A hero SAS soldier who pulled a maimed comrade from a burning plane was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by Pamela Stephenson.
Davie Penman’s condition was spotted by the comedian turned psychologist, married to comic Billy Connolly, after she quizzed him about his past.
She met the ex-SAS sergeant, now 56, when he returned from war-torn Somalia in 2003, where he had been guarding Billy during a trip for Comic Relief.
Davie had left the Army in 2000 and had not “felt right in the head”.
But this was not just problems coping being a civilian.
His life was spiralling out of control and he would end up trying to kill himself and committing affray and carrying an offensive weapon.
His anguish was rooted in a terrifying 1999 crash when he dragged a trapped pal with a smashed up leg out of an exploding Hercules during the Kosovo War.
Davie’s revelations come in Shooting Straight, his unauthorised book in which he accuses the elite SAS of failing to help mentally traumatised troops.
Davie said: “When I got back from Somalia with Billy, his wife Pamela Stephenson, a psychiatrist, invited me for lunch.
“She said she thought I had PTSD. My heart sank, I knew things weren’t right in my head and body. I’d never heard of PTSD.
“A diagnosis is only half the battle. I kept in touch with the two of them for years, they are great. They offered me a job full time but I declined.
“I am mentioned in her book Bravemouth, about a year in Billy’s life. Billy even did a character reference for me during my court trial. Pamela still drops me a line now and again.”
Davie, originally from Falkirk, Stirlingshire, now living in Thailand, served 12 years in the Parachute Regiment and the SAS.
He has attacked defence chiefs for ignoring the psychological and physical trauma he suffered during his service.
The Sunday People’s Save Our Soldiers campaign has fought long and hard to improve the treatment of troops with PTSD.
Davie hopes his account of his 20-year battle for treatment will help others facing PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.
In his memoirs, Davie calls the plane crash which nearly cost him his life “the day that never ends”.
The C130 Hercules caught fire during take-off from Kukes in nearby Albania. All 12 crew members escaped, just before ammunition on board exploded.
A journalist near the scene said he saw “a big flash, a huge explosion,
Davie, inside the plane, said: “I was thrown around the cockpit like a rag doll and smashed into the control panel.
“I remember looking at the co-pilot, his eyes were wider than mine. Almost instantly I got thrown back again, this time I hit the flight engineer’s seat and then the navigator’s.
“It was like being in a tumble-dryer and a pinball machine at the same time. I thought I was dead and this is what hell looks and feels like.”
Davie tried to escape through an emergency hatch but the handle broke in his hand. He and his mates got out through a window.
He said: ‘My mate C was trapped by the cargo. His leg was smashed up and bleeding badly. The femoral artery was split wide. C was trapped, and spoke softly, which is the weirdest thing I ever saw, a man with his leg torn nearly off and he was whispering. We grabbed one armpit each and we hauled him out.
“In the process we caused a de-gloving injury. Most of the muscle was torn off. He didn’t even scream.” The victim would later have the leg amputated.
Davie said: “The Armed Forces Covenant – which is meant to support serving personnel and veterans – exists on paper only. Once you are out of the Army, no one cares.
“They are meant to have a duty of care when you are in but after that it’s is definitely a case of ‘thanks, cheerio’. I wasn’t treated for any of the injuries or symptoms I reported while serving.”
He left the Army in 2000 on the advice of a military mental health boss at the time. He did not get a war pension until years later.
He said: “My final interview was shocking. I was told 22 SAS was ‘high revving’ and if a cog broke they did not have time to fix it.
“I walked out the gate with an aching pain where my spine had been, a headache like no other and my ears were still ringing.”
He said: “It has taken 20 years to really know what is wrong with me.”
In 2019, Davie insisted on an MRI brain scan as part of the MoD review of his injuries. “I was found to have a bruise on my left temporal cortex. Although to date the MoD denies that I have any head or brain injuries at all,” he said.
Davie, who also served in Northern Ireland and the Balkans, attempted suicide in 2000 and 2006 and had a breakdown at home in Cheltenham.
In December 2005, he contacted Gloucester Drugs and Alcohol Service saying he was worried about himself as he was drinking too much.
Police were called to his home a month later after they were contacted by a friend of Davie, who had texted her saying: “I’ve got a gun and I want to go for it.”
At Gloucester crown court, Davie admitted affray and possession of an offensive weapon and sentenced to a two-year community order and recommended to get psychiatric help.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Davie: “I want to recognise that you have given a bit of yourself to your country and is it time now that your country gave something back to you.”
After leaving the forces he worked on the private security circuit as an operations director and carried out a security review for the UN. He said: “I wanted to stop the same mistakes from happening again. I had tried to explain to NHS experts but it was a waste of time.
“The Americans are way ahead of us when it comes to dealing with PTSD. If my memoirs stop one
The MoD said they could not comment on individual cases.
But Defence People and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said: “It is important that our people know they are supported, which is why the Armed Forces’ Compensation Scheme has been designed to provide financial aid to former and serving personnel whose injury, whether mental or physical, was caused as a result of service.”
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