Simon Weston


Simon Weston

Simon Weston OBE (born August 8 1961 in Nelson, Wales) is a former British Army soldier who became well known throughout the United Kingdom for his courageous recovery and charity work after suffering severe burn injuries during the Falklands War.cite web|url=http://www.simonweston.com/about.html|title=Simon Weston Biography|publisher=simonweston.com|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Biography

Early life

Weston was born on August 8 1961 in Nelson, Wales. He was brought up by his mother, Pauline, and adoptive father, 'Lofty'. His biological father had been in the Royal Air Force with his mother. Weston lived in Singapore and Knockton Hall in Lincoln before returning to Nelson at the age of around six or seven.cite web|url=http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/feature-news/tm_headline=my-mum-said--where-do-we-go-from-here--&method=full&objectid=19266005&siteid=50082-name_page.html|title=My mum said 'where do we go from here?'|last=Jones|first=Catherine|date=2007-06-08|publisher=walesonline|accessdate=2008-06-17] He has one older sister and three stepbrothers.

He joined the Welsh Guards in 1978 at the age of 16 at the insistence of his mother, after he "got into bother". He served in Berlin, Northern Ireland and Kenya before being deployed to the Falkland Islands.cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/halloffame/public_life/simon_weston.shtml|title=Simon Weston|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17]

The Falklands War

On June 8 1982, he was with other members of his regiment on the ship the RFA "Sir Galahad" in Bluff Cove, just off the Falkland Islands, when it was bombed and set on fire by enemy Skyhawk fighters. The ship was carrying ammunition including phosphoric bombs and thousands of gallons of diesel and petrol.cite web|url=http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:Aa_fMCPWg2EJ:www.adsw.org.uk/documents/conference/Simon%2520Weston%25202003%2520Conference.doc+%22simon+weston%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=uk&client=firefox-a|title=Keynote Speech to ADSW Annual Conference|date=2003-05-21|publisher=adsw.org.uk|accessdate=2008-06-17] Twenty-two out of his platoon of thirty men were killed; altogether the Welsh Guards lost forty-eight men and ninety-seven were injured.

Weston survived with 49% burns, following which his face was barely recognisable:

Recovery

Weston endured years of reconstructive surgery, including over 75 major operations or surgical procedures. Skin from his shoulders was used to make eyelids. [cite web|url=http://www.mymultiplesclerosis.co.uk/stranger-than-fiction/isabelledinoire.html|title=The First Face Transplant|publisher=mymultiplesclerosis.co.uk|accessdate=2008-06-17] Skin from his buttocks was used to form a new nose.cite web|url=http://www.nqsouthern.com/digitalpublication/digitalpublications/index.cfm?dpid=78&section_id=460|title=Interview|publisher=Hampshire Society|accessdate=2008-06-17] He suffered psychological trauma, drinking heavily and becoming suicidal, [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/5100996.stm|title=Simon Weston tells of trauma|date=2006-06-21|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] and admits his behaviour during this time was "terrible". He credits his mother with helping him to overcome this. In particular, her act of reuniting him with his old regiment, who refused to mollycoddle him (especially Glen White, who ran the Welsh Guards rugby side), forced him to "face up to the unavoidable and to be positive about everything including especially my future".

Television and media

Weston became a well-known personality on radio and television, especially within Wales. He has been the subject of a number of BBC documentaries and presented his own radio show on BBC Radio Wales. He has been a commentator numerous times on television news programmes and documentaries. On 14 June 2007, the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands War ending, he appeared on various UK television stations recalling his experience of the war. He has also appeared on programmes such as This Is Your Life and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. He featured in a £7million ad campaign launched in 2000 aimed at boosting recruitment into the police force. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/902853.stm|title=Police ads: An expert's verdict|date=2000-08-30|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17]

He has written best-selling autobiographies as well as a series of fictional novels. In 2003 he announced that he had been in talks over plans to make a film about his life. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/wales/3034956.stm|title=Movie to tell Weston's story|date=2003-07-01|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Charity work

In 1986 Weston undertook his first goodwill tour, to Australia, at the request of the Guards Association of Australasia. The resulting donations to children's burns units made him begin to feel useful again.

