My leg was blown to shreds by Taliban trap which put my pal in a body bag – now I recreate harrowing moment as a jobthedigitalchaps


FOR years, as he lay in bed at night, Stuart Pearson was haunted by blood-soaked nightmares.

And even today, the sound of a Chinook helicopter transports him back to the harrowing moment he lost his leg – and nearly his life.


Corporal Stuart Pearson lost his left leg when he stepped on a landmine in AfghanistanCredit: Stuart Pearson
Stuart now trains emergency services by reenacting the traumatic incident


Stuart now trains emergency services by reenacting the traumatic incidentCredit: Peter Jordan – The Sun

On September 6, 2006, the Afghanistan veteran had the lower part of his left leg blown off in a devastating minefield incident.

Depicted in the film Kajaki, he now incredibly relives the moment on a regular basis to train emergency services in how to act in traumatic situations.

Stu was 31 and a corporal when he got caught up in the infamous incident, which saw a dozen soldiers left stranded in a minefield near the Kajaki Dam in Helmund Province for four hours.   

Stu, Corporal Mark Wright and Fusilier Andrew Barlow, along with six other men from the third battalion, Parachute Regiment, were investigating radio reports that a fellow paratrooper had been injured by a landmine.

Chaos ensued as they and a Chinook helicopter attempted to help with the rescue, but instead four mines exploded, resulting in multiple casualties and the death of Wright.

“Eventually, the Americans came in a Black Hawk and winched us away and I remember thinking ‘thank f*** that’s over’,” Stu explains.

“But then I turned and saw the medics doing CPR on Mark and soon after he was put in a body bag. It was a blur from there.”

Mark was 27 at the time and left behind a fiancée, Gill, who he was due to marry that year.

Stuart was given the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his actions


Stuart was given the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his actionsCredit: Stuart Pearson
The ordeal in Helmund Province was turned into the film Kajaki


The ordeal in Helmund Province was turned into the film KajakiCredit: Handout

While for Stu the ordeal was not over and continued to have an affect on his mind and everyday life.

“For some time after, I had a recurring nightmare over and over again about the incident, and I have very poor memory, especially short term, so I need to put everything I plan to do in my calendar and on my phone,” he explains.

His parents were also devastated and affected, building a seated downstairs shower for Stu when he was on leave.

Bloody reenactments

Then in 2016 Stu was introduced to Ollie Hancock, now 42, who lives in Hastings and is an amputee himself from birth.

He used to be an estate agent, but was drawn to acting by a friend, via the Ugly Model Agency, and then entered the world of casualty simulation.

He set up Casualty Resources in 2015, a company that supplies amputee and able-bodied actors for huge military and emergency service training scenarios. 

The Casualty Resources team have been all over the UK and abroad, including York this week for a terrorist attack recreation.

Stuart repeatedly relives the moment he lost his leg in battle to train future squaddies


Stuart repeatedly relives the moment he lost his leg in battle to train future squaddiesCredit: supplied
Casualty Resources recreate disasters from car crashes to terrorist incidents


Casualty Resources recreate disasters from car crashes to terrorist incidentsCredit: supplied

They’ve even taken part in a shutdown of Bristol City Centre for a few hours and of Dover Ferry Port at night where they finished at 5am just before the public arrived who were unaware that just hours before a huge terrorist scenario had taken place with blown up cars and bodies everywhere.  

The amputee actors often have to relive their harrowing ordeals, sometimes over and over again, with very realistic make-up used to bring the terrorist attacks, conflict situations and civilian accident recreations to life. 

“I’m regularly having my stump made to look like it’s been blown up again with blood coming off it and silicone used to look like tendons and veins hanging down,” says Stu.

“I then explain to the squaddies and medical staff how the situation went, how we felt and what went wrong. But I’m acting it, so have to scream in pain and shock. It’s tough, but important.” 

Weirdly, I’m ok looking at the photos of my injuries from that day, but I don’t like looking at other people’s similar injuries

Stuart Pearson

Just last month the team worked at the Leeds Arena to recreate a close version of what happened at the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017. It involved walking wounded actors, make-up artists and about 150 extras – mostly students – used as spectators.

