Recently, I was asked a simple question. Who do I admire? I suspect the person wanted me to name an outstanding designer or inventor in the mainstream of popularity given that I run a successful product design consultancy. That might have been the obvious choice but then again the person I nominated has nothing to do with the world of design. He came from a different world and of a time that still resonates with me today.
This is a man of my generation. A young soldier in the Welsh Guards who went to war at the same time as I was starting as an undergraduate. He is almost two years older than me. Some of you will not know of this soldier and how he was horrifically burned when his troop carrier the Sir Galahad was bombed by the Argentinian air force when at anchor in Bluff Cove during the early days of the Falklands War. Simon Weston described the moment that changed his life as a “personal Hiroshima”. He suffered third degree burns over 25% of his body and 46% burns overall.
Only a few years before his injury, those injuries would have been fatal. It was touch and go for several months whether he would survive. He became the ‘face’ of the Falklands War and our national need for a hero and survivor meant he became public property. This was a time to leave well alone so he could come to terms with life and the new hand it had dealt him. Instead, Simon was a celebrity with all the pressure it brought. According to his first autobiography these were the darkest of times and the mental anguish and physical adjustments brought him near to ending his own life. His salvation eventually came from his old regiment and the support of the Guinea Pig Club.
This is a group of ex WW2 servicemen who had shared the same experience of being terribly burnt and who had received treatment from Sir Archibald Mc Indoe. He pioneered plastic surgery and did most of his work on what his patients respectfully called his human guinea pigs.Simon has written three autobiographies which describe almost every part of his life in candid detail through the worst of the lows and the highests of the highs. It would be rare to read a book that was so honest. In the second book Simon returned to the Falklands ten years after his injuries and he met the pilot who bombed the Sir Galahad nearly killing him but killing 48 of his friends and other servicemen. These incredibly brave acts helped put some of his ghosts to rest and settled his mind. His story will challenge you to read it.
Continuing his work
Today, Simon is a forthright spokesperson for British troops championing their medical care after sustaining injuries in battle. Simon was awarded an OBE for charity work and the CBE and is a patron of the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, he ran his own youth charity – Weston Spirit and more recently he agreed to be the President Elect of the Welsh Scout Council.
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