ANDY Mudd proves soldiers losing limbs to improvised explosive devices is not a phenomenon that is new to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twenty years ago today, a peaceful Saturday morning in Colchester – and Andy’s life – were ripped apart by an explosion.

An IRA bomb planted in the car of the then staff sergeant in the Royal Military Police exploded, taking with it both of his legs and two fingers on his right hand.

“I remember everything,” Andy said.

“Maggie and I weren’t on good form that morning and I can remember thinking ‘not shopping again’.

“I jumped in the car, having had a quick look, as you did in those days. I was reversing out and then it happened.

“I was startled by the explosion, but then military training took over.

“I thought we were being attacked from one side and I knew I had to get out of the other.

“But, I also knew I was in trouble straight away because my right leg was gone and I was burning.”

A neighbour in Aisne Road got Andy and his wife, Maggie, who suffered superficial injuries, out of the car and an Army medic rushed to help.

Andy said: “I knew I had to keep myself awake as long as possible and I can remember hearing talk about not making the tourniquet too tight.

“The ambulances were on strike and, while I was hoping for a modern vehicle with all the equipment and an experienced crew, what turned up was two chaps with a stretcher.

“I realised I would have to keep myself going that little bit longer.”

After arriving at Colchester General Hospital, Andy said things “get a bit vague” for the first two weeks of the long recovery, which eventually allowed him to go back to his duties.

Despite a police hunt involving 7,000 interviews and 3,000 phone calls from the public, no charges have been brought against two suspects identified by detectives.

Andy said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has said there’s no evidence and we’ve had the Good Friday Agreement and things have moved on.

“I’m not too bitter, though. The bomb was a trivial event really and didn’t do the IRA any good.”

Since the bomb, life has continued to present challenges to Andy with the joy of the birth of two children, Jack, 17, and 14-year-old Katie, mixed with the sorrow of Maggie’s death from cancer in 2004, and a long battle to secure compensation.

At 10.23am today – the exact moment the bomb went off – he will be thinking about anything but the explosion.

“I’d rather look forward than back,” he said.

“People are coming back in coffins from Afghanistan and we’ve had all the Remembrance Day events recently – I know that I’m lucky to still be here.

“I’ve got some tickets for the All Blacks’ game at Twickenham on Saturday and, while it’s not a celebration, that’ll be when I mark the anniversary.”

The 53-year-old swapped prosthetic legs for a wheelchair when he left the Army in 1996.

“I’ve never put the legs back on again. They’re far too cumbersome and just felt like a temporary solution,” he said.

“I wanted it to be quick and easy to get around and that’s so much simpler in a wheelchair.”

Andy’s advice to soldiers left limbless from injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan is to “understand your limitations”.

“The guys who stay in the Army will never get the same satisfaction because they’ll never be able to do the same job,” he said.

“The Army gives fantastic care and I would say use that to stabilise yourself and then move on.”

For Andy, who was awarded £825,000 compensation in 1998, that has meant looking after two children and becoming a trustee for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association.

“The children were doubly important for Maggie and me,” he said.

“Having them around took a lot of pressure and attention off me and it opened a new chapter in our lives.

“It was difficult when their mum died, particularly for Jack, but they’re doing great.”

Andy said the limbless association lacked the high profile of the Royal British Legion or Help for Heroes, but was facing a growing number of soldiers calling for its assistance.

“We’re there for whoever needs us, but it costs a lot to run the charity and we’re always after money,” he said.

Last month, Andy went on an adventure training trip organised by the charity, with clay pigeon shooting, canoeing and climbing.

“I hadn’t done anything like that for a long time and you’ve got to test your body out,” he said.

Andy now lives in Cawood, North Yorkshire, but retains “a sentimental attachment” for Colchester.

“I keep an eye out for Colchester United scores, my old units and the hospital that gave me such magnificent treatment and support,” he explained.

“I’d like to thank again the people who did all they could to help Maggie and me 20 years ago.

“I’m still going, still enjoying life and have a good few years left in me.”

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