“I was in the front foyer and got ‘blown up’ by an IED (improvised explosive devise),” explains Stu.

“The emergency services were trying to handle the situation better and quicker and train up the venue security staff, who are often the first responders at these kinds of events, but are sometimes not trained enough to cope with such major situations.”

Ollie is planning to target companies like shopping centre giants Westfield Group and the Merlin Group – owners of Chessington World of Adventures, LEGOLAND, Alton Towers – to train up their security staff.

It follows the expected introduction of the Government’s Martyn’s law – named after Martyn Hett, who was killed alongside 21 others in the Manchester attack – in the coming months, which will require entertainment and leisure venues to have an action plan to deal with terrorist attacks and improve public safety. 

‘Panicked, screaming & squirting blood’

The Casualty Resources team consider every possibility that could help emergency services and security staff learn from such major incidents.

“One of the things we always bring up in our re-enactment scenarios is putting the tourniquet on properly, something that security staff really need to know,” says Stu.

“They’re often worried about doing it too tight, but we don’t mind. It’s sore, but vital to do it right.

“It’s all very well putting a tourniquet on a mannequin, but can they do it on someone when they’re panicked, screaming, shouting and spurting blood?”

He also points to the importance of communication. “Mark wouldn’t let me go to sleep in that minefield because I might not wake up, so I get the trainees to always keep talking to me.”

Stu even managed to get hold of photos taken by the doctor that treated him, so all the make-up team can see exactly how his and others’ wounds looked to make the recreations as accurate as possible.

“Weirdly, I’m ok looking at the photos of my injuries from that day, but I don’t like looking at other people’s similar injuries,” he explains.

“People also find it weird that I do these scenarios for work because they aren’t far off what actually happened to me. But I enjoy it because I know it makes soldiers and medics better trained for such events, as we never had this before I got injured.”

Psychological scars

Ollie Hancock set up Casualty Resources in 2015


Ollie Hancock set up Casualty Resources in 2015Credit: supplied
The King meets LCpl Stuart Hale, Cpl Stuart Pearson and Fussilier Andy Barlow, wounded in Afghanistan


The King meets LCpl Stuart Hale, Cpl Stuart Pearson and Fussilier Andy Barlow, wounded in AfghanistanCredit: Ian Jones

The harder part for Stu is the psychological side of things. He admits that the sound of a Chinook helicopter can spark him off.

“On a recent Casualty Resources job, I was being extracted by a helicopter for just a minute, but a tear rolled down my cheek and I was like ‘Jesus Christ, that’s what’s affecting me’.”

He had a similar experience when watching a play called The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which is based on the experiences of wounded and injured service personnel.

Ollie explains that sounds can often resonate the most for trauma survivors.

“They say the hearing is the last thing you have before you die, so the sound of a chinook obviously affects [Stu] a bit, but he has done tons of our scenarios for us and been fine,” he says.

There are other ex-military amputees on Ollie’s books, each with an incredible story to tell.

One is a demolitions expert who was blown up in military action and lost both his legs and one arm.

“But his outlook is incredible. The first thing he said when he got blown up was: “Are my b*****ks OK?,” says Ollie.

There are also amputee actors who lost their leg(s) by other means.

“I fell onto a live rail line as a young kid and got electrocuted. They had to surge it to throw me off and I lost my right leg above the knee as a result,” explains Karl Ives, 53, from Portsmouth.

“I’ve since done scenarios on train tracks and been fine. They’re very good with health and safety, I’m well looked after. As far as I’m concerned, the more outrageous the job the more I love it.”

Another, Ian Beach, 44, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, also enjoys doing the jobs.

He was born without a left leg and a deformed right foot because his mother took the drug Debendox during pregnancy. The drug is used for morning sickness, but has been known to cause a range of fetal malformations.

“I find it actually helps being around other amputees, sharing our experiences, and seeing how we all cope differently,” he explains.