From War to Peace BBC Scotland Investigates


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From War to Peace

Tony Banks is a successful businessman, but behind his success is a story of an unresolved war past. He fought in the Falklands conflict and his memories continue to trouble him.


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British troops have served all over the world.

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Iraq...

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..Afghanistan...

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and the Falkland Islands.

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The mental trauma of war can take years to manifest itself.

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More veterans of the Falklands conflict have committed suicide

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since 1982 than were originally killed in action.

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This is the story of one ex Para and his personal war.

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There's perhaps some unfinished business that I have

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that I haven't really completely dealt with

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my experiences in the Falklands.

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I think there's some place I need to go visit to draw a line underneath this.

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As well as his memories, he returned with a war trophy, an Argentine trumpet

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which he hopes will be the key to laying his past to rest.

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Tony Banks is a successful businessman.

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For the last 20 years, he has built his care home business into an empire worth £60 million.

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But back in the early 1980s, Tony was a care free teenager growing up in Dundee,

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who had decided to take an unexpected career path.

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When I was 18, I was doing my degree in accountancy

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and I saw this ad for the parachuting and I thought I'll go do that, you can earn some money.

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I never realised it was for the TA Paras.

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So I ended up joining the TA Paras, and after about six month I realised I enjoyed the TA more than the BA

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and decided to join the regular army.

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Tony joined the elite 2nd Battalion Royal Parachute Regiment.

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A few months after this picture was taken, this regiment was being assembled for war.

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I remember going through King's Cross Station on Easter leave, and I saw this notice board saying,

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"3 Paras return to barracks" and I thought, "Why are they returning to barracks and we're not?"

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By the time I got home I realised the Falklands had started, and then I received a telegram.

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The telegram has one code word on it, which was the name of the barracks we lived in at the time,

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which was Bruneval, and basically all that meant was, "Get back to barracks ASAP."

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On the 2nd April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands,

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a remote UK colony in the South Atlantic.

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-MARGARET THATCHER:

-We are here because, for the first time for many years,

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British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power.

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The Government has now decided that a large task force will sail as soon as all preparations are complete.

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HMS Invincible will be in the lead and will leave port on Monday.

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I didn't have a clue where the Falkland Islands were.

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Like most people, I thought, "Why would Argentina want to invade off the north coast of Scotland?"

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You're thinking Shetlands or Orkneys. I didn't have a clue, I mean, quite naive.

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And then to find out it's 8,000 miles away came as a bit of a shock.

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It wasn't just Tony who had no idea where the Falkland Islands were,

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many had never heard of these tiny islands in South Atlantic.

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But the high profile of the conflict was changing that perception.

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Just think of the distances. Great Britain up in the north of the globe

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and the Falkland Islands down in the south of the globe.

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To get them down there, a number of ships were used.

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They had to take ships from civilian use, the liner Canberra, but two Para went down on the ferry Norland,

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a good ship used for North Sea ferrying in normal life.

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But it was cramped, and, more importantly,

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the men on board, as they travelled south, had to keep themselves fit.

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This put a huge amount of pressure on the battalion

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because they knew they were going into a war zone

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and they had to prepare themselves for it in the very narrow confines of a merchant ship.

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The atmosphere on the ship was professional but still a bit jovial.

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Everybody thinking, "We'll get called back, it's never going to happen."

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HMS Sheffield,

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a type 42 destroyer,

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was attacked

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and hit late this afternoon

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by an Argentine missile.

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When that happened, the whole attitude changed

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and we knew there's no going back at that stage and this was for real.

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The reinforcement was on its way, battling the wintry rough seas of the South Atlantic.

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That was quite a frightening time because you start to think, "I could actually be killed here,"

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and even in when we were sailing down

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there was always the possibility of Argentinean submarines could attack the ship.

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When we had a threat to the ship, we had to go and lie in our beds with our helmets and life jackets on,

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and I used think to myself, "What bloody good would that do

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"if somebody torpedoed your ship, lying in your bed?" It was stupid.

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After three weeks at sea, the troops finally arrived at San Carlos Bay, ready for action.

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First of all you have to get your guys ashore, that's an amphibious operation.

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Having chosen San Carlos as the area most suited to it,

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Brigadier Julian Thomason, the overall commanding officer,

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had to make sure that his men got ashore safely.

