Military Speaker and Former Royal Marine Andy Grant speaks of his decision to have his leg amputated after being injured in Taliban bomb.

WHEN Andy Grant met Anthony 'Doc' Lambert little did he know it would be the beginning of a remarkable friendship.

WHEN Andy Grant met Anthony 'Doc' Lambert little did he know it would be the beginning of a remarkable friendship.

As an 18-year-old Royal Marine Andy would deploy on his first tour of duty to Iraq. Anthony, on the other hand, was 47 and a Royal Navy surgeon who was more accustomed to a scalpel than a rifle.


FROM LEFT: Andy abseiling down the Shard; On the road at thje Liverpool half marathon; With children Payton and Brooke after the event

  1. FROM LEFT: Andy abseiling down the Shard; On the road at thje Liverpool half marathon; With children Payton and Brooke after the event

The young Commando's military skills would help Anthony as the pace of their pre-deployment training ramped up.

But little did either of them know that four years later Anthony's surgical skills would help Andy to rebuild his life after suffering appalling injuries in a Taliban bomb blast.

It was February 3, 2009. Andy was on a routine foot patrol in Sangin, in Afghanistan, with close friend Royal Marine Iain Syme.

Iain was at the front of the patrol with Andy close behind.

"My memory is perfect," 25-year-old Andy explains.

"One of my best mates was leading the patrol; he jumped over this ditch but there was a trip wire. I was the second man ready to jump and two bombs went off between us in a daisy chain. The blast blew my mate away by 30 feet and I got all the shrapnel."

The impact severed Andy's femoral artery and took out a "big chunk" of his thigh. His right leg came off worse, breaking both fibula and tibia as well as losing 6cm of bone.

The injuries he sustained were "not compatible with life" unless immediate action was taken by his nearby comrades.

Fortunately they came straight to his aid. A tourniquet was secured around Andy's thigh to stop him from bleeding to death from the severed femoral artery.

"I had a tourniquet around my leg and that was what had me in the most pain - it felt like a million people lying on top of me - but that saved my life."

The surgeons in Camp Bastion managed to save Andy's leg at first, screwing a cage in place in a bid to encourage the bone to grow by the necessary 6cm.

Medics had the Commando back in the UK within 18 hours of the explosion.

Anthony described how he found out about the blast some time later. The pair had kept in touch via email whilst Andy had deployed to Helmand province but the surgeon became concerned as weeks passed and he had no word from the young Marine.

Anthony, who is based at Derriford Hospital, explained: "We used to email each other every couple of weeks and then I didn't hear from him for a while so I got in touch with someone I knew at the hospital to see if he had been brought in but he hadn't. But then, a week later, I had an email saying 'you know that lad you asked about - he arrived this morning.

"His injuries were not compatible with life unless they did something. His life was saved by the boys on the ground."

Andy remained in a coma for two weeks before he woke in Birmingham with his father by his side.

For the next 18 months Andy would go through vigorous rehabilitation, including a spell with Devonport-based Hasler Company, but did not regain the use of his leg as he wanted.

During this time he also had the support of Anthony, now a close friend.

As an active young man adjusting to having a metal cage screwed into his leg for months and months the question of amputation ran through his mind.

"I knew Anthony from when I served in Iraq with him," Andy said.

"We stayed good friends and I spoke to him to see what he thought about my leg.

"Naturally the operation should have gone through Birmingham but I knew the 'Doc' and what a good surgeon he was so I asked him if he would do it for me."

The decision came after a trip to Bavaria with other wounded servicemen and months of thinking.

"We were chatting over some beers and that's when I think he realised his leg wasn't as good as others and asked me the question," Anthony said.

"I told him the only person who could make that decision was him. We had to be very careful - if it went well we would be friends, if it went bad could we continue to keep in touch? His dad was really against it and I was indifferent because I was just the technician."

But on November 26, 2010, 18 months after he was injured, Andy arrived in Derriford Hospital to have his right leg removed.

The loyal Liverpool Football Club supporter had the club's logo and motto, "you'll never walk alone" etched on his right calf muscle.

Warned by the doc he may lose his tattoo with the leg, Andy woke up to a slightly amended version of the tattoo.

Removing his prosthetic leg, he laughs as he shows me the inking which now reads, "you'll never walk".

"There was no recommendation for me to have it off," Andy added.

"It was me who decided, I just couldn't live my life like that any more.

"I spent five days in Derriford and then got sent home armed with some paracetemol.

"It was a tough decision but this week I would never have been able to surf if I'd kept the leg, all the challenges I've done now just proves the decision even more."

Andy - who has other tattoos including the famous words of Ode of Remembrance on his back - now works as an inspirational speaker giving talks on overcoming adversity and having a positive reaction when things go wrong.

He has benefited first hand from the cash raised by the Medics Rugby Challenge.

The charity match between the Royal Marines and Peninsula Medical School is set to return on November 5 to the Plymouth Albion Ground.

And proceeds support the injured, like Andy, to go and take part in adventure training opportunities such as the surfing trip to Polzeath reported in yesterday's Herald.

Andy added: "I left the Marines a year ago. This [surfing] and the Medics Rugby Challenge are a good excuse to meet up with the lads. It's like-minded people getting together; it's a good crack. "The social aspect is just as important as the rehab side."

For Anthony, who organises the match and the surfing trip, operating on Andy was simply doing his job.

He added: "Do I enjoy meeting them when they are better? Yes I do. Watching him [Andy] stand up on a wave was great. Drinking a beer and listening to him telling his story was even better."

For more information on the challenge, visit

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