Losing the Battle, Winning the War
Pilgrim Bandits Patron, former Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson MBE is known as one of the most seriously injured soldiers to survive the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. He lost both legs, broke his pelvis and spine and suffered brain damage while serving in Afghanistan in September 2006 after his Land Rover hit a mine in Helmand Province. He was not expected to survive, let alone speak or walk again. But his determination and tenacity meant he defied these odds and he has become an inspiration to all that know him.
Now, to add to his long list of achievements since sustaining his injuries, he has become a proud author – his remarkable story is available to purchase today for all to read.
‘Losing the Battle, Winning the War’ tells the story of a young man in his prime who seemingly lost everything fighting for his country – only to prove that strength of spirit and mind can overcome even the greatest of hurdles.
The book talks of the incredible feats he has undertaken for charity, including his work with Pilgrim Bandits – illustrating how we can all survive adversity and thrive on it when we back ourselves. After the explosion, doctors didn’t think Ben would survive, but he confounded them all. More than that, the disabilities he survived with taught him how many other people are suffering too, many who didn’t get the 22 years’ quality of life that he had. This led him to want to help others who have been through similar experiences to him – to help inspire them to push always a little further in their day-to-day lives.
Ben credits much of his astounding recovery to the support he has received from Pilgrim Bandits over the years and the life-changing expeditions he has been on, including a 90-mile kayak in France, a trek through the Arctic and cycling across New Zealand. Ben has helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity, enabling Pilgrim Bandits to continue supporting injured veterans and emergency service personnel. For his efforts he was awarded an MBE in 2015. He also carried the Olympic torch in 2012 and was awarded the ‘Overcoming Adversity Award’ at the Millies back in 2008 (voted for by the public).
SAS: Who Dares Wins’ Ant Middleton commented: ‘Ben is the embodiment of positive thinking. What he has achieved, in large part through willpower, is nothing short of miraculous. An inspiration to us all’
Ben’s story is available to purchase here.
Hardback | eBook – £20.00
Pilgrim Bandits is pleased to share the following extract from Ben’s newly launched book:
The desert in Helmand looked flat, at first glance, but nothing was quite as it seemed. The terrain was a gently undulating plain, criss- crossed by a web of ancient river beds, called wadis, that cut into the ground like the creases in a giant’s palm. Some were so fine you barely noticed them. Others were deep furrows. They were canyons cut by centuries of floods that surged through the desert then left it parched again. There were only three of us in the WMIK, an open- topped Land Rover with two mounted machine guns. Phil was at the wheel, H was in the passenger seat and I was in the gun turret, called the cupola, on top cover. We had hardly been driving for five minutes when we reached the wadi where it happened. It is impossible to count the millions of decisions that had brought me to that precise place at that precise time. From joining the army six years earlier to winning rock, paper, scissors, which meant I’d chosen for us to ride right flank on this patrol. And there were still more decisions to come, while the mine sat waiting for me in the ground.
The wadi was what we called dead ground. The lie of the land, the dip in the ground, meant we couldn’t see it from where we were camped, so in theory an enemy could use it to sneak up on us unnoticed. From the lip of the plain, where we stopped, to the bottom of the wadi floor was probably a drop of four or five metres. Then from the bottom, the empty river bed was probably only ten metres across. It was bigger than a crease, but it certainly wasn’t a canyon. It was somewhere in between. We could find a way to cross. I glanced left at the main column. They were about fifty metres away. The slopes of the wadi were much gentler there. It was an easier place to cross. The cavalry had recce’d the route and led them to a place where we could get the lorries over. Half the main column had already crossed. Ahead, in the distance, I could just make out the lead Scimitars, light tanks with 30mm turret guns that fire bullets the size of milk bottles. They were half a mile beyond us. They looked like little black Dinky cars, sending up huge plumes of dust in their wake.
H stopped the WMIK at the edge of the slope. The way in looked quite gentle, but the far side was craggy and steep.
‘This’ll be fun,’ he said. ‘Whaddya reckon, Parky?’
I lifted up my goggles to get a clearer look. I had a better view from the gun turret. The wadi floor was strewn with stones like rugby balls but it was nothing the WMIK couldn’t handle. The far side looked more problematic. There were parts that were almost like little cliffs. It looked as though there was a narrow path, possibly a goat track, in between the steepest rocks.
‘Aim for the goat track,’ I said.
There was always something about wadis that made me hold my breath. It was instinctive. We are trained to use terrain to our advantage in the army. I knew that wadi crossings made us vulnerable. Our ingress and egress routes were limited. We were being channelled by the landscape, which meant we were sacrificing some of our initiative. We made it to the bottom and bumped over the rugby balls.
Some of these wadis flooded every spring, when snow in the lower mountains melted, but most of them drained the seasonal rains that brought the Kuchi nomads with their low, brown woollen tents and goats that grazed the sudden flush of pasture. I looked right along the wadi floor, scanning the rocks and crevices for anything unusual, for splashes of colour or unnatural straight lines. Anything that indicated people may have been there. My knuckles turned white as I held on to the gun. I tried to brace myself with my legs against the ammunition boxes so I could stop my hips getting slammed from side to side as we bounced over the boulders.
We crossed the bottom without incident and I looked up at the goat track. It was slightly wider than I had realised.
‘Reckon we’ll make it?’ H asked.
‘You’re good,’ I said. He put the WMIK into first gear and pressed the accelerator. The WMIK lurched forwards and I felt my body armour bang the back of the gun turret. I wondered if we had enough momentum to carry us up the slope. The wheels started to slip, then they caught, then they slipped. H was wrestling with the steering wheel to keep us on the track, which led through the crags at an angle. Suddenly the wheels gripped again and we lurched over the lip onto flat ground.
‘Nice one,’ I said to H.
We were just beginning to pull away when something underneath us went click. There was a deafening boom and the world went white. The WMIK flew into the air.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we should talk about Iraq.