and frankly disloyal carping about the fact that we are there is disturbing.
So do you think Admiral Boyce was wrong to ask for legal top cover? We educate our troops in the Law of Armed Conflict for two principle reasons; one is to show them where the line is drawn and the other is to get across the idea that blind obedience in the face of an illegal order is no defence -- at any level of command.

And another thing, the words 'justness' and 'legality' are not necessarily interchangeable.
Voting for Reg Keys :roll: a wasted vote for a father who has understanably, lost it.

We are not used to, or will public opinion tolerate soldiers dying on operations. Why not become like the Irish army then? and then no one will die?

I really dont care if this war was illegal or not, but Blair is and always be a cnut.

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