FOUR months ago Poppy Pawsey’s life fell apart.

After 12 years in the Royal Marine Band Service travelling the world playing music she was medically discharged. Depressed and angry, her relationship of six years broke down and she found herself back with her parents in Highcliffe struggling to see a way forward.

But now, following a chance conversation with a Help For Heroes advisor, 30-year-old Poppy is preparing to fly to Toronto as part of the UK team for the Invictus Games, the international sporting event created by Prince Harry for sick, injured and wounded service personnel and veterans.

“It’s just incredible,” says Poppy. “In March I felt as though my whole world had collapsed, but now my life is coming together in ways I could never have imagined.”

The day Poppy was told she had made the Invictus Games team she also found out she had been selected for a new course at the Forces Media Academy that starts the day after she gets back from Toronto.

Poppy joined the RM Band Service in 2005 as a saxophonist and violinist, but also performed as a singer. As a musician she trained for active service with the medics and convoy drivers and to deal with the chemical decontamination of casualties.

“I loved the job, it was my life. I was never posted to a theatre of war, but I had an amazing exchange posting with the Royal New Zealand Navy Band and recorded with them on their first ever album.

“Then I suffered a hip and back injury from marching and never recovered. You can’t see chronic pain, but it meant I couldn’t march, which is a bit of a problem for a military band musician.”

Eventually Poppy was medically discharged.

“I went in with a job and came out without one. I was totally sideswiped, my relationship ended, I was miserable. I was a wreck.”

After a chance conversation at Help For Heroes Poppy discovered she was eligible for selection for the Invictus Games. As a child she swam with Christchurch Seagulls Swimming Club so entered four events – 50m freestyle, back- and breast-stroke and the 100m freestyle.

“I also wanted to learn a new sport so because I enjoyed shooting a rifle I decided on archery, went to a training camp and did well enough to enter the trials for UK team selection. The thing with the Invictus Games it’s not just about your talent, you’re also assessed as part of a team and what your participation means to your recovery journey. When I was discharged I really missed being part of a team, more than I could ever have imagined, so this is perfect for me.

“I go to the gym for two hours every morning then swim in the afternoon and do archery in the evening. I’m hugely grateful to Dave Mott at PhysioFitness Dorset for the work he has done with me and although I don’t see myself as a medallist, even to be selected for this experience means everything to me.”

The UK team launch in London in May was a chance for Poppy not only to meet her new teammates, but also to be reminded of happier times… by none other than Prince Harry.

“He is lovely,” says Poppy. “I met him in 2014 at the opening ceremony for the London Invictus Games as my former partner was singing the Invictus anthem and knew the Prince quite well. There was a private party the night before and as it was Harry’s 30th birthday we took a card to give him, but we didn’t see him.

“I still had it with me the following day and happened to see him so I presented him with this red wine-stained card, which he found funny. When he saw me at the launch for this year’s Game he remembered me and had a laugh about it.”

The Invictus Games open in Toronto on September 23.