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No easy matter when you're coming under air strikes.

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The troops made their way up Sussex Mountain, but were pinned down by heavy air attack.

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All they could do was watch the war unfold in front of them.

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It was a frightening experience when these aircrafts came in.

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I remember sitting there, seeing these bombs going off on the ships.

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One particular night there was a ship, I think it was the Antelope, went off in the middle of the night.

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I was absolutely petrified, cos you didn't expect anything in the middle of the night.

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You sit there thinking, "Gosh, those guys in the ship are sitting ducks,"

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We felt lucky cos we were on land.

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2 Para lined up at the start line.

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As they moved forward, they quickly made first contact with the enemy

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and this meant that isolated pockets were quickly in fire fights with Argentine forces,

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and here I should emphasis that this initial phase of the attack was taking place in darkness.

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And all through that night and all through the battle,

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I remember thinking, "God, get me through this, just get me through this,"

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because I had seen comrades fallen at that stage.

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It was the first time I'd seen anyone close to us over the time being on the Falklands getting killed.

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People react differently. Some are more frightened than others

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and so you can't get them to do what they should be doing because they're petrified.

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And then taking Argentinean positions and trying not to feel sorry for them

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because, you know...

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Any human being when you see someone that's been shot

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or is in a state of distress, you can't help feel for them,

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but you could not allow yourself to feel like that.

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You had to just think, "It's kill or be killed here."

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The British troops were heavily outnumbered, but, despite the odds, they captured Goose Green.

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The 900 remaining Argentines surrendered.

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Success, however, came at a high price.

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It cost the lives of 18 British soldiers.

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A good friend of mine I used to share a room with back in Aldershot, Dave Parr.

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Dave, he got shot at Goose Green

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and the bullet went to his belly button to the webbing buckle, severe bruising.

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But once he got casevaced, he should never have come back.

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But cos the character he was, he felt better,

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he hitched a lift on a helicopter that was going back to 2 Para.

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When we fought for Wireless Ridge,

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our own artillery dropped five shells on us and he was killed.

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And I just felt devastated, still do feel devastated.

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Another young guy who didn't have to come back,

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who could've survived, decided to come back.

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It was hard to take.

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The men who have been in the van of this army throughout the campaign are the 2nd Paras.

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They were the first again into Port Stanley

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and the first to march through the streets

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to hold a thanksgiving service in the island's tiny cathedral.

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On the 14th June, the 2nd Paras marched into Stanley.

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The conflict was over.

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But for some of these soldiers, their psychological battle was just beginning.

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We have all experienced events in the last four weeks

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that have probably changed our lives considerably.

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When you hear the whistle of something coming in,

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you're not sure what it is, but you know it's nasty,

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or you've got a bit of cover

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and you know you're going to have to get up and move,

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and there's somebody trying to kill you.

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When you're faced with these stark realities,

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I think you would be a very insensible person

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if you didn't think more profoundly

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than perhaps you ever have in your life before.

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When we were doing the prisoner handling at Port Stanley,

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we used to round the Argentinean prisoners up and line them up

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ready to put them on the boats to go back to Argentina.

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They weren't allowed to take anything back onto the ships apart from the clothes they stood in.

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So any items they had were confiscated.

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Some of the guys were getting bayonets and berets, all sorts of paraphernalia,

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compasses, and lots of different sorts of stuff.

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I spotted this chap holding a black box.

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I was quite intrigued by this so I went over and called him out and opened up the box.

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To my surprise, there was a trumpet.

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I thought that would be a really unusual war trophy,

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because I thought there couldn't be that many army trumpet players on the island.

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Could this war trophy hold the key in laying his painful war memories to rest?

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In Scotland today, there are nearly half a million war veterans.

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Many have made an easy transition from military to civilian life.

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But a significant minority suffer from mental health problems as a result of their military service.

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When people come back from a war situation...

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..it's sometimes moderate to severe depressive symptoms they can have,

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or, more commonly, it's abusing alcohol or other substances

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to help them sleep because they may have nightmares about particular situations.

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But, for many people, these symptoms lessen as time goes on.

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Its for a small minority that it really does cause lasting damage.

