Robert Lawrence (British Army officer)

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Robert Alasdair Davidson Lawrence MC (born 3 July 1960) is a former British Army officer who fought and was severely wounded in the Falklands War. His account of his experiences during and after the war was later adapted into the controversial television play Tumbledown, and his book co-written with his father, John Lawrence, When the Fighting Is Over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and Its Aftermath.

Early life and career[edit]

Lawrence was born on 3 July 1960; his father had served in the Royal Air Force.[1] Lawrence was educated at Rose Hill School, Alderley[2] and then Fettes College, but left at the age of 16; some accounts state that he was expelled.[3] He decided to join the army, largely to placate his father. After attending Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Scots Guards as a second lieutenant with a short service commission on 4 August 1979.[4] He was promoted to lieutenant on 4 August 1981.[5]

Falklands[edit]

Second Battalion, Scots Guards were part of the second wave of British land forces committed to the Falklands War.

Lawrence wrote about his experience in the Scots Guards at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown when, in his moment of victory on the eastern slopes, he was almost killed when a bullet fired by an Argentine sniper tore off the side of his head. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery, but he spent a year in a wheelchair and was almost totally paralyzed. The Argentinian sniper (either Private Luis Jorge Bordón or Walter Ignacio Becerra, according to Argentine Second Lieutenant Augusto Esteban La Madrid[6] who clashed with Lawrence's platoon), armed with a FAL rifle, had helped cover the Argentinean retreat, firing shots at a Scout helicopter evacuating wounded off Tumbledown and injuring two men, before the Scots Guards mortally wounded him in a hail of gunfire.[7]

Lawrence's wound was caused by a 7.62×51mm round passing through the rear of his skull, to emerge at his hairline above his right eye. He lay on the thin cover of snow on the exposed mountaintop for six hours. Airlifted off Tumbledown, Lawrence was left outside a makeshift operating theatre without painkillers. Two days from his 22nd birthday, he assumed he was the last to be operated on because he was the least likely to survive.

Aftermath[edit]

Lawrence lost 43% of his brain and