Michael: My name is Michael Coates. I am a former fire fighter, but I am also a former soldier. It is the stories from the individuals within this military community that I am desperate to document. Our next guest is a former Royal Engineer and an SAS Reservist. Following a traumatic childhood, he found solace in joining the military and thrived during his 15year career. We speak about suicide, mental fitness, business and how this podcast saved his life. Episode 40, Des Fraser, this is Declassified.
Michael: Where were you born ?
Des: I was born on The Wirral, Birkenhead, a little town outside / near Liverpool. A nice little area for me to grow up. it was really rough, a lot of violence, drugs, during the 80s Birkenhead was documented couple of series in the BBC as being the smack city of the UK. The docks where it was all brought into. The place it’s still run down a dockers type location.
Michael: Was that why it was originally built, for the docks?
Des: Yes. It was massive for the docks. Thatcher started closing them down.
Michael: It was all council ?
Des : Yes, all council estates. I lived on a little one right by Birkenhead Park. There were a few large ones around. North end of Birkenhead was notorious for a rough area, push on a little further to West Kirby, Corbie and places like that really affluent places, but Birkenhead still now, a rough area.
Michael: Close knit?
Des: Very close-knit communities. You could walk into a neighbour and she would give you a sandwich, that sort of community. If you knocked on my mam’s door, you wouldn’t even know her, she would invite you in.
Michael: Really. I suppose Liverpool renowned for the Irish contingent and people coming from all around the country for work. Did that carry on then was it that kind of ?
Des: Yes, yes. Not as strong but it’s still there to date to a degree. But years ago, especially in the 80s not difficult to eat in the different people’s houses. No one had anything but what they did have they shared a really close-knit community.
Michael: Do you have any really strong vivid memories of early childhood, I am on about 3, 4 years old ?
Des: My most vivid would go back to my dad’s funeral actually. Me and my mum sat 3 rows in. looking back at my sister , my half-sister, she was, row 7, I remember looking at her thinking why are me and her not together type thing. That’s my earliest memory that I can look back on , but I blocked out quite a lot around that time.
Michael: You mentioned your dad. Any memories of your dad ?
Des: It’s hard to say as photographs give you false information for storing memories. none that I can remember if I am honest but there are photographs of me in the park walking around doing stuff which I think I can remember but it’s the photo itself.
Michael: The circumstances of your dad dying you didn’t know as a kid, but you were told later on in life. Did you appreciate the fact that he died growing up as a young one ?
Des: Yes. To be honest I was a bit envious of those with a complete family. You needed that in a council estate where everyone was quite poor. I would look at my mum used to have to do all the jobs in a family unit. The one who put you on the path and the financial side my dad had a really good job prior to his death. He was a steel erector. My mum would work 3 jobs not even to scrape by, after he died.
Michael: Did you see much of her growing up ?
Des: Of my mum. Yes, well My nan lived next door but one between them did an amazing job. my mum would work quite a lot go to my mum and spend a lot of time on my own. She was grafting hard a care job during the day, working behind the bar, cleaning jobs, anything she would get to, she would do. I remember her working in a chicken factory just to bring money into the house.
Michael: Did you feel safe growing up?
Des: To a degree like so yes when I was in a nice safe environment with my mum and gran. My uncle was quite strict when I look back at memories. If you stepped out of line you would know about it. get a right hiding. My auntie was a drug addict, she used to come around to the house, smash windows , hit my nan, she went to a degree where you would slice her own wrists in front of us just to get money for drugs. Be all nice one second and then completely turn on you.
Michael: Don’t mention names but talk about that situation as a little child. So, you’re in your nans house, where you felt safe in. and then you Nan’s daughter would come in.
Des: I would go into one instance. But there were many. This would happen one a month once every two months sometimes. Whenever she needed money for drugs the window would be open, her head would pop under, a d then it would be threats to self-harm , threats to get us. You would just look at her and think there is no place to hide my only safe zone. I live with her son as well. One day she came in and my nan would give us some food. Tried to talk to her but she was like I want money now. She genuinely didn’t. We were quite poor when I look back me and her son were there ., she would walk to the drawer pull out a knife that one my nan would use for meat and then she would open up her wrists this happened several times. I was seven years of age. One of my other memories you would see everything in the wrist down to the bone and blood everywhere. blood would knock her sick her dad was in the Spanish Civil War. didn’t know what children and her dad and stabbed her mum in the leg with a big massive knife at the time. Any sight of blood would horrendous and these are the memories that used to stick with you. Vivid.