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Stewart Colquhoun was 21 when he joined the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Regiment,

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serving in the first Gulf War.

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On leaving the army, he struggled to cope in Civvy Street

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which resulted in him trying to take his own life.

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I didn't have the finances to go back to Edinburgh.

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I was still...

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..upset about situations from my previous marriage.

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And it just seemed that that was the best way for everybody, was just to end it all.

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But I think the thing that has to be realised by the powers that be

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is that the British Army is great at breaking you down

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and building you up to fit the purpose of being a soldier on the ground,

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but they neglect to, if you like, for want of a better term,

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de-programme you, ready to face the trial and tribulations

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that you would face, back into the civilian population.

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The Ministry of Defence is increasingly recognising

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the effects of mental trauma and its prevalence across the armed forces.

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Naval veteran David Cruickshank served as a junior marine electrical engineer in the Falklands Conflict.

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He was consistently exposed to highly pressurised situations for a sustained length of time.

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Basically, I was just sitting there waiting for something to happen

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and if something did happen, that's the only time

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I'd have been able to do anything about it.

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Up until then, I was basically sitting in a room,

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in a tiny room, with another guy...

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..waiting for a bomb to drop, which, thankfully, didn't.

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People, when they go to the movies and see a film, if they go and see a thriller,

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they're in a state of tension for about 90 minutes

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and then they come out and they go, "Wow, that was great."

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And they talk about it and the tension relaxes.

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If you imagine doing that everyday for maybe up to two, three weeks,

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you do that, you're in that state of heightened tension, it's got to have some sort of effect on you.

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David was only 21 when his naval career was cut short.

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I had an injury to my knee which never got any better.

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So I was being medically discharged from something I had wanted to join all my life.

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I was depressed, to be honest.

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There's no putting any gloss on it.

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I was physically unfit and mentally unfit,

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and that was me in Civvy Street having to deal with it.

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Like David, Tony also struggled in becoming a civilian again.

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I never spoke about the Falklands for years.

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I just never felt that I could talk to anyone about it.

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It's always this thing of, "Civilians don't understand what it's like".

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Um...

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But you took it out in other ways. I was a very angry young man.

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You'd drink too much, you'd get involved in fights,

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and that was common, not just with me, but with a lot of other guys at that time,

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and found it really hard to adjust back into normal life, if you like.

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Since his war experience, Tony Banks has gone on to unprecedented success.

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An outstanding businessman, he sits at the helm of a multi-million pound empire,

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and now dedicates his time and money in helping the charity Combat Stress.

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Combat Stress specialises in looking after veterans with a wide range of mental health issues,

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including those suffering from the condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

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People that come to us present 14 years

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after their discharge from the armed forces,

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around the same age as yourself,

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but certainly, in most cases, have not successfully made the transition

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between service life and civilian life.

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75%, for example, of the people that we currently treat

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are unemployed and sometimes have been - in most cases, in fact - have been long-term unemployed.

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They suffer with ill health, physical ill health, often,

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as well as mental ill health, so there are stark differences.

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Post Traumatic Syndrome is a psychological reaction following intense traumatic events,

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particularly those that threaten life.

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For these veterans, Hollybush House is a safe haven.

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At this facility, they receive psychotherapy,

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and share their experiences through group-based activities.

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I came here, talking to the guys, stuff like... Well, you'd remember.

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Holding a rifle, going out on a patrol, and you'd get that wee buzz.

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If I tried to say that to my psychiatrists at Civvy Street,

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he never understood and I felt as if I was banging my head against a wall.

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Do you know what I mean? Nobody understood.

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It was just me. Until I came here.

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You must have come across... You must have had battles within yourself.

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Absolutely. That's one of the reasons I'm sitting here and I'm involved with Combat Stress.

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Because, ultimately, it's that internal battle you're going through all the time.

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And the thing is, if a physical injury, as bad as it is,

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someone's got a leg missing and that, you can see it.

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But what's going on in your head, people can't see it.

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I've always said I'd rather have my leg blew up, cos I can see it,

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but because it's inside my head, people...

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When you start getting angry and you start going off on one,

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people think, they say to you, "Oh, pull your socks up. Sort yourself out."

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They don't understand what it's like when it starts getting in the wee dark hours of the morning

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and you start fighting no to go to sleep because you know what's coming.

