In 1982, I was a very young man in the British army, sent to the Falklands Islands to fight a war. On the last day of the brief 10-week Falklands War, just before Argentina surrendered to the United Kingdom, I was shot in my left leg.
That was more than three decades ago, but my memory of that time is still vivid. I was on my back, and there was a warm feeling in my leg. Everything around me, the noises of war slipped away; there was total silence. No sound of gunfire, nothing… Everything went dark and I felt myself slipping away. I remember crying, telling God I was so sorry for all my sins. And promising Him that if He spared me then, if He would let me see my family one more time, I would be that perfect Christian.
Within minutes, it seemed, the sounds of war came back. I heard my buddy, who had been next to me, shouting my name. Somehow, I found the energy to sit up and managed to deal with my injury. I wrapped the military-issued field dressing around my leg to stop the bleeding. I was just about to give myself an ampule of morphine (all soldiers carried these for pain relief), when again, I heard my friend call my name.
Crawling over to him, I saw that he was in a worse state than me, with blood all over him. I gave him my morphine and tried my best to patch him up. Enemy gunfire was pining us down, so there was no way a medical team could get near us. I continued to do my best to help my fellow British soldiers with their wounds before coming across a dead soldier whose morphine pain relief I then took for myself.
I managed to radio for support. After the enemy was ‘neutralised’, a helicopter was dispatched to come and get us. But while comforting my comrades and waiting for it to arrive, I heard a very low voice speaking in Spanish. He was an Argentine soldier, asking for help. Whoever he was, he was quite far away. A part of me wanted to leave him be, but I gave in. I crawled over to the wounded soldier, and saw that indeed, he was ‘the enemy’.
I gave ‘the enemy’ water, patched him up and laid him out of the cold
But it was like I had become someone else. I was not a British soldier who had just been shot in the leg by an Argentinean soldier. I gave ‘the enemy’ water, patched him up and laid him out of the cold. When the helicopter came, all of us — including the Argentinian solder — were medevacked (taken away from the battle field by medical staff) to a safe location for some surgery until we were in a proper hospital. Ultimately, I ended up with a plastic knee because of the shot to my leg.
Back in the UK, I spent time at the army rehabilitation centre at Chessington, in Surrey, primarily learning to walk again. Because I could not carry out my normal military roles anymore, let alone jump out of planes, I was almost discharged. Then, I was talked into trying out to become a helicopter pilot instead. My initial thought was, “No way this was going to happen, as I was not up to it academically.” Or so, I thought.
Again, I prayed to God to please help me. Again, I promised I would be that perfect Christian. I ended up as a helicopter pilot in the British Army Air corps. In the 1990s, I saw action again, this time in the Middle East. I was to pick up a section of guys from a covert operation. I managed to get all the soldiers onboard except for one (this still haunts me, even though his family say I have nothing to be sorry for, but this is another story).
The soldiers jumped out and were alright. But not me.
While we were in the climb, the helicopter took on small arms fire. I was shot in the leg (again!), and how I managed to fly the helicopter in that state, only God knows (I had no crewman to help me fly the helicopter, and that is yet another story). When flying a helicopter you need both arms and legs. The helicopter went into a dive as the hydraulic control lines were damaged, but I managed to get it to a height over a sandy desert in a friendly country. The soldiers jumped out and were alright. But not me.
I had little control over the helicopter. I remember it nose-diving and smashing into a sand dune. For a short while, I was semi-conscious. The aviation fuel is stored under the floor of the helicopter in the type I was flying. The helicopter had buckled in two; the fuel was all over my body and burning me. I was screaming “Fire! Fire!”
I had a four point seat belt on but I couldn’t undo it as my arms and legs were badly damaged. I was just hanging there, helpless. Again, I called to God to “please don’t let me die like this. I know in the past I said I would be the perfect Christian, and I know I hadn’t been. But please, please Lord, let me have one more chance”.
I woke up 40 days later in hospital, with temporary blindness, tubes all over me, and lots of broken bones. I was eventually discharged from the Army and went back to my old trade in the electrical industry.
But for God’s will, there is no way I should still be alive
That’s not the end of my story. God, I knew, had plans for me. He wasn’t finished with me yet. But for God’s will, there is no way I should still be alive. He moves in mysterious ways. I had no intention of getting married or having children, but in 2013, at the age of 48, I met a beautiful Chinese woman who is now my wife. We are the parents of twins, a boy and a girl, now aged 3, and in August 2018, we had our third child, a boy, in Singapore.
I still suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Every now and then, in my sleep, I re-live the helicopter crash second by second. My wife knows every word and line and wakes me up before I get to the worst part of the nightmare, where the fuel starts to burn me and I think I’m on fire. My wife is my North, South, East and West. She is an amazing person, and definitely a gift from God.
Peter Badley with his wife
I wear my rosary beads with far greater pride than my medals
It really was too easy for me to promise God I would be that perfect Christian when I had nothing else to lose and my world was falling apart. I believe God has ‘given’ me my PTSD so that I would never forget the promise I made all those years ago. Every day I really try to be as perfect a Christian as I can be. Some days, it really is hard. But then, if it is easy, we wouldn’t need faith, would we?
For gallantry and bravery in the Falklands War and my time in the Middle East, I was awarded two medals — The Military medal and the Queen’s gallantry medal (by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II). But you know what? I wear my rosary beads with far greater pride than my medals. I am proud to be Catholic.
Incidentally, my plastic knee was recently changed to one made from titanium and all is going well.
This story is not anything political, and it is not nice to come face to face with the effects of war. But what I hope to share out of my story is that God can be found in different places and under different circumstances. I found Him in the heat of battle, amidst volatile and life threatening circumstances. If you truly believe and have faith, you only need to ask Him and He won’t forget you.