Michael: The pandemonium of that situation. Especially with your nana was it noisy. Was it frantic ?
Des: It would be, but I would freeze. I would look at Olly and it would have a negative effect on him it was his parent it was his mum he would be completely upset I felt hatred seeing him upset it would grip make me feel really angry to do something about it but as a seven year old child you are doing
Michael: It wasn’t just one of your auties it was a few ?
Des: Yes, there was another one. The older one was on drugs as well. I remember her bringing a gun into the house. My nan really was against violence could not hurt a fly type thing. She brought a gun in when she was off her head on drugs . Someone got shot in the leg in my nans Livingroom with the gun I remember seeing the gun it is only after that she shot her brothers friend in the leg. You are thinking …
Michael: Why would she have a gun ?
Des: she was into a lot of stuff. Crime. Down at the docks you are talking prostitution , robberies, thefts a really nasty nasty time to live in that particular place.
Michael: Heroin itself what kind of effect would it have on your family ?
Des: For me as an individual it was embarrassment. kids would say. Your auntie has done this . It’s not liked my immediate family. My mum is one of nine. The older one every couple of years. The younger you would see every month, or you would hear stories. one happening on your doorstep so much bad you could not do bad. What my mum done was changed her surname to my dads to help shelter me in high school.
Another way the estate worked: we must have been 5 6 found someone stabbed in the belly. Two drug addicts fighting in knave sticking out. Me and lee come across it and talking about it saying who will pull out. Really traumatic of that nature but they were there and the ones that I always refer back to.
Michael: Your uncle had a part to play in discipline. You mention a good hiding. What do you mean? A slap ?
Des: I remember one instance mainly and I can’t remember what we had done for it. Literally grabbed quite physical to the point where you got hit you would have bruises. I look at my own childhood a million miles away. made you physically tough hiding I mean you got smacked by a big man several times just sob you would be crying. My nan would say what’s happened come downstairs get you some supper. Make you feel a bit better about it. That safe zone
Michael: Why would he do that? How big was he.
Des: 18 /19 stone. You had to fight everyone at that time. He would. Because Me and Olly never had dads around, we only had a mum around. He would come over to be the alpha male. He only knew one-man lot of mind games to break him down his mum used to do that my nana was working all the time. He would come around and be the Alpha male my memories of him are quite painful. But the other side he would take us fishing and good skills. The way to describe it was wicked. The physical side could be wicked.
Michael: you would be judging by that beat you up?
Des: Big hands and you would feel it
Michael: Was he drunk ?
Des: No, he was just a very aggressive man he had a lot of problems. My grandma he seen that all the way through perpetual violence. Think it’s the normal way to live life in the future it’s the latter years.
Michael: Tell us about when you stole a chicken?
Des: My aunt was quite useless she could not cook. The chicken had been cooked and pulled and tea towel over it. We took it in a cupboard, and we destroyed this chicken and gave my aunt a piece and tried to blame her. I remember after that a good little beating but too far. I remember shouting to my nan can the chicken robbers come down and she gave us some cereal and goodies.
Michael: Did he ever show morose?
Des: He loves me to this day now. I was helping him out. But he was just very physical back then. Under no circumstances was it ever warranted . I think with this message I would like to get this out there if someone is doing this to children it takes a long time to recover taking your safe place away. If someone is on the receiving end of violence like that you need to speak out and get away from it.
Michael: Did you miss your dad at this point ?
Des: Yes, massively. Everything I had done was always on my own. I had to go and source the football team. boxing was the same I went to 2 different boxing gyms no one ever directed me no real role model.
Michael: Were you a driven kid?
Des: Our house was spotlessness clean. My room was clean blank out the rest. If I couldn’t control it then it was not a big issue. But the stuff that I could was on fire and I had to perform at a really good standard.
Michael : What sports were you into ?
Des: Boxing and football. Coming from our estate there was a boxing gym at the end of the estate about a mile away. And my local football was Birkenhead boys.
Michael: Were you fighting kids on the estate too ?