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And the more you fight no to go to sleep,

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you start getting angry on top of, already, because of what you're angry at

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and that makes it worse.

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Tony's millionaire life may be significantly different to the many who attend this facility,

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but their experiences in the theatre of war couldn't be more similar.

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Having spoken to the guys this afternoon,

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it's made me realise that there's perhaps some unfinished business that I have.

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That I haven't really, completely dealt with my experiences in the Falklands.

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And I think there's some place I need to go to visit to be able to try and draw a line underneath this.

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For years I've had this trumpet and I always wondered about the chap I took it from.

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Where did he go, where did he come from? What was his role in the war?

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What was his life like after the war? How did the war affect him?

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Where is he now? Is he alive? Is he dead? Does he have a family?

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And I always thought it would be quite a good gesture to find him,

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to try and find him, and give him this trumpet back

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and find out a bit about his life and what had happened to him.

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Armed with just a name from the music book in the trumpet case,

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Tony hopes to find the Argentinean soldier Omar Renee Tabarez.

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Months of searching has now brought Tony to Argentina.

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The Falklands Conflict lasted just 74 days, but it left almost 1,000 dead.

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655 Argentinean servicemen lost their lives.

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I've reflected over the years on war and conflict.

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I think people realise war isn't about glory.

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People think war is glorified. There's no glory in war.

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All there is is death, destruction and despair.

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On a wet and grey day in the capital, Buenos Aires,

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Tony's special day has arrived, a day he's been looking forward to for months.

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He's on his way to the outskirts of this province to finally meet with the Argentinean soldier.

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Separated by 28 years and 8,000 miles, how will he feel about meeting Tony?

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I'm a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, a bit fearful.

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I've got no idea what to expect when I get there.

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I'm hoping to put a lot of my demons, a lot of my past to rest.

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Be interesting just to get there and see what sort of reception I get.

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I'm hoping it'll be one of reconciliation

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and people realising that it's probably the right time and it's right and fitting for this to happen.

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A big family reception awaits for Tony as he arrives at Omar's house.

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-Muchas gracias.

-OK. You're welcome.

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OK. Amigo.

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I think this is yours.

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Muchas gracias. Muchas gracias.

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Omar joined the Argentine army straight out of school and became one of their few musicians.

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He was to become the first Argentinean musician to go to war since 1910.

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And now his trumpet, his companion throughout the war, is back where it belongs...

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Unplayed for 28 years.

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And Tony has one more surprise for Omar.

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Oh!

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Mucho gracias.

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Despite not playing for 28 years, he hasn't forgotten a note.

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Omar's family leave the two former soldiers to reminisce about their war.

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Like many soldiers, Omar has suffered the mental traumas of war.

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For years he suffered from a deep depression, flashbacks and debilitating nightmares.

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For both soldiers, it's time to lay their past to rest.

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I'm so glad that I'm here in Argentina,

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meeting you 28 years after taking this trumpet from you in Port Stanley.

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I think, not only does it show that humans do care about each other,

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it's also that act of reconciliation,

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and, having heard your story about your problems after the war,

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I hope this will help you bring some closure in your life.

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Two ex-soldiers, who were divided by a war, finally come together as men.

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Before he leaves, Tony visits the replica Falklands cemetery in Buenos Aires.

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This chapter of his life finally closes.

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Having come back now and given Omar back the trumpet,

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it's, to me, brought a bit of closure and I feel I've returned the trumpet to its rightful owner.

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I can go to my grave now thinking, "Yeah, you did the right thing."

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Tony Banks is one of the most successful businessmen in Scotland, a self-made multimillionaire who runs a corporate empire of care homes across the country. But behind this success is a story of an unresolved war past.

An ex-Para, Tony Banks fought in the Falklands conflict and his painful war memories continue to trouble him today. He walked away from that conflict with a war trophy which he has been with him for the last 28 years, a trumpet taken from an Argentinian prisoner of war. Could this simple musical instrument hold the key to putting the trauma of war behind him?

With over one million war veterans in Scotland today, almost 100,000 of them suffer mental health conditions as a result of their military service. This film follows Tony Banks as he explores the issue of mental illness and whether a trip to Argentina to give the trumpet back to its original owner will help him finally find closure.