NEW Milton solider Jim Wilson had both of his legs blown off in Afghanistan two years ago, but he has never felt sorry for himself.
It’s for that reason that the Pilgrim Bandits charity, which is based in the area 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 join comrades in an attempt to recreate the steps of World War II commandos involved in Operation Frankton, later immortalised on film as The Cockleshell Heroes, which is being organised by the charity.
It doesn’t do sympathy; instead it believes in pushing those seriously injured in the forces to do things like trekking across deserts and jumping out of planes.
And the annual Boxing Day rugby match in New Milton, held in memory of Jim’s brother Stuart, now raises cash for it.
Jim, 31, joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper in 2008, aged 26. He will exit the forces after further rehab.
His family has a military history – his brothers, dad and granddad have all served. Jim 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.
Having rejoined the forces, it was in the first month of his first Afghan tour in 2011 that disaster struck.
Jim said: “I was a member of a search team looking for IEDs and I managed to find one. I was flown to (Camp) Bastion and then I was flown back to Birmingham the next day.
“I woke up 10 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.
Jim’s injury was not the first tragedy to hit his family.
In 1997 Stuart, then 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 NMRFC player.
It has done so ever since and has raised 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.
“I knew the worst could happen and it’s one of those things.”
Concerned over militants
WITH British forces set to leave Afghanistan this year, Jim said he had concerns about how the Afghan army would fare once they’re gone.
This week, president Hamid Karzai was berated for planning to release 88 militants from jail.
Jim said: “They all go back into circulation and you won’t see them again. They think they’re fighting a religious war.
“You don’t know who you’re fighting.
“When they stop shooting at you they can just disappear into the crowd. They’ve still got prisoners from 2006, so I don’t see how they can let prisoners go and not give some back in return.”