Des: oh yes.
Michael: Was it violent?
Des: I was quite aggressive too. One time I had big brown eyeson and quite upset and sat at the table. Therese couple of kids older than me battered me we have just hit your Des. My mum turned around to me and She said if you don’t get out there now, I will fucking kill them, and I will do you. She was raging and thrown out of the house . Did that hurt you I said no. she said that’s what you have to that every time. So that was the mentality. Going into high school from primary. school I’ve had a written rule that I couldn’t hit someone for nothing. If someone started with me. I had a bit of moral compass to help me . I had a green light to fight back. Got into high school I was getting suspended for fighting I think 17 times in my first year. I was on my last waring 80% for fighting. I took 2 guns into school
Michael: pellet guns ?
Des: They are not Desmond’s guns. Please mum put them aside.
Michael; Were you clever?
Des: Yes, I think I was I didn’t apply myself . I was more. I think I had loads of distractions. Like with my aunts. People could say things she is a prostitute the poverty side knock your self-confidence. I remember got suspended for fighting this is it now he is going to into this year at school he is going to end up . This is his last chance, or he will end up in a naughty school.
The Only person I could say was a role model my uncle Dave married to my Auntie Jane. He pulled me aside. My mum used to have this brilliant technique of being disappointed in me. It was only thing that beat me I could take. It I have not raised you to act like this. I would get us out of the situation. My uncle Dave said I expect more from you. you cannot come to us anymore. I will not follow you down the route. Straight talking . he was like a Tae Kwon Do. real self-disciplined I wish I had more role models like him. I wish I had tapped into him more. It was easier to live the Alpha male youngster .
Des: was he the right person to do that ?
Des: they were angles. But she was my favourite person in the whole world. Her husband had good values. Good discipline. To come hard like that. A turning point
Michael: Were you knuckling down ? What was the dynamic there ?
Des: I had a reputation. Which I stood by when time to fight. Go into lessons wanting to learn.
I sort of someone tried to bully me and left them could not physically do anything to them. Goateed stud… I couldn’t do anything then. So, the final few years. I was boxing a lot which got me fit and more focused I am in life I self-discipline.
Michael: Why did you join up?
Des: I was 16. It was an escape route . lack of role models I knew it would give me a whole different perspective in life. I went down with a friend who was joining up. Man, in career said take the bar test. I will be a welder to be a paratrooper in the engineers.
Michael: By accident you joined the Royal Engineers ? did you know anyone in?
Des: no one would have even dreamt of it. That I know off. A couple of videos and that was it then. I had to forge my mums signature took it back to her just before I was going down to Lichfield to do my 2-day assessment. I am doing it now with a toe I was only 16 and it was completely no sign of this coming off. Really shook her life. So, I joined up signed up for the Allegiance in December 1999. When I went in the career office guy said it was her uncle, I didn’t know him at the time he said you could go in as a . What a shock it was . I just remember turning up at Basildon A 16-year-old getting thrashed for everything. [ laughing] Best endeavour type.
Michael: Did you improve then did you enjoy the structure ?
Des: At first it was a culture shock, but I grew into it really well. SO, by the time my basic training, I can’t remember much about the first two months because I was that shocked and there was that much being thrown at me. The last month I remember getting better at the drill, at the weapon drill, better on the ranges and the firing exercises . rather than the first couple struggle and then going into phase 2 Royal Engineer training. It was quite tough back then. I’ve done some cheeky courses in the Army but that was one of my most prominent ones. I got thrashed for ten weeks. But really enjoyed it , My XX time was coming down. It was a really enjoyable time.
Michael: Were you proud going home?
Des: Yes, but again when we look at things: My mum came to the basic training pass off. No one come to my phase 2. It was a bit of a like feeling when my first football match was no one was there and my first boxing match as a kid, no one was there. These things that you want people to be around with you and I am sure a lot of old people had their families there. When people say to me “who are you going to give it to ?” there was no one who wanted to come a second time around although my mum and uncle Dave and Jane came first time around. Then
Michael: Basic training, Phase 2 combat engineering stuff. Then you went to trade training. Did you become a welder?
Des: Yes, I became a welder. It was a 9-month course down in Chatham . Pretty pointless, never done it again, but obviously it was a skill to learn and something I hadn’t done before I enjoyed it
Michael: . that’s a chilled-out course compared to then a year worth of training then this the 9-month course at Chatham.
