Intent on a career as a Marine since he was a kid, he was a week short of his 21st birthday and coming to the end of his first deployment overseas when his life stood still. Heralded a ‘Hero’ by fellow passenger Prince Harry, who having had his cover blown was flying home with him, Ben was expected to die mid-flight. His life was hanging on by a thread but he somehow found the strength and resolve to live and less than a month later he was discharged to Headley Court for rehabilitation. Ben’s life had been undoubtedly and dramatically turned upside down. He only cried once but it was hard to feel positive
However inspired by a legless man he saw leaping out of his fancy 4 x 4 on his stumps he realised he too would be able to drive again and applied himself to recovering from the physical damage which included losing an arm, a leg, a testicle, a buttock and numerous internal injuries.
His two main concerns were how he would keep fit and how he was going to earn a decent income for the rest of his life. Tackling his fitness first he accepted an invitation to trek to Everest Base Camp where he learnt to overcome massive physical and mental hurdles and the 2009 London Marathon challenge both of which took lace less than 12 months after he was injured. He even went onto run the London Marathon again in 2010 despite running on a hairline fracture in his stump. However his other concern was a much bigger issue as he knew he wouldn’t be able to do a normal job but what to do?
Ben received under £300,000 in compensation from the MoD to cover the loss of his limbs and numerous other injuries and rather than wasting it he invested it. Deciding to go into property during the recession and against many people’s advice Ben has turned that initial investment into a £2million property portfolio. Talk about bucking a trend!
That said when he embarked on his first investment he still didn’t have an inkling of what his future had in store for him. And five years later he still shakes his head in disbelief at how far he has come. A property developer and investor, a much in demand inspirational speaker, a regular media contributor on a variety of subjects and a judge on the Sun newspaper MILLIE awards with Frank Lampard and Jeremy Clarkson – all in less than 5 years.
A TV natural he has presented a strand for the BBC’s The One Show and featured prominently in the two part documentary `War Torn Warriors`. He also appears regularly on BBC’s Newsbeat, LBC, Sky News and ITN news to name but a few discussing a variety of topics including motivation, disability, Afghanistan, motivating young people, treatment of injured veterans, lack of support for veterans, false limb issues, being positive etc. He held his own on Newsnight whilst debating the amount of money Help for Heroes spends on “Gucci Houses” and his appearance on Top Gear is remembered by a huge number of people because whilst racing the presenters up a hill on mobility scooters he tipped his over and his leg fell off!
He is regularly beset with issues resulting from his injuries. He suffers from PTSD, phantom pains and has had no end of shrapnel removed from all over his body but he will not let it beat him. Last year saw him also complete the Three Peaks Challenge for Child Bereavement UK and he keeps fit by jogging with his especially adapted running blade.
Ben can recall in minute detail the moment he stepped on a Taliban landmine in 2008.
It was five months into his first tour of duty in Kajaki, southern Afghanistan. He remembers laughing and joking with his mates before the routine desert patrol, then “legging it” as fast as he could over exposed ground, while other members of the unit covered him.
It was a boiling-hot day, sweat ran into his eyes and he recalls swiping a fly from his face. Then the sound of a “massive blast”. Later, other patrol members told him he was thrown at least 20ft into the air.
A friend of Ben’s says he never lost consciousness: “Even when they got him back to Camp Bastion, where the rest of his leg was amputated, he was still talking, still making sense.”
After Ben shared a transport plane back to the UK with Prince Harry, there were reports of the prince hailing him as “the real hero”, saying how “humbled” he felt by Ben’s bravery. At the time Ben felt neither heroic nor brave. He woke up in the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, to discover that his arm had been amputated too.
After five weeks there and almost 10 months of rehab at Headley Court Military Hospital in Surrey, Ben continued his rehab at HMS Drake within the naval base in Devonport, and is living at home with his family having left the Marines in April 2010.
Ben says “The leg’s fine but not having two arms, man, it’s annoying. I’ve learnt to do everything I did before — laces, buttons, making a cup of tea — but it takes five times longer.” His new arm, complete with hairs and “veins”, is beautifully made but heavy and, he admits, not very useful. “You go into a shop, drop your change, struggle to open a bag… you can see people thinking, ‘Why’s he not using it?’
Ben, who dreamt of being a marine from the age of 10, has no regrets. “If I’d lost my limbs because I’d got drunk and fallen in front of a car I’d feel differently,” he explains. “But I was doing a job I love. We all knew the risks and we took them in good faith. In many ways it was the best time of my life.”
The hardest time for Ben was leaving hospital and realising this wasn’t like having a broken arm and leg; it wasn’t going to get better. That and coping with the distress of his mum and dad, who were “in bits”. Ben’s way is to be remorselessly tough on himself. He was given a wheelchair but he left it at Headley Court. “So I had no choice, I have to walk.”
Not long afterwards Prince Harry visited HMS Drake and found Ben in the gym, halfway up a climbing wall. “Get to the top and I’ll buy you a beer,” shouted Harry. Ben went over the top and next day a crate of beer duly arrived.
Ben continues to accomplish great things. He ran the London Marathon in 2009 just 12 months after sustaining his injuries even though the specially designed running leg bit into his thigh and rubbed the skin until it bled. He also took part in the Khumbu Challenge last October, an expedition to the Everest Base Camp in Himalayas for injured marine and navy personnel, whose patron is Prince Harry.
He was awarded the Overcoming Adversity award at the Sun Military Awards in 2009 by ex-Spice Girls Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell, who said he was a complete inspiration.
The biggest part of Ben’s rehabilitation is his resilience. “I’m alive, aren’t I? I’m the same person. I’m just missing two limbs, which I lost fighting for my country. How can I complain about that?”
Ben is always raising money for something and he is passionate about Child Bereavement UK. In 2012 he completed the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in support of the fantastic work done by the Child Bereavement UK and if you wish to make a donation Ben would be delighted as every penny helps. Donate Today!