Clanfield marine blown up by Taliban bomber begins new life as a pilot

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A ROYAL Marine has told how he is rebuilding his life after being blown up by a suicide bomber.

Lance Corporal Alec Robotham had been returning from a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan when the Taliban insurgent struck.

NEW START Trainee helicopter pilot Alec Robotham, 26, from Clanfield.  Picture: 'Sarah Standing (120924-2240)

NEW START Trainee helicopter pilot Alec Robotham, 26, from Clanfield. Picture: 'Sarah Standing (120924-2240)

The 26-year-old, from Clanfield, was badly injured in the attack.

The explosion sent marble-sized ball bearings flying through the air, severing a femoral artery and leaving him with severe muscle damage to his right leg.

Without the aid of a helicopter to transfer him to Camp Bastion, he might have bled to death.

Now for the first time he’s spoken about his experience and how a training programme is giving injured servicemen hope for the future.

The attack put an end to his days as a marine. But Alec is being supported by Wings 4 Warriors to learn the skills needed for a second career – flying helicopters.

Recalling the blast, he said: ‘We’d known the guy and had given him a radio in exchange for information. We thought he was on our side.

‘We were out on foot patrol and he walked past six guys. We were on our way back and I looked at him and said “As-Salamu Alaykum” – hello, how are you?

‘Normally they say it back and he didn’t say anything, he just looked really scared.

‘I thought “That’s not right” and that’s when it happened.’

After the explosion Alec thought he’d stepped on a mine and looked down to see if his legs had been blown off.

When he saw they were still intact, he realised what had happened – the man had blown himself up next to him.

As the pain kicked in his colleagues applied tourniquets to stem the blood.

‘I was going in and out of consciousness,’ he said. ‘I remember my trousers had turned red, my arm was a mess and I couldn’t hear.’

Alec had dreamed about being a Royal Marine since he was a boy. But the injuries he suffered in July 2010 meant he could no longer serve as he has restricted movement in his legs.

It was while he was going through rehabilitation that he heard about Wings 4 Warriors.

Based at Goodwood Aerodrome, near Chichester, it’s training people like Alec to become commercial helicopter pilots. He’s one of the first learning how to fly under the tuition of instructor Mark Radcliffe.

For Alec, it’s been a chance to start again.

‘I feel pretty lucky to be alive,’ he added. ‘Because I was facing away from him when it happened and I had a big communications pack on my back, that took most of the blast. I just dealt with it but I knew there was no way I was ever going to be going back.

‘My whole life was being a Royal Marine, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d always thought I’d love to fly but I never thought I was going to learn. I couldn’t think of anything else after that. I didn’t want to do any other job.’

Once he’s trained, he’d like to fly air ambulances.

‘It would be nice to give something back,’ he said. ‘I was rescued by helicopter, it saved my life, so I want to help other people.’