Des: It was nice. It was exactly what it said. It was an apprentice type welding course but with a bit more structure to it and discipline with regards to PT a couple of days a week. You had the Wed afternoon ; I did rugby but where you could do loads of sport. Really chilled out. I was training for P Company at the time, so I was doing loads of extra Phys at the time. It gives you time. As after 5 o’clock that was you done
Michael: It is not the most academic of courses the old fabricated welder course[laughing]
Des: To be fair I was drunk for most of it. We used to pull our visors up and rest it on the extractor fan have a chip in hand and welder rod in the other and put something metal behind you and then all of a sudden you pretended to start to welding.
Michael: I did the same course and I spent 3 months playing rugby league. But I failed and had to resist but it was a good time, but I didn’t know how to use the equipment. Where did you go after?
Des: I went down to 9 Squadron a vital beat up 6 weeks before hand and then down to P Company when I was on P company, I broke my leg. So, I got back and there were no places in rehab for a welder if I was a driver, I could have stayed there but they posted me out to Germany where I spent about 5 years. Which was really really good. We then became mates then.
Michael: Op TELIC came 2002. We got called up to go out to Kuwait. Telic happened. We did what we did. TELIC 3 happened. What was the… did you want to go back ?
Des: We had done XXX it was not much action really of anything to report on done BXXX out to Canada for 4 weeks and then NCO core with yourself and then went onto TELIC 3, it was October time in 2003
Michael: Did you want to go back out?
Des: Yes, I did because I volunteered with the first time, I went on a different regiment was going out. We had been rece troop.
Michael: We were flying around Basra out of the desert, it was a bit like the Wild West. but our staff at the time brought you some bad news.
Des: Yes. Yes. It was a real rough period at the time I am honest you had just left telic. It was 9 January he come over. He said can I have a word with you. Went into the room as you do . Your mate at home Chris Murphy has died . I was oh no. We had been soul mates since childhood he had cystic fibrosis ad he had gone into a coma on New Year’s Eve and died on the 9th . Can I go back to the funeral. Not a chance. which you have to take on the chin . you are in theatre. The logistics for that were quite tough. Three days later. Goes on an OP. One of the worst OPS really for weather and stuff like that . quite shocking really demoralising.
Where was that?
Des: it was on the XXX river. Watching people stealing oil there for 8 days driving back on my 21st birthday which was an absolute shocker coming through xxx and Almara not very nice place to come through. Things were just getting hotter and hotter comes back to the revolution type. So, comes back spend about 3 or 4 days in camp maybe a little bit longer then Pete said to me “Des can I have a word.” So, I said certainly then one of my best mates had been buried to death. Literally just 100 meters away. Rab Thomson.
Michael: Shocking incident.
Des: He was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet . He would have been 22 23 full of life full of energy. Goes into a hole after we had vetted. Or a digger lorry knocked, or the sides collapsed on him. Buried alive. Horrific way to go.
Michael: They had dug a trench and it was saturated by the river. He had gone in to take a soil sample and as he was getting out the side collapsed. They were all jumping in trying to get him out. Fucking horrific.
Des: Our ex troops they were all working together on these projects but me and you were on the ground doing reces .
Michael: So, he told you about that then?
Des: She told me about that, but again, you are in a situation two of your mates die within the space of a couple of weeks. It was upsetting you felt horrific, I said can I go back and carry the coffin. It’s not an option . It was quite tough as it’s a hard one to swallow. And then literally 3 days later he said to me “Des can I have a word.” I said “Pete Is this a joke every time you ask me someone dies.” He goes “No I really need to speak to you.” I was like who the fuck can this be now. I go in and he is like your sister has killed herself. I was like . [breathing out sigh] remember being in complete and utter shock. Just how thinking. Like, how can this have happened? You don’t get any background. You have loads of questions but no answers. All you get is the message from someone. She has died from suicide. It was horrific Absolutely horrific. But within 24hours I was being processed then to get back and get to the funeral.
It was top cover. So, I was still like doing the job going across over to Basra Palace. Dropped the weapons, ammunition, body armour, all that kind of stuff, but I was still in desert kit just had my Bergen and no civis whatsoever really. I had a pair of shorts and just stuff that I would knock around the tent with.
