Father’s gratitude for son’s comrades

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THE FATHER of a soldier who was blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan has spoken of his gratitude for the comrades who saved his son’s life.

Walter Wilkinson’s son Lance Corporal James Wilkinson was nearly killed by the blast last June which severed a major artery in his left leg.

Walter Wilkinson

Walter Wilkinson

The 26-year-old dog handler was saved by comrades who rushed to his rescue and managed to stem the flow of blood before he was taken in a Black Hawk helicopter to Camp Bastion, where he underwent emergency surgery.

The former Woldgate College pupil, who had to be given a total of 40 pints of blood, was later flown back to Britain and has undergone five other operations at a hospital in Birmingham during his road to recovery.

Speaking about the actions of James’ comrades, Walter, who lives in Nunburnholme, said: “I am very grateful of course. They are all pretty highly trained. Their own safety seems to go out of the window and their concentration goes on saving colleagues.”

Describing his emotions when he found out about the incident, he added: “It always the thing you fear most. You’ve been out somewhere and you come back and there’s a car outside you don’t recognise. Then there’s the knock at the door and not knowing at that moment whether he is basically dead or alive.”

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James was out on dawn patrol in Helmand province with his yellow Labrador Tam last June when an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up just a couple of metres away from him at 6.30am.

The explosion also fractured his hip and severed a main vein as well as a femoral artery in his left leg.

He is now receiving treatment at Headley Court, the rehabilitation centre in Surrey, where he is undergoing a cycle of three week stints of intensive physiotherapy and exercise, including swimming, followed by three weeks of rest and recuperation, and is likely to be there for another year.

James grew up with brother Charles and sister Sarah, who are also in the army, in Nunburnholme.

The three of them were made Freemen of York in a ceremony at the Mansion House on Monday, 23 January.

They were made Freemen of the City after they inherited the right to the honour from their mother Christine Reeson-Walden, who was made a Freeman herself in 1979.

When asked if the incident last year has made him more worried about his children being in the army, Walter said: “It’s one of those things. It’s their chosen career. Nobody forces them to join the army they just force them to go to war if they are in the army whether you believe they should be there or not.”