Veteran was ‘too proud’ to ask for help until charity stepped in

Happy: Alan Hughes with his wife Gina

Happy: Alan Hughes with his wife Gina

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A VETERAN who was blown from an armoured ambulance after driving over a bomb has told how the Royal British Legion has supported him.

Alan Hughes, 62, from Coppull, near Chorley, served in the Royal Corps of Transport from 1969-79, and he is sharing his story to mark the launch of the Poppy Appeal today.

While on a peacekeeping mission in Belfast, Alan was blown up after driving over an IED.

He was the troop staff sergeant and was driving an armoured ambulance when cars parked on the inside of a roundabout forced him to drive further around and over a manhole cover – he was blown out of the ambulance and hit a wall with his head, the steel door from the ambulance then blew off and hit him in the other side of his head.

He was then shot in his lower arm and then beaten up,

Alan sustained injuries to his face, his optic nerves in both eyes were damaged, he was treated for his injuries and returned to work but his health problems got worse.

In 1993 he completely lost his sight. One night he went to bed complaining of a migraine-type headache and woke up completely blind.

Doctors discovered that his optic nerves had shattered. He is now blind in his left eye and has limited peripheral vision in his right eye.

Alan said: “There were a lot of people who went through a lot worse than me. All right I am lucky. I have had a good life since.”

Alan, who is also a schools ambassador for Guide Dogs for the Blind, said he had initially been too proud to ask for help.

The father-of-two said: “When I came out of the army I was quite antagonistic towards anything to do with the military.

“It was about six years ago when I wasn’t coping, a friend of mine who lived around the corner said ‘you’re a veteran, you don’t go away on holiday, I think you need help’.

“That was what started it. We moved into our little bungalow and because I have got a guide dog I needed a gate in the garden.

“They have a thing called Poppy Calls and they put the gate on for us and asked if there was anything else. I said I would like an office built for me. They came back and built an office for me.”

He added: “When I came out of the army I was not an easy person to live with. I have PTSD, I have flashbacks. My wife Gina is a gem, my kids are as well.” Alan and Gina also enjoyed two weeks at Byng House in Southport, organised by Poppy Break, their first holiday in eight years.

The Royal British Legion is today encouraging Lancashire folk to support the Poppy Appeal for the memory of the fallen and the future of the living.

The charity’s national fundraising target is £40 m which will fund vital work delivering practical, care and advice to the Armed Forces community.

The Legion provides support such as helping people manage their debts, advising veterans on compensation claims and more. See www.britishlegion.org.uk