THE epic tale of a severely injured Poole soldier’s gruelling journey rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic has been captured in a new book.
Corporal Neil Heritage, who lost both his legs in a suicide bombing in Iraq in November 2004, took part in the tough Row2Recovery challenge with five other crew members earlier this year.
Neil, 32, was working with the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) regiment at Camp Dogwood, south of Baghdad when the suicide bomber blew up a car just two metres away from him.
Doctors feared he would never walk again, but the father-of-two fought his way back to health and signed up for the momentous challenge, which raised £1million for charities including Help for Heroes, ABF The Soldier’s Charity and SSAFA Forces Help.
Now the book ‘The Row to Recovery, From Battlefield to Barbados’ details not just the days of the incredible challenge, but also the individual struggles of each courageous crew member following their tours of duty.
Of the six-strong team, four of the men had been severely wounded while on active service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Neil, who has never received any compensation for his injuries, spent 51 days at sea in the small cramped boat, where only three of the crew could be on deck at any one time.
They suffered high winds and rough seas, horrendous sea sickness, broken equipment and dwindling water supplies among many other trials during the crossing.
They completed the voyage on January 25 this year, rowing into Port St Charles in Barbados.
Neil, who wanted to do the challenge to say thank you to the charities that had helped him, says in the book: “The row has made me feel like my old self again, like I did before I got injured. I feel like that bloke again. I changed a fair bit because of my injuries. I became more reserved, shy, I lost a lot of confidence.
“That’s come back since the row. I feel back to normal now. It’s been more than seven years since I felt like this.”