Weston became patron of a number of charities that support people living with disfigurements, [cite web |url=http://www.thefacetrust.org/who-we-are.asp|title=The Face Trust] as well as the lead ambassador for The Healing Foundation. [cite web |url=http://www.thehealingfoundation.org/ambassadorsstories.htm |title=The Healing Foundation Ambassador's list] He also set up a national youth charity, [http://www.westonspirit.org.uk/ Weston Spirit] , in 1988, shortly after moving to Liverpool. However in 2008, the charity suffered from financial difficulties and had to be shut down. [cite web|url=http://www.westonspirit.org.uk/|title=Important notice - 31st May 2008|publisher=Weston Spirit|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Weston's courage and charity work have been recognised and honoured a number of times. In 1992 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. In 2002 he was awarded Freedom of the City of Liverpool. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/1767193.stm|title=Falklands veteran receives civic honour|date=2002-01-18|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] In 2004, he was named one of the top 100 Welsh heroes.cite web|url=http://www.100welshheroes.com/en/biography/simonweston|title=26. Simon Weston OBE|publisher=100welshheroes.com|accessdate=2008-06-17] In 2005 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University. [cite web|url=http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/honorary-fellows-2005.html|title=Honorary Fellows 2005|accessdate=2008-06-17] In 2006 Weston and dual code (Rugby League and Rugby Union) international David Watkins were installed as patrons of the Wales Rugby League, in a ceremony held in the Welsh Assembly.

In 2008 Simon Weston accepted an invitation to become Patron of The John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation

Political activism

Weston has campaigned in support of troops and veterans and against politicians' alleged failure to adequately support them. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7458224.stm|title= Tory military care plan due out|date=2008-06-17|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] He has spoken out against defence budget cuts and British troops allegedly being supplied with inadequate kit, [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/4x4_reports/2481265.stm|title='Don't let faulty kit kill our troops'|date=2002-11-18|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] and about the lack of support, health care and adequate compensation for veterans. On 12 March 2007 he appeared on ITV News, giving his opinion on the care of British soldiers in hospital. On 4 March 2008, he appeared alongside Tory leader David Cameron as he announced the formation of a commission to investigate ways to help restore the military covenant, which the Tory leader called 'well and truly broken'. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7276924.stm|title=Cameron: Military covenant broken|date=2008-03-04|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] Weston will take a non-partisan, advisory role to the Commission (headed by Frederick Forsyth), with his work taking a particular focus to the treatment of veterans and the compensation paid out to injured service personnel.

Weston is a critic of the Iraq War, believing Tony Blair's argument for invasion simply didn't hold water. In February 2003, in the run up to the war, he spoke out about "politicians with so many different agendas, spin and bluff and throwing smoke in the air and I have to say even lies... so often that we are not sure what we are actually listening to now". [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2752163.stm|title=Blair puts 'moral' case for war|date=2003-02-13|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Weston also spoke to the ethical committee at London's Royal Free Hospital in 2006 to support the case for authorising full face transplants, [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5092384.stm|title=Face transplant decision expected|date=2006-06-18|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17] even though he had previously been against the idea. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2522449.stm|title=What the papers say|date=2002-11-28|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Personal life

He is married to Lucy, with whom he has three children: James, Stuart and Caitlin. They met in Liverpool when she was working for his charity, Weston Spirit. They were engaged on June 8 1989, exactly seven years after the attack on the "Sir Galahad", and married on May 12 1990.cite web|url=http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/family/story/0,,2093522,00.html|title=Just another dad|last=Rix|first=Juliet|date=2007-06-02|publisher=The Guardian|accessdate=2008-06-17]

Weston has met and become friends with the Argentine pilot who dropped the bomb which caused his injuries.

References

External links

* [http://www.simonweston.com/ Simon Weston - Official Website]


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