I was going back to Winter in the UK. Although it was raining in Iraq it was still quite mild at times. I remember getting off a Brize Norton and because I was only 21, I could not get a hire car to drive back with. So, they gave me a travel warrant so I could get the train. Regardless to what the atmospheric of the tour was, being top cover and being rece when you are out all the time, you are hyper vigilant. You are scanning everything. To be in Basra one day and then over in the UK going on the underground in London and getting to Liverpool still dressed in full desert kit with a Bergen on your back. Getting back to Liverpool and getting back to your family. And just thinking. You are in complete and utter shock. You are not in control of any sort of thought process, whatsoever. I managed to get back and bury Rab, which was a bonus. I managed to get to his funeral. I carried the coffin for my sister and stuff. But yes, so Op TELIC 3 was pretty horrific for me.
Michael: What was the atmosphere like back home? Was it shock? Were there any signs that she was going to do this?
Des: Not really signs. When I was 4 my dad had committed suicide. That was the reason for his death.
Michael: Did you know that, then?
Des: No. We found out when I was 18. Beverley would have been about 20, bear in mind she killed herself when she was 22/ 23. Maybe I was 19. My dad’s old friend had let it slip to her.
Michael: Really, you didn’t know growing up ?
Des: No Mate. My mum and Beverley’s mum both agreed to keep a bit of a pact to say that my dad had died from brain haemorrhage. Obviously, the impact of rejection and everything else that would have had on us as children would have been epic. We found that out by accident really as someone had slipped up to Beverley. My mum was in New York at the time and I remember just needing answers. Beverley had just spouted it out to me. We went out for something to eat and she said by the way our dad killed himself. It absolutely shook my life, but I was in the army. It was a filter, but it was just like someone had just died again. I don’t think she ever recovered from it. I had the security the blanket from the Army. I knew I was going to have 3 meals a day. I had discipline, guidance, I had loads of structure in my life at that time and I will always look back and thank the army for giving me that. Because I think It could have been me with what happened to Beverly. She then stayed for a love that was never out there. Because obviously the rejection of a father and daughter have a really close bond and she had been older when my dad died. She knew him a hell of a lot better than me . Yes. So, I think that is where it led to because me and her were quite close and she sort of always looked at me to be like a father figure I was there to support. And I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there I was on tour. When she committed suicide, she done it the same way as my dad did it. Which obviously sort of looked like she followed in his footsteps and he opened up the idea of a route out.
Michael. Did you resent her?
Des: Massively. Massively . I think it’s because both of them did it. You feel rejection twice. You feel like your sort of to blame at times. But as I say I looked at Rab. Like a real energetic amazing lad just been buried to death like 3 days before. And I looked at her and thought that’s a bit selfish. Same age as you. Buried to death. You had an option. He is dead he had no option whatsoever. That for me was a real anger point. I would resent her and hold that against her for quite a while.
Michael: Because I know you went into the boxing team trained really hard, fought, won after that stuff started getting violent.
Des: Yes. So, as you said I had a successful boxing completion. I was really really fit, and I was just off a 4 month tour where I was training every single day pretty much lifting weights. I was a big lad fit and aggressive and now I was starting to become intolerant. So it reminded me being young again if you like. People would do things and my tolerance level would be quite severe. So I wouldn’t give anyone an inch then starting. But I would sort of blame the situation on them starting it rather than the way I would react.
Michael: I have just remembered something now. You used to keep your room so immaculate. You used to get frustrated when people used to mess it up
Des. Yes, it would drive me crazy. I hated sharing room with people.
Michael: Yes, especially after that point you could not abide people.
Des: Its only sunk into me now the similarities of being a youngster and that moment in time. I don’t know if the deaths and the hyper vigilance had triggered something from Childhood. I remember borrowing hoovers to make sure everything was spotlessly clean. As I say I had 10 fights in 2 months. Some of them I was arrested for and ended up getting myself a bit of football violence . I was only the Real English-speaking person there and scrapping for them and stuff. I was a magent to be hurt and I was sort of chasing this way of releasing aggression.
Michael: Did the army deal with you well ?
