Simon Weston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the English politician, see Simon Weston (MP).
Simon Weston
Simon Weston cropped.jpg
Weston in 2008
Born (1961-08-08) 8 August 1961 (age 53)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1978–1982
Unit Welsh Guards
Battles/wars Falklands War
Other work Charity work, particularly for the disfigured and wounded in action
Simon Weston, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2014

Simon Weston OBE (born 8 August 1961) is a veteran of the British Army who has become well known throughout the United Kingdom for his recovery and charity work after suffering severe burn injuries during the Falklands War.[1]

Early life[edit]

Weston was born in Caerphilly District Miners Hospital in Caerphilly, Wales. He was brought up by his mother, Pauline and adoptive father, 'Lofty'. His biological father served in the Royal Air Force alongside his mother.Simon lived in Singapore and Nocton Hall in Lincoln before returning to Nelson at the age of around six/seven.[2] He has one older sister and three stepbrothers. At the age 14, Weston was given a police caution when he was caught as a passenger in a car stolen by his older friends.[3]

He joined the Welsh Guards in 1978 at the age of 16 at the insistence of his mother, after he "got into bother".[2] He served in Berlin, Northern Ireland, Kenya and later being deployed to the Falkland Islands.[4]

Falklands War[edit]

On 9 June 1982, he was boarded with other members of his regiment on RFA Sir Galahad in Port Pleasant near Fitzroy, just off the Falkland Islands. It was bombed and set on fire by the Argentine Skyhawk fighters during the Bluff Cove Air Attacks. His ship was carrying ammunition as well as phosphorus bombs and thousands of gallons of diesel and petrol.[5] Out of his platoon of 30 men, 22 were killed. The Welsh Guards lost a total of 48 men killed and 97 wounded aboard the Sir Galahad.[5]

Weston survived with 46% burns, following which his face was barely recognisable:

Recovery[edit]

Weston endured years of reconstructive surgery, including over 70 major operations or surgical procedures.[5] Skin from his shoulders was used to make eyelids.[6] his trademark nose was grafted on in a later operation .[7] He suffered psychological trauma, drinking heavily and becoming suicidal,[8] and admits his behaviour during this time was "terrible".[5] He credits his mother with helping him to overcome this.[2] In particular, her act of reuniting him with his old regiment, who refused to mollycoddle him (especially Glen White, who ran the Welsh Guards rugby side), forced him to "face up to the unavoidable and to be positive about everything including especially my future".[5]

Television and media[edit]

Weston became a well-known personality on radio and television, especially within Wales. He has been the subject of a number of BBC documentaries and presented his own radio show "Face for the Radio" on BBC Radio Wales. He has been a commentator numerous times on television news programmes and documentaries. On 14 June 2007, the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War ending, he appeared on various UK television stations recalling his experience of the war. He has also appeared on programmes such as This Is Your Life (appearing on 7 February 1990; aged still only 28, he was one of the show's youngest ever guests[9]) and more recently Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.[1] He featured in a £7 million advertising campaign launched in 2000 aimed at boosting recruitment into the police force.[10]

He has written best-selling autobiographies as well as a series of novels.[1] In 2003 he announced that he had been in talks over plans to make a film about his life.[11]

Weston was the inspiration for the title of the album Yes Sir, I Will by the anarcho-punk band Crass. Upon his return from the Falklands, he met Charles, Prince of Wales, and the news media reported the following conversation between the two: "Get well soon," the Prince said. And the soldier replied "Yes sir, I will".[12][13]

Crass drummer and lyricist Penny Rimbaud, commenting on this, has said "That was the hook. That was such an audacious thing to do at the time. Especially given that one had to feel compassion for Simon Weston."[14]

Charity work[edit]

In 1986 Simon Weston undertook his first goodwill tour, to Australia, at the request of the Guards Association of Australasia. The resulting donations to children's burns units made him begin to feel useful again.[5]

Weston became patron of a number of charities that support people living with disfigurements,[1][15] as well as the lead ambassador for The Healing Foundation.[16] He also set up a national youth charity, Weston Spirit, in 1988 with Paul Oginsky and Ben Harrison, shortly after moving to Liverpool. However in 2008, the charity suffered from financial difficulties and had to be shut down.[17]

Weston's courage and charity work have been recognised and honoured a number of times. In 1992 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.[4] In 2002 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.[18] In 2004, he was named one of the top 100 Welsh heroes.[19] In 2005 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University.[20] In 2006 Weston and dual code (Rugby League and Rugby Union) international David Watkins were installed as patrons of the Wales Rugby League, in a ceremony held in the Welsh Assembly.

In 2008 Weston accepted an invitation to become Patron of The John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation.

In September 2009 Weston agreed to be President Elect of the Welsh Scout Council and was formally introduced at the Council's annual general meeting at Llandrindod Wells on 31 October 2009.[21]

Political activism[edit]

Weston has campaigned in support of troops and veterans and against politicians' alleged failure to support them adequately.[22] He has spoken out against defence budget cuts and British troops allegedly being supplied with inadequate equipment,[23] and about the lack of support, health care and adequate compensation for veterans.[7] On 12 March 2007 he appeared on ITV News, giving his opinion on the care of British soldiers in hospital. On 4 March 2008, he appeared alongside Conservative leader David Cameron as he announced the formation of a commission to investigate ways to help restore the military covenant, which Cameron called 'well and truly broken'.[24] Weston will take a non-partisan, advisory role to the Commission (headed by Frederick Forsyth), with his work taking a particular focus to the treatment of veterans and the compensation paid out to injured service personnel.

