‘Ini­ti­a­tion’ was see­ing friend’s toe blown off by a grenade

Stockport Express - - Wildlife - BY PAUL BRIT­TON paul.brit­ton.@men-news.co.uk @PaulBrit­tonMEN

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.