Des: Not really. I am no means a victim to the Army processes, but I had been arrested one night. In the daytime there was a guy bullying one of the young lads in my troop, there was a big lad I think he was on steroids at the time. So, I went over and said that does not happen in my team so me and him had this big fight that lasted about 30 mins. He had broken ribs I had my face was a bit mangled. But then I had gone to sleep, had a few drinks as well. I had another lad from the rugby team knock on my door “You wouldn’t do that to me”. And I said, “fuck off “ basically “get out of my face.” He carried on saying get out here. I hit him with a punch and split his face right across his cheeks and then he fell uncious on top of himself. I was still naked at the door and went back in got back in bed and went to sleep. The corporal who lived opposite me came screaming in “you have killed him killed him”. They got him down to the medics and they couldn’t wake him up for a little while. Then the RMPs come and put me in the guard room with some crazy Fujian who had tried to rob a tank. He was off I don’t know what he was on, but he was chucking beds at the door it was crazy. I was just sitting there calm. And the padre came, how do you feel. and I was quite numb. what are we going to do and give you a bit of time out? We are seeing things that we are quite concerned about. I said that would be awesome . I went away spent a month on leave. It was around the time of summer leave anyway, but I went a bit early. I come back and They got me to see a psychiatric nurse in barracks. I done a couple of sessions and basically, she asked me questions. I always had aspirations to join the SAS. I wanted to go special forces. I thought that would be my next release, and something really tough that I could really focus and set a purpose on. We were going through the counselling and she was are you sure you want this on my record. And I said no. we can’t carry on seeing you if that is the case. So, I went back. The RCMO had got me 6 months leave basically R & R to get me out of the regiment type thing.
Michael: You were well liked. Being very good. Just some stuff that.
Des: You don’t know at the time you start to feel you are a bit of an alien . you don’t know myself I know in myself I was always nervous about a reaction and what was going to come next. but sending me home for 6 months sending me to an environment I had grew up and had escaped and was absolutely tailor made for someone with loads of aggression to go back into that. That is what I would say was a catalogue of errors that really didn’t help me at all into that environment which then led me to signing off and I was out within probably 6 months after the leave.
Michael: You got out 2007 beginning of 2008 a few jobs here and there and then you ended up doing Close protection first in the UK and then you went to places like Afghan and Yeoman. But the one thing I think you saw something in yourself that you weren’t too happy with and that is when you joined 21 23 SAS (Reserve) nearby to you. What did that impact have on you?
Des: Going into CP was probably the best thing I had ever done. 2008 when the crash came. I ewes doing building work. I was never going to be a success I remember 80.00 a day I was on and I managed to get 1200 pounds. Someone told me about the British Legion Poppy Appeal. And they would help me. The course was 3000 pounds , since you have got that amount, we will fund the rest. I did the CP course it was a shock getting back into the military again. I hadn’t had that pressure on me for a long time It was like a mini carder. you were doing recess. You were doing phys. You were doing essays. You were 17 hours days sometime. Very little sleep, high intensity, 21 days straight . I loved it. From that I got a job for security for the build-up to the Olympics. Then a job came up with Armour Group gout in Afghan then I got back as the pay was that poor. And then I got back on the Olympic job which was really good. I was sharing the arena with loads of ex SF blokes loads of blokes from 2/3, 2/1 jobs I was on. They were like just Go and do it. I was like okay put my name down for it. I was 17 half stone at the time I could not run 4 miles. I would say then within 5 or 6 months I was on selection coursed which is like 12-month period at time for the Reserves, 10 weekends , 2-week camp before you do course final 2 weeks of the 4 for the hills. Carrying that extra weight really helped. Although speaking to the instructor’s afterword’s they said I had no chance . Fatty
Michael: I remember you taking it through. I remember I was a cleaning a fire appliance or something like that at the time. When you rang me to say you passed? Did it give you that structure safety blanket?
Des: Joining at 16, done 8 years. I was secure for 7 of them . It was only the last year I lost a little bit. Coming out for , I must have been a bit 16 to 18 months I had lost all structure and felt not a part of anything. I had lost all my purpose. It was only being back around with squad lads and in the arena, it gave me a little bit of a taste to seek back joining with the army it would not have been worth me joining an engineering reserve unit at the time. 2 3 was the definite location and there was no way I was not going to get through. Give me everything and more for what I was looking for. The safety blanket, the camaredr, it at the time. It gave me the skills laying and improving all the time.
