Colin Hamilton

Colin Hamilton

Colin Hamilton enlisted into the Royal Highland Fusiliers in August 1993. During his time he served in N Ireland and Bosnia before transferring to the Black Watch in 2001. He was then deployed to Kosovo with the Black Watch. Unfortunately whilst serving in Kosovo in November 2001, as a Lance Corporal, he was badly electrocuted whilst trying to save a comrade, who later died. Besides considerable burns, he lost his Right Leg Above the Knee.

After considerable surgery he then went through the Defence Medical Services Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey. He was also fitted out with his first leg, (an Ortholite with Ultimate Knee Unit) by the Selly Oak Limb Centre (Birmingham Amputee Rehabilitation Centre). He learnt to walk but was unfortunately left in the Battalion Rear party when they first deployed to Iraq in the spring of 2003. He was determined to regain his fitness and continued his rehabilitation. He was also subsequently fitted out with a further high activity leg by the Birmingham Amputee Rehabilitation Centre. This was an Otto Bock 3R80 with a Modular III Flexfoot. He continued with his rehabilitation and was able to run 800 metres in 6 minutes 50 seconds, a considerable achievement.

As a result of his efforts, the Army agreed that he could be deployed with his Battalion on Active Service in Southern Iraq when they returned in July 2004 (as BLESMA understand it, he was the first above knee amputee to go an active service as opposed to returning from it!). He had also been promoted to Corporal, a distinct feat for someone with such an injury. Initially his duties were within their base, working as a signaller in the Battalion Operations Room and in the signals equipment area issuing equipment.

He had a short break in the UK at Headley Court to monitor his rehabilitation, and returned to Iraq in September. The weather was extremely hot so the working pattern was to start work at 6am and continued to the evening. Colin’s leg had now settled down and had got used to the heat. He never had any stump irritation or pain and the only aid he used was to put alcohol gel on his stump at night. He found that this dried the stump and stopped any irritation. The living conditions were in tents and the troops slept on cot beds. There was running water and the only slight mishap Colin had, was that he slipped whilst having a shower and cut his left foot.

Later in the tour, the Battalion made its highly publicised move to Camp Dogwood in the US sector. As part of his duties, he was part of a convoy (he was in charge of one of the trucks), and the journey took 3 days. During this time, he wore his prosthesis for the entire 3 days, less 10 hours, which testified to the excellent fit by the Selly Oak Centre.

Whilst at Camp Dogwood, the facilities were more basic and there was no running water. The only problem that occurred was that when the temperature starting dropping in the autumn, Colin started to get discomfort in his stump. This was as a result of an earlier operation which had inserted a k pin in the stump due to a fracture Colin had received in the stump in 2003 whilst ski bobbing in Austria with BLESMA (seems this is more dangerous!). Whilst at Camp Dogwood, he came under regular indirect fire. He played a key role within the Battlegroup Headquarters as a Signals Watchkeeper. During this time, the Black Watch endured intense operating conditions, losing 5 soldiers killed and 17 wounded.

On his return to the UK, it was decided that he should have a new cast at Selly Oak, which has been done but he kept his 3R80 but had another Reflex VSP flexfoot.
The point of this short story is to show that if an amputee gets a good fit (cost in the order of £3,700), he can continue in a very highly active and worthwhile profession, earn promotion and cost little or nothing outside the limb fit. Colin receives no State benefits whatsoever. This makes a huge saving in benefits that do not have to be paid if someone has to leave their employment due to a poor fit of his prosthesis inhibiting his/her lifestyle.

Stephen Coltman OBE
Editor’s Note: Colin was also awarded the Hambro Award for 2004, which recognises personal endeavour, by a Member of the Association. This was presented to him at the AGM by Lord Shuttleworth JP. We were delighted that Colin could attend with his wife, Karen and their 2 children. This article was reproduced here with the permission of BLESMA.