Iraq War[edit]

It is stated that Weston is a critic of the Iraq War, believing Tony Blair's argument for invasion simply did not hold water.[7] In February 2003, in the run up to the war, he spoke out about "politicians with so many different agendas, spin and bluff and throwing smoke in the air and I have to say even lies... so often that we are not sure what we are actually listening to now".[25]

Medical ethics[edit]

Weston also spoke to the ethical committee at London's Royal Free Hospital in 2006 to support the case for authorising full face transplants,[26] even though he had previously been against the idea.[27]

Nicolas Sarkozy Row[edit]

In 2008, Weston criticised the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, for failing to attend a war ceremony. Weston said, "He should have got it right", "We in Wales have lost and sacrificed as much as anybody for different causes" Showing his support for the British monarchy, Weston added, "Not for a second would Charles have disrespected the event. He has always acted with a great deal of reverence for the occasion."[28]

Sean Penn Row[edit]

In February 2012 Weston was caught up in an angry exchange with actor Sean Penn, who said it was improper for Prince William to be deployed to the Falklands. Weston was reported as saying, "Sean Penn does not know what he is talking about and, frankly, he should shut up. His (Penn's) views are irrelevant and it only serves to fuel the fire of the Argentinians and get them more pumped up."[29]

Police and Crime Commissioner[edit]

In 2012, Weston decided to stand for the post of elected Police and Crime Commissioner for the South Wales Police. As part of the nomination process, he had to disclose the police caution he had received as a child and whether this caution disbarred him from standing became a matter of public debate. He withdrew from the process, citing this controversy and the perceived politicisation of the post (some sources hold that a caution for a juvenile should not be grounds for disqualification).[3] During a BBC radio interview on the subject of the disclosure of cautions to juveniles, Weston pointed out that he has never sought to hide the fact of the caution.

Personal life[edit]

Weston is married to Lucy, with whom he has three children: James, Stuart and Caitlin. They met in Liverpool when she was working for his charity, Weston Spirit.[2] They were engaged on 8 June 1989, exactly seven years after the attack on the Sir Galahad, and married on 12 May 1990 and now live in Cardiff, Wales (United Kingdom).[30]

Weston has met and become friends with First Lieutenant Carlos Cachon, the Argentine pilot who dropped the bomb which caused his injuries.[30] He was criticised for this move by families of those who fought in the Falklands War, which he simply dismissed, saying "I don't have a problem with other people criticising me for things I do, as long as people understand why I did them. Then I don't have a problem to walk away and say 'you're entitled to your opinions'."[31]

Awards[edit]

In February 2014 Simon Weston was named as the nation's most heroic figure in a poll. The new annual Freuds Heroes Index poll surveyed a sample of over 4,000 Britons.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Simon Weston Biography". simonweston.com. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jones, Catherine (8 June 2007). "My mum said 'where do we go from here?'". WalesOnline. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Travis, Alan (2 July 2012). "Simon Weston pulls out of police commissioner race". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Simon Weston". BBC Wales. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Keynote Speech to ADSW Annual Conference". ADSW. 21 May 2003. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  6. ^ "The First Face Transplant". My Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c "Interview". Hampshire Society. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  8. ^ "Simon Weston tells of trauma". BBC News. 21 June 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  9. ^ This Is Your Life (1969–1993) @ EOFFTV. Eofftv.com. Retrieved on 8 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Police ads: An expert's verdict". BBC News. 30 August 2000. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  11. ^ "Movie to tell Weston's story". BBC News. 1 July 2003. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  12. ^ George Berger (1 September 2009). The Story of Crass. PM Press. pp. 243–. ISBN 978-1-60486-037-5. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Titchner, Mark (9 April 2009) Whitechapel takeover: Mark Titchner's top 10 songs about liberty, The Guardian
  14. ^ C4 Opportunities | Where could your talent take you?. Ideasfactory.com. Retrieved on 8 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Who we are". The Face Trust. 
  16. ^ "Ambassadors' Stories". The Healing Foundation. 
  17. ^ "Important notice – 31st May 2008". Weston Spirit. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  18. ^ "Falklands veteran receives civic honour". BBC News. 18 January 2002. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  19. ^ "26. Simon Weston OBE". 100 Welsh Heroes. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  20. ^ "Honorary Fellows 2005". Cardiff University. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  21. ^ "Simon Weston becomes President of Scouting in Wales". Welsh Scout Council. 21 September 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009. 
  22. ^ "Tory military care plan due out". BBC News. 17 June 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  23. ^ "'Don't let faulty kit kill our troops'". BBC News. 18 November 2002. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  24. ^ "Cameron: Military covenant broken". BBC News. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  25. ^ "Blair puts 'moral' case for war". BBC News. 13 February 2003. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  26. ^ "Face transplant decision expected". BBC News. 18 June 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  27. ^ "What the papers say". BBC News. 28 November 2002. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  28. ^ The Western Mail. "A snub or simply a mistake? Sarkozy 'disrespects' Wales. French president criticised for omission during war ceremony", 13 November 2008. p. 3.
  29. ^ The Express, "Just shut up Sean, warns war hero Simon". 16 February 2012 Thursday, National Edition, p. 5.
  30. ^ a b Rix, Juliet (2 June 2007). "Just another dad". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 
  31. ^ Western Mail. "Weston Leads Falklands Return". 3 April 2002, p. 2.

External links[edit]