‘Initiation’ was seeing friend’s toe blown off by a grenade
VETERAN David Aspland was just 15 when he left his job on Stockport Market and ran off to join the Royal Navy.
His startling ‘initiation’ came soon after, when a grenade was thrown onto his ship in Africa and it blew off his friend’s toe.
“I was trying to become an instant sailor - and failing regularly,” he says.
David, now 78, shared his experiences when the our sister newspaper the M.E.N visited Broughton House, where he has been for nine months.
Fellow resident Jack Pilkington was one of very few to witness the destructive power of a hydrogen bomb.
The 83-year-old even felt the heat in his eyes when it exploded 10,000 feet above him on Christmas Island.
The corridors of Broughton House echo with many similar stories of bravery and proud service.
It’s a place were veterans swap memories as friends.
For some talking about their experiences of war is too painful. Others reminisce openly.
Current residents have shared their stories to support the M.E.N campaign to raise £1 million for Broughton House, and underline why the Salford care home is so important to them.
Broughton House is about to be transformed into a unique, £14m care village. Our Million Pound Salute campaign aims to raise £1m for the project to enhance the home’s vital services.
David, from Stockport, was a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy. He suffers from Parkinson’s and has been at Broughton House for nine months.
“Life in Broughton House isn’t as exciting as 25 years in the Royal Navy, but we do our best,” said David, who told how he ‘ran away to sea’ to join the Royal Navy as a teenager rather than work on the local market.
“My first taste of the Navy was when they grabbed me in at the recruitment office as I was passing,” he said.
“I joined up in Plymouth and spent 18 weeks training - climbing the masts. I was trying to become an instant sailor - and failing regularly.”
David served in the Mediterranean at first then was posted to Africa during Algeria’s war with France.
“We were going ashore and the aggro was still on,” he said.
“A grenade was thrown into the bow where we were and it blew my mate’s toe off. That was my initiation into the Navy. I was looking for excitement - I certainly got that.
“Broughton House speaks our language. We enjoy reminiscing here so for us, the appeal is vitally important.”
Jack has been at Broughton House for five years. During the war he was one of very few to witness the destructive power of a hydrogen bomb.
A college student in Trafford Park, Jack’s national service with the Army began at the age of 22. He recalled suddenly receiving instructions to fly out from a base in Maidstone.
“We flew across the States, across the Pacific, to Honolulu. Then we got on a troop ship and sailed for three days to a small island on the Equator called Christmas Island.
“Whilst we were there we were constructing aircraft hangers and towers for the atomic weapons research establishment. It was all to do with Operation Grapple - they were perfecting the hydrogen bomb. I was on the island for nine months.
“Before we left we assembled on one end of the island, which was 30 miles long. We had special goggles on and there was a countdown of two minutes - a bomber flew over the other end and dropped a hydrogen bomb which exploded at 10,000 feet. The heat - you could feel it on your back and in your eyes.”
After suffering a stroke, Jack said Broughton House has improved his health.
“They encourage my independence,” he said. “The key is that there are people here with backgrounds in the forces. It’s important that Broughton House flourishes and continues.”