Michael: You took that skill set and did a lot of work in places like Yeoman, Nigeria, Sudan I always got the feeling you got desensitised to everything. I think that was the moment like . I was totally grounded in the fire service. I was with that group of people. A house down the road. Playing rugby with my mates at the weekend. And you were like doing One extreme with 2/3 then doing stupid stuff quite wreck less I feel then going partying a week in Ibiza.
Des: Yes. My life was really intense. I think it was a bit of suffering. I kept everything at that highest level. Everything was intense. Whether it was a relationship it would babe really intense. or I am out in a dangerous area. Like in our villa they used to lock 3 doors and be like don’t go out we will come and get you in a day or 2. I would just get out. Put a Knives in my bag the thought process prime for being taken. Certainly, in Nigeria and west Africa. It was pretty hideous. Massive desensitised. You had no value for your life. You could not really settle with a love relationship it just would not happen your temple was too fast. come back through Heathrow just to see you to be fair. and then fly out to Ibiza where I would be partying and having the best time and my adventure then would be sky diving everything had to be at a really high level of intensity. I think there was a bit of fear dropping down into normality.
Michael: I remember you used to come to ours and it felt like you can relax now for a little bit before I can go off .
Des: Your house is a comfort zone for me now even more so. Back then I didn’t see the kids growing up as it was then I just really enjoyed coming and staying . It was something I always inspired to have myself so the first time I tried tasting humous the first time in your house. [ laughing ] I tried new food a really warm place. Sharp realities were and then having a nice time with you and back into it.
Michael: I remember a phone call you coming back from Nigeria and you were arrested and you got into trouble with the law and you were at our house quite a lot and you were back and forwards to court after that 2 year period you walked out of the court. Your daughter was then born. Me and you sat down and we said what do we want. We wanted to get you back home and that stability and again you didn’t totally desensitise in Africa to the poverty the kids were living in. we sat down and this is where the growth mentality kicked in. This is where you are coming into your own. We sit here and you have provided nearly 3,5000 of education. 50,000 days of clean drinking water amongst a host of other things. We sat down and what happened ?
Des: Sat down desensitised. A lot of people do this on the circuit. You go away and basically that is your life, you are just wishing it away. I needed some sort of purpose. My little girl was being born in the June and I remember doing a security job down South and you said to me do you want me to do a bit of work for me and you were doing pest control on your days off from the fire brigade and you said come back stop chasing the cash out abroad and let’s make something meaningful. After going to all those different countries all west Africa, you notice the poverty hits the children. You still have the smiles on their face and going to church one day and just watching people who don’t have anything and really took me back to me as a kid and how happy they are with very little and I think that was one of the reasons why now we assist children in those conflict areas. Setting the company up, we needed a clear vision . It was to create amazing global impacts:
1. Employment for our military Veterans
2. Assisting children in conflict areas. That is where the 3,000 days of education come from and the 45000 people give clean drinking water
3. Protecting our Customer
4. Supporting our injured service personnel. Hence the foundation of this podcast itself
Michael: I always think we got it slightly wrong there. We said we need to support our injured personnel which we are doing whether it is raising funds, or employment, or advocating employment. But it was the kind of concept of this podcast where we could do it at scale. We didn’t know where it was going to take us.
Des: I think between us we raise 5000 pounds that is great but as you said to hit a wider audience and to give them value the podcast was a great idea, great foundation and now when I look back it’s the thing I am most proud of. We set it up to help people suffering from PTSD and combat stress and it ended up that listening to Walter Busuttil number 4 and sitting in with David Wiseman number 12. They changed my life. When Walter was talking about the effects of PTSD little lightbulbs were coming on in my brain. Maybe I have suffered from this. It sounds like similar things that have happened with me. With nightmares. With conversations. Have a conversation and I would start talking about my Aunts for instance. Yes. And then Dave Wiseman listening to his was the lightbulb complex PTSD and more from the childhood that the military itself. The same symptoms. The nightmares. The sleepless, the stress without getting enough sleep and the way your mind thinks as well needs to be taken into account. listening to him he really really struggled, and he opened up my eyes.
