A former soldier living in North Swindon, who returned from May’s second Invictus Games for disabled military personnel, has expressed his deep appreciation for the care, support and encouragement he has received since being seriously injured in Afghanistan.
When Corrie Mapp was just 7 years old on a visit to the UK from Barbados, a seed was sown, watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, that one day he would join the British Army.
By way of army cadets at secondary school and four and a half years with the Barbados Police armed response unit, in 2005 he joined the Household Cavalry Regiment. Corrie thought he was going into the armoured corps but within a year he was on horse guard duty, having his picture taken by thousands of tourists, and being part of the pomp in the Trooping of the Colour in front of the Queen.
Corrie said: “I hadn’t come into contact with horses much when I was younger, but the army training is very rigorous followed by training to become a good horseman to the standards expected in the Household Cavalry Regiment which are seen in public every day.”
In 2009 his squadron was deployed to Afghanistan where, in the dust and heat, looking after horses as well as hours polishing breast plates and helmets became a memory, as Corrie went out on patrol with colleagues, guarded military installations and responded to attacks from the Taliban.
Corrie’s memory of the improvised explosive device that blew up under him, tearing off his left leg below the knee, is non-existent. He’s had to rely on colleagues and medical staff to fill in the three weeks he was unconscious in an induced coma. He explained: “It was 31 January 2010 and I was in a Scimitar light reconnaissance vehicle in C Squadron going to the aid of an injured infantryman and his unit which was pinned down by enemy fire. We were heading for high ground when the IED went off; the three of us in the vehicle were injured but I was the lowest and caught the full blast.
“I don’t remember anything after that. From previous experience, other soldiers involved and the medical staff write down everything because injured soldiers want to put the pieces back together and come to terms with what’s happened. Later I talked with the guy who tied the tourniquet to stop the bleeding and also others in the squad who put me in the helicopter along with the injured infantryman. I was told the surgical team at Camp Bastion had to take my right leg off before being flown to Selley Oak Hospital in Birmingham within 24 hours. They also had to deal with a punctured lung, a broken hand and my face was pretty mangled up.”
Following three weeks of treatment in hospital Corrie went to the MoD recovery centre at Hedley Court in Surrey for the first of many visits over the following two years. Within a few days he was fitted with prosthetic legs and started an intensive programme of rehabilitation. He said: “They believe in quickly getting you used to the new normalcy that is your life and learning to become as self-sufficient as possible; wallowing on the past experience is not an option.
“About 15 months later I started to have discussions about what my next steps might be; I had ideas of becoming a weapons training instructor which would free up an able-bodied corporal for regular duties. The board suggested it was safer if I retrain as a tailor for the regiment. But working indoors didn’t appeal at all and I decided to leave the Army at the end of August 2013.
“Without doubt the medical care I received and the support of the MoD and the regiment were exceptional, as well as the amazing help from Help For Heroes, the British Legion and Blesma, the charity that enables limbless veterans to lead independent lives. They all helped me pull me through the tough times and gave me the encouragement and focus and find my way through sport.”
Corrie currently plays six sports and represents Great Britain in bobsleigh, sitting volleyball as well as track and field events wearing a pair of cheetah prosthetic legs. He also plays cricket for the Hampshire disabled team, golf and sledge hockey.
As a member of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme run by the British Paralympic Association and Help For Heroes he took part in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and also tried the one man bobsleigh at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics.
Corrie was a member of the British veterans sitting volleyball team at the first Invictus Games in 2014 in London which took the gold medal, but returned from the second games in the USA with a silver medal. “It was an awesome experience to go to Florida for 10 days,” he said. “Everything was just bigger and really well organised; the welcome and support was amazing and apart from the competitions and getting together with other military personnel, there were free trips to all the theme parks for participants and their families. Security was extremely tight as Prince Harry, the First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George Bush were there to meet us.”
Having worked hard to recover followed by intensive training as a full time athlete for the last five years, Corrie is resting from competition, and at the age of 37 is focussing on the next stage of his life which he hopes will literally take off. “I’ve applied to join the Wings for Warriors helicopter training programme to become a commercial pilot,” he explained. “I have a final psychological test and a medical; all being well I’ll be able start a full time course lasting 18 months this summer.
“I’ll have to work out how the sport fits in and as the training takes place in Aberdeen, I’ll be away from home. My children are settled in school here so we won’t be relocating as we only arrived in 2014. I was based in Windsor but a guy in the RAF suggested we settle in Swindon and helped us find out more; we’re happy here.”
Out of serious injury that took him to edge of life, Corrie has emerged strong and focussed about the future. “I’m happy in myself and accept my injury as my normal,” he said. “I’ve always been positive and been able to think positive about what my next goals are; sport has been the route back for my body and brain.
“But there’s no question, I’m very thankful to all those people who have been with me all the way, from the guys who pulled me from the wreck of the vehicle to all the medical and physio staff who have put me back together, the charities who have helped, and all the public who donate to keep them going, to Mrs Garton, the head at Bridlewood School who has bent over backwards to help me and the family.
“Wherever I’ve been I’ve meet really good people who have given me strength to be where I am now.”