Injured ex-soldier who lost leg criticises speed of care by army
A former soldier who had part of his right leg amputated has said it may have been avoided if he was given the right care quicker by the Ministry of Defence.
Lee Bagley said the experience following his injuries left him feeling like he was "just a number on a piece of paper".
The former rifleman with 2nd Battalion the Rifles added that he would not let any of his three young children join the armed forces in the future.
The 26-year-old was injured during an attack on a platoon night out. Mr Bagley said he cannot fault his care once he was transferred to a personal recovery unit at Headley Court, the military's specialist rehabilitation centre in Surrey.
But Mr Bagley said he was abandoned in the months after the attack.
"If that treatment would have been received quicker, which it should have done, maybe I might still have my leg now, but that's not for me to say," he said.
"I feel completely let down by the military, absolutely, completely let down, disgraced by them.
"I'm a proud solider and I'm proud of the service that I have done, but if one of my children wanted to join I would never let them, because of what I've been through.
"They don't care about you - all you are is just a number on a piece of paper, another statistic."
In February 2010, ahead of jungle warfare training in Belize, Mr Bagley's commander said the platoon should go for a few drinks as a reward and to help team bonding.
But the night out in Brecon, Wales, ended with one of the platoon being attacked.
As Mr Bagley tried to pull his badly injured colleague away, his leg was repeatedly stamped on by the attackers.
Mr Bagley's ankle bones had been compressed, but X-rays at the time did not reveal the extent of his injuries. It was only five months after the attack that the injury was picked up on an MRI scan.
He was signed off work and returned home to the Midlands, where he ended up "sofa surfing".
Despite his injuries, he had to return to 2 Rifles base in Northern Ireland for a day just to extend his sick leave.
Mr Bagley said he chased the army again and again, but had to wait until February 2011 for his first appointment at Headley Court - a year after the attack.
By that time he was in chronic pain and showed little response to even specialist care, and he was passed on to surgeons.
He was given a choice - either have the foot fused in place, or have his right leg amputated below the knee.
"Really there was no option - the amputation was the only option," he said.
The leg was amputated in September 2012, 19 months after Mr Bagley sustained the injuries.
He added: "I was fit, I was going to go for special forces, I had recommendations from my platoon commander to go for special forces.
"I've got that written down on paper. I look at it and I just think, 'what a shame'.
"I hate myself, but then at the same time I would do the same thing again tomorrow, because that's the person I am and that's what I was trained to do."
Mr Bagley's case has been taken up by his MP Adrian Bailey, who said the army did not fulfil their duty of care following the attack. In an adjournment debate in the Commons, defence minister Mark Lancaster said 2009 and 2010 "were particularly tough years" in the Afghanistan conflict, with a number of troops suffering bad injuries.
He added that improvements have since been made to services for sick and injured personnel.
But such words are little comfort to Mr Bagley, who said: "They need to make sure that no-one slips through the net.
"At the time it was thought, 'he's got some crushed bones in his foot, we'll just send him home and forget about him'.
"But them forgetting me ... it didn't help that I didn't respond to treatment, and I've now had to have my leg taken off because of it."