During 22 years of service, Bob Taylor was assigned more than his fair share of difficult tasks, but one would stay with him forever. He was sent to Lockerbie after a PanAm jet was blown up above the town, in December 1988. Bob’s regiment combed fields, woods and farm outbuildings in search of bodies from the plane wreck.
“I was packing the car to go home on leave to Glasgow with my wife and children when we were told to attend a briefing on Christmas Day”, says Bob. “We were deployed to Lockerbie on Boxing Day.” At the time of the bombing, Bob was stationed in Inverness with The Gordon Highlanders. “As part of the clean-up crew, I had to walk the area and identify evidence. If it was clothing, we would bag it. If it was a body part, we called the police over and they would deal with it."
Retiring from the Army in 2002, Bob has worked as a recruitment manager ever since. But last year television coverage of the 25th anniversary of the bombing forced Bob to relive those terrible moments. It triggered flashbacks that tore his life apart. Depression became too much and, in March 2014, Bob considered taking his own life. Realising he needed help; he made contact with Help for Heroes’ Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick. He is now beginning to piece his life back together.
“I didn’t think much about what we were doing back then – it was just a job. But then, 25 years later when I was watching the anniversary coverage, it triggered something off. I just thought I was a bit depressed but when the anniversary coverage started in the media, it came flooding back and I was floored by it all. When I was serving I had the support of the guys in my battalion, but when you leave the army you lose all that.”
At Phoenix House, Help for Heroes staff organise and run a programme of activities that aim to improve the wellbeing of all residents. Bob spends a lot of time in the art room, he says: “It takes your mind off things and it’s been a great help to me. I’m not artistic at all but, since being here, I have developed an interest in woodwork, painting and clay modelling. I particularly enjoy the woodwork as it’s destructive and creative at the same time.”