HE WENT from being honoured by the Queen for an inspirational act of bravery on the battlefield to being hauled in front of lawyers, falsely accused of hideous war crimes.
Now heroic Hampshire soldier Brian Wood is set to reveal all about the ‘darkest chapter’ of his life in an explosive new autobiography.
The retired soldier, who served with the First Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1PWRR), will be visiting Portsmouth later this month to meet fans and kick-start the tour of his book, Double Crossed.
The 320-page memoir covers Brian’s role as a Lance Corporal during the infamous Battle of Danny Boy, in Iraq, and the tumultuous legal witch hunt that plagued him in the years after.
‘This really was the darkest chapter of my life,’ says the married dad-of-two from Bordon. ‘I felt so betrayed.
‘I was left to stand alone, stripped of my values and everything I believed in. I can’t begin to say how heartbreaking that was.’
At just 23, he was forced to lead an audacious counter-attack against Iraqi insurgents after his squad was ambushed by more than 20 troops, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Wildly outgunned and outnumbered, Brian and his small team of four other soldiers rushed out of their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle and charged into a hail of bullets, their only protection coming from the covering fire of the Warrior’s own gunner.
The men dashed across open ground before they leapt into the terrorists’ trenches in an attack that Brian said was ‘like something straight out of the First World War, going over the top of the trenches’.
Without taking a single casualty, the courageous fire team killed several terrorists and took the rest prisoner, dragging them back to their base for questioning.
They were hailed as heroes for their actions, with Brian being awarded the Military Cross – Britain’s second-highest medal for valour – by the Queen.
But then five years later, a letter arrived summoning him to give evidence at the Al-Sweady Inquiry into allegations of war crimes by British soldiers during the Iraq invasion.
It came amid a flurry of accusations by six Iraqis who claimed UK troops – Brian among them – had attacked them at the Battle of Danny Boy, saying they were nothing more than farmers innocently caught in the crossfire.
There were also wild claims that 20 detainees taken back to the British base of Abu Naji for interrogation had been murdered.
Ultimately, the allegations were thrown out, with High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes concluding: ‘The vast majority of allegations made against the British military were wholly and entirely without merit or foundation.
‘Very many of those baseless allegations were the product of deliberate and calculated lies on the parts of those who made them.’
But Brian says the whole experience left him scarred and angry.
‘It’s important for people to read what’s going on in the establishment and how the inquiry was even given the green light,’ Brian says. ‘There’s been a lack of support for me, my fellow soldiers and my family.
‘I felt betrayed by not having that ring of steel around me. I was left on my own to fight another battle that I wasn’t trained to do. I wasn’t trained on how to fight this legal war. I was given no support. It was heartbreaking.’
In his book the retired Colour Sergeant speaks candidly about his struggle with the emotional traumas he faced from his time in the war – and the impact that had on his family life.
‘I came back a changed man,’ he says. ‘You couldn’t not when you go through something like that.
‘It pushed me to breaking point. It was the darkest chapter of my life.
‘It was hard to deal with when I came home because I was a different person and everything I came back to was different.
‘When I left, my son was three weeks old and in a Moses basket. Then when I came back he was in a cot.
‘I was bitter and jealous of my wife and son’s bond. I just unleashed verbal hell on her. I would put her down all the time. I wasn’t a nice individual.
‘It pushed her away and brought our relationship close to breaking point.’
Writing the book was like therapy, Brian admits, saying it helped him to move on - but also opened up wounds which he thought had been healed.
‘Writing the book helped me to close a lot of chapters like the inquiry but it also opened up other traumatic stuff,’ he says. ‘It has been tough.
‘But now we’re the happiest we have ever been as a family. It has been a long time coming.’
Brian will be visiting Waterstones in Commercial Road, on Thursday, February 28, from 6pm to 7pm.
He said he is looking forward to coming to Portsmouth - a city he loves - and can’t wait to meet fans.
‘I’m a Hampshire boy and loved going down to Fratton park as a lad to watch the Blue Army, ’he adds. ‘So I’m really excited to come and have my first book signing in Portsmouth, in a city that I love so much - one that I go shopping in and on days out to as a family..
‘It’s a fitting start for a Hampshire boy to go and start his book-signing journey in this incredible city.’
Brian lives with his wife, Lucy and their two sons, Bailey and Charlie.