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Real hero of Homeland: writer and producer of hit US show saved soldier's life after IRA mortar attack

BBC show tells of journey to find the Army officer who defied military protocol to save squaddie from death in South Armagh.

Incredible story: Former soldiers Alex Cary (left) and Patrick Provis (right). Pic: BBC/Wall to Wall/Duncan Coates.
Incredible story: Former soldiers Alex Cary (left) and Patrick Provis (right). Pic: BBC/Wall to Wall/Duncan Coates.

By Stephen Gordon

A former soldier who lost an arm in an IRA mortar attack has finally tracked down the hero who saved his life - and he turns out to be a writer/producer on the hit US TV series Homeland.

Patrick Provis' journey to find the Army officer who defied military protocol to save him from death in South Armagh ended in California's glamorous Hollywood hills where Homeland executive Alex Cary lives with his movie star wife Jennifer Marsala.

The extraordinary story of the two men's reunion after 27 years is told on Tuesday night on new BBC TV show, The Gift presented by Mel Giedroyc and the One Show's Matt Baker.

The presenters have been on a two-year mission to reunite people with others who they have long wanted to say thank you or sorry to.

The first episode features Patrick and Alexander's remarkable story.

Patrick was a 19-year-old Royal Welsh Fusilier on his first military posting in 1987 when his section suffered a IRA attack on a lonely road in South Armagh's notorious 'bandit country'.

He instantly lost his left lower arm and most of his right hand in the blast. The squaddie also suffered major internal injuries and would have bled to death but for the heroics of an Army helicopter crew who defied protocol to land in the aftermath of the IRA attack. He was flown to Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital where he underwent life saving emergency treatment.

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The trauma has haunted the Welshman ever since, but he believed to get closure he had to find and thank the person who took the daring decision to land the helicopter, risking falling into an IRA trap.

Alex Cary was then the 24-year-old commander of the Army's Quick Reaction Force in South Armagh who was on board the rescue chopper and who took the decision to rescue Patrick.

In the aftermath Patrick re-built his life, married a nurse who cared for him as he recuperated and he's now a proud dad of five.

"I don't know who made that decision but I am here because of him. I need to find that person and say thank you," Patrick tells Matt Baker.

"He's landed in the incident area which was an extreme no, no (against military rules). The IRA liked to suck people in, to set off a secondary device after an incident. It was done on many occasions. The potential was there to lose everyone."

But Patrick's bid to find his hero over the years hit a brick wall as the military refuses to release any records of such operations.

The only anecdotal detail he had was that one of those involved had something to do with the Master of Falkland Castle in Scotland.

The programme researchers discovered that the Master of Falkland is the son and heir of the 15th Viscount Falkland, better known as Alexander Cary who as young man served as an officer in the Scots Guards.

It emerges that Cary now lives in Los Angeles where he is a top Hollywood producer and writer, best known for his work on the terror thriller Homeland series starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. He has written nine episodes and been executive producer on 36 episodes.

Baker travelled to Cary's home in LA where the modest former officer recalled the day Patrick was rescued.

"I was the Quick Reaction Force commander, a team that moved around South Armagh by helicopter. We were kind of like the Fire Brigade, we were there to respond if something happened."

Recalling the day Patrick Provis was rescued by his team, he said: "I remember the contact report coming over the radio, someone had been hit by a mortar, and I remember thinking we gotta go."

He recalls how Patrick had suffered terrible injuries and talking to him to keep him calm as the pilot weaved the chopper across the hills to the rooftop of Daisy Hill. "He was tough on the helicopter, I remember that."

Alex is also visibly moved on being told Patrick has rebuilt his life and is a father of five.

"I cannot imagine what kind of courage it takes to deal with an injury like that," he says.

"He really doesn't have to say thank you but I'd love to see him."

The moving story ends with the two men meeting in a pub in Greenwich, south London close to the hospital where Patrick recuperated from his life-changing injuries and where he met his wife, Jamey.

"What you have given me is my life and a family, a great family," Patrick tells Alex as he shows him pictures of his Jamey and the children.

It's an emotional meeting where Patrick praises Alex's gallantry and the two ex-soldiers decide to keep in touch.

Patrick's wife and former comrades who were with him on the day of the IRA mortar attack also take part in the film.

When he first landed the job as writer/producer on Homeland, Alex Carey, who also served in Iraq, told how his experiences as a soldier informed his writing, saying: "I've strong opinions about soldiers returning from war and their struggles to reintegrate into family and country."

The Gift (BBC1 Tues 9pm)

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