Remembrance Day 2021: Murray's Story
Remembrance Day 2021: Murray's Story
“The vehicle was thrown 10 feet into the air. I kept going”
Murray served for 12 years in the Royal Tank Regiment, but his life was shattered by a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2010 that left both his feet needing to be amputated.
He struggled mentally for a number of years afterwards; firstly with the aftermath of amputation, and more profoundly when he lost his young son to a sudden illness.
These tragedies would break many people but, with Remembrance Day 2021 upon us, Murray Hambro explains why this time of year serves as an important and poignant reminder of all that he has been through over the last 10 years.
Can you tell us about your military service?
I grew up on a council estate in East Sussex and joined the Armed Forces in the Royal Tank Regiment in 2002. I loved the Army straight away; the travel was great and the camaraderie was brilliant. In 2010, on my second tour of Afghanistan, the armoured vehicle I was travelling in drove over an explosive device planted by the Taliban. The vehicle was thrown 10 feet in the air – I kept on going for another 40 feet before I fell back down to Earth.
Do you remember the aftermath?
I remember a loud boom and then being on the ground with the medic giving me morphine. My shins had been shattered, so when I was lifted onto a stretcher my feet flopped down. That was the wake-up call that brought the pain! I’d also fractured my back in six places, broken my pelvis, ripped my liver and spleen…
But the immediate issue was your legs?
My feet had disintegrated. Back in the UK the surgeons told me my right foot had to be amputated but they said they could try to repair and rebuild my left one. They also said it might take years, I might be in huge amounts of pain, and after all that it might still need amputating. They said life would be better if both feet came off.
How was your rehabilitation?
I met double and triple amputees who had worked hard to become mobile, so they became my glimmer of hope. I was determined to walk again as quickly as I possibly could, and was using prosthetics within three months.
But I was really struggling at home. I’d wanted to stay in the Army, but I was being medically discharged. I had no job and felt like I had no purpose. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I started suffering from anxiety and would wake in the night with cold sweats and heart palpitations. It was an extremely difficult time with some very low moments.
And then your son became ill…
I had two sons, and my youngest got Leigh’s Disease; a condition without a cure. From the age of 18 months he went from being a happy, healthy little boy to needing to be fed through a tube. His health deteriorated and he passed away.
It was then that you discovered Blesma?
Our house had been renovated, but very badly, and I reached out to Blesma for help so I could focus on my son. Later on, my marriage came under pressure – my wife felt I hadn’t mourned our son properly – and Blesma helped me with counselling. I’ve got nothing but love for the charity.
Remembrance is an important part of my life. I lost some good friends serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.MURRAY HAMBRO
So Armistice Day is important to you?
If I sit and think too much I can focus on the negative side of life, but Remembrance Day is an important part of my life – I lost good friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. I attend various Remembrance Events, such as a service on the day, and the Royal Tank Regiment visits the Cenotaph after the main event.
It is important to meet up with and pay tribute to the people who know what you’ve been through. I remember being in a ditch on a hilltop in Afghanistan with nothing but a tarpaulin for protection. The Taliban would fire rockets at us every day, and we’d take cover under the poncho feeling as safe as houses! When you go through something like that with people, it bonds you together.