Michael: we just to go back. What I think we got wrong was we said we are going to support. And I think Its full circle it’s those that have been injured supporting everyone else and it blown up and much bigger. Episode 12 with Wisey it was the first time we went into a studio you were on the other side of the glass after that there was a big long what’s app from him giving some advice.
Des: He was integral for me getting help to be fair. When we come out, I was talking to him a bit. He turned lightbulb on in my head. he was really supportive. He sent me a lovely message it basically explained like pushing me towards therapy. In my head I was like I don’t need therapy these are things that have happened. I’ve been out of the army 4 and 5 years I have a beautiful Mrs and lovely daughter and loads of support and I was thinking I don’t need therapy. But I was suffering really bad. My aunt who had sliced her wrists. she had died in October last year. I carried the coffin bearing in mind I really didn’t want to at the time because I still resented her from all the hate that we got as children. I would have nightmares that I would be lying in my bed and she would be stabbing herself in the chest. Loads of other vicious nightmares of being chased but because I got a grip of me. Before Christmas I found myself down at the docks in Birkenhead which is a good distance from my house really. It was winter freezing cold. If I fell or jumped in, you would not get out of there. Loads of people have died in the same location. I remember phoning my partner Nick and thinking if she answers I will be in . The odds were very limited at three in the morning. She answered. And she came and picked me up straight away. I was like in the worst place that I could ever remember. mentally this had just caught up on me. It had just made me timid and go inside myself and really worry about what people thought about me anxiety was kicking in . it was a complete spin from the old aggressive people. my mum would notice things. Clam down your snapping a little bit. No one was asking if I was alright as I had come into myself it was a completely different symptom. I was about to take my own life. I still know if it weren’t for the podcast, certainly number 4 and Wisey would have killed myself.
Michael: I remember you ringing me and telling me and even in the last 12 months we have laughed and cried for various reasons on the phone. And I remember you telling me, and I said Can I tell him what is going on? As he may be able to give me some support to give you . did you then speak to him?
Des: We messaged back and forth. I had been to see Carl from the Poppy Practice and she will get you in front of a councillor very quick for me it was within a week. I was completely drained it brought back abuse when I was a little bit older it was more the worst thing theft has happened to me. I remember saying to Dave it’s too hard. It is draining me. Because I had you by my side, I was just taking naps during the day and the fear of letting you down I had to offload it and then wise said to me in a message.
Michael: It is because the problem you had I didn’t understand the dream position. Why is your daughter and why are the people who apart of the abusive in childhood, why is it getting all amalgamated?
Des: You can’t remember what the right memory is. I have to ask people did things happen. Now I have been having therapy at the time it was completely distorted. Wisey said picture yourself getting into a dirty lake all the dirt from the bottom rises to the top and it becomes pitch black. so, you can’t see but if you carry on if you stop it sinks back to the bottom, but you will never get to the root problem. Now you are in the dirty wet mud, keep digging to the bottom and as you get rid of all this dirt, but you will clear the filter . The dirt will be manageable. It’s going to clog up. He said it so much better especially with his posh accent, [laughing] and that really stuck with me. Telling people if you need a nap. Or if I need a day off, I can say to you I am going to take off today. I think you can ask your boss and tell them what you are going through a lot people will by more sympathetic, they will be more supportive towards you.
Michael: It’s mad to think now we started this for others. We had no self interest in this. It is not an ego trip. It is nothing to do with anything except supporting other people. In doing that. We have been genuine focus driven.
Des: We have stuck to it haven’t we ?
Michael: I know we have had previous conversations this has helped save your life especially episode 12 Wisey saved your life
Des: loads of others have come to me, I know saved , Matty who works on a train it helps other people. You have had Fireman come to you saying how much it has helped them. I have Civilian lads who have absolutely listen to what these hero’s and they are talking about the post traumatic growth I feel I am best place I can be. I have a sport massage once a week. I also have a therapist session once a month. I am completely fine. I am now firing on all cylinders. I just dump any negative thoughts. I have a really good councillor as well he just listens to me. I went out for an hour, but I am not passing it on to anyone else.
Michael: You are keeping that filter going. This is almost physical mental therapy. Keeping on top of things and you know how to do that.
Des mate, it has been an absolute pleasure, you are a role model to me, an inspiration, a great mate.
We will leave it there.