Stratford soldier tells of life detecting bombs in Afghanistan
A serving Stratford soldier has an simple way of dealing with one of his unit’s toughest jobs - banter with friends.
Private Thomas Purcell, of 23 Pioneer Regiment, recently spent six months on tour as part of the team tasked with clearing bombs in Afghanistan.
The role means he is more exposed to the harsh reality of losing a close colleague – or facing injury himself.
Pte Purcell, who grew up in Vickers Lane, was awarded a medal for his bravery at homecoming parade in Oxford earlier this year.
Speaking to the Recorder from his base in Bicester, he said: “I do talk about what I do with my friends. Some of them hate the thought that I might lose my legs.
You may also want to watch:
“It’s good to talk about it with them because we can banter. Sometimes they get upset and we get upset together.”
Pte Purcell accepts the threat of death or serious injury as an occupational hazard. Groups of seven are sometimes given just one hour’s notice before being sent out on the road.
- 1 Stephen Fry: Canning Town man to face court charged with murder
- 2 Man killed and two injured in triple shooting
- 3 'That is what this club is about' as Mark Noble wants to find West Ham fan
- 4 New primary school in Stratford welcomes first reception class
- 5 Police appeal to bystanders in alleged rape case
- 6 Indian restaurants to try in Newham, as recommended by readers
- 7 New Covid vaccine centres to open across east London
- 8 Steven Fry stabbing: Custom House victim named in murder investigation
- 9 Campaigners protest City Farm closure at Town Hall with 6,000-strong petition
- 10 Secondary claims to be 'billion-pound school' based on earnings research
During his tour, Pte Purcell was faced with his own mortality just once. He said: “We incurred a casualty in our team. I don’t think we were prepared for it – you don’t really expect it.
“You just have to change your mindset. All your work is focused on getting to him.
“If I think back on it now I don’t remember much because it was just too quick.”
When out of base, he stays with his mother, who has since moved to the West Midlands. His brother Kevin now works as a labourer after leaving the forces.
He said: “It is hard on tour, but it’s probably harder for family and friends because they are at home sitting and waiting. I did have a girlfriend but we broke up because of this.”
Pte Purcell regularly comes back to Stratford to socialise with friends, but admits he has not taken much notice of any changes to the area as the Olympics loom on the horizon.
“I’m just glad to be home,” he added.