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Friday 09 October 2015

Guest blog post: Victor Gregg, author of Soldier, Spy, talks about mental health

Posted by: Help For Heroes | Categories: General

Victor Gregg (author of the bestselling Rifleman) took part in a Help for Heroes bike ride to Arnhem in 2010 and has long supported the Charity. He sent us a message in support of World Mental Health Day 2015:

"The mental wounds inflicted by battle can be as deep and long lasting as the physical wounds. I have known veterans who appear to be leading a normal life, but who inside are struggling with demons born on the battlefield. Any front line soldier will have terrible memories, the death of comrades or perhaps a best friend screaming in agony as his life ebbs away.

These memories can be bottled up for ten, twenty, even thirty years before they burst out sometimes turning the loving husband and dad into a psychotic monster or plunging him into a debilitating depression. 

I have been a victim of this myself and have tried to describe my symptoms in this short extract from my book Soldier Spy. I was lucky, I have been cared for and loved and, after nearly seventy years my demons, created by what I experienced fighting at El Alamein and Arnhem and in the firestorm at Dresden have gone away, I hope forever." - Victor Gregg.  October 2015

Passage from Soldier, Spy

What happened in the next few minutes only remains in my mind as a series of blurred movements. The tall and heavily built chap who, with his wife, had just sat down with us made a remark about Freda which caused some laughter among the others round the table. Freda looked uneasy. In a flash the man was being dragged across the table, all the glasses were sent flying and there I was, being hauled off the lad whose face was now covered in blood. I dimly remember that the whole pub had gone silent, bearing in mind that this was a family pub, everyone knew everyone else, but all that was known of me was that I was Freda’s husband.

‘Don’tcha know, ’e’s just been demobbed, one of them paratroopers, bonkers if yer ask me.’ As for Freda, ‘What made you act like that, Vic? Showed me up proper, you did, what made you blow yer top like that, yer nearly killed him. Didn’t you know that he is Cissie’s old man’s bruvver?’ The answer to that one was that I didn’t know and what’s more I realised that what had registered in my mind as an insult and a threat was just Freda’s mates joking and settling in for a good night out. This was not the only time I was violent, and the strange thing was that the incidents could occur without me ever realising the commotion that I had caused.

I apologised to all and sundry, but from then on I was treated with some caution. My Freda was waking up to the possibility that there might be something darker behind the shiny façade of the loving husband.

by Victor Gregg and Rick StroudSoldier Spy: A Survivor’s TaleThis is an extract from published by Bloomsbury