Former soldier tells of his homeless life on the streets of Brighton

Posted On 09 Feb 2011 at 11:59 pm

A soldier caught up in the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland has told of his life as a homeless drunk on the streets of Brighton and Hove.

Mark Morgan, 31, said that after he left the Army he fell out with his family and got into trouble with the law.

He described his living hell for a television documentary which was broadcast this evening (Wednesday 9 February) by the BBC.

Mr Morgan took part in an edition of Panorama for BBC1 after being helped back from a life of crime and despair by the Royal British Legion.

He told Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins, the Iraq War hero, that he had served in the Royal Regiment of Wales from 1997 to 2001.

He described the chaos before and after the terrorist bomb blast in Omagh.

Before the explosion, he said, “we were sending people towards the bomb when we thought they were coming away from it.”

He recalled the horrific noise and the ringing in his ears for days afterwards and said: “You could hear people screaming, crying, covered in blood.

“I started getting flashbacks a few months after getting back from Northern Ireland.

“I’d wake up in the middle of the night, soaking wet.”

After leaving the Army Mr Morgan moved to Brighton to be near his brother.

But as he struggled to cope with the nightmares and flashbacks he fell into a life of drinking and crime and fell out with his family.

When he was drunk, he said, he ended up sleeping on the streets, committing crimes and increasingly getting into trouble with the police.

He even spent time in prison.

“I’d go and get some beers to block out my memories of being in the Army,” he said.

At one point, he said, he was downing a bottle of vodka, a bottle of sherry and 10 to 20 cans of Special Brew strong lager a day.

Since the British Legion stepped in Mr Morgan has moved into a rented flat, stayed sober for nine months and started college with ambitions to make it to university.

He said: “I’ve turned my life completely around.”

Colonel Collins highlighted other examples of relatively young ex-servicemen, including veterans of the Gulf War and Iraq War, struggling to adapt to civilian life.

Some were suffering from post-traumatic stress and had little help from the government which had asked them to risk their lives in war zones.

Colonel Collins said: “The British Legion found Mark and helped him get off the street and off the bottle.

“Mark and others like him deserve a lifeline back to the society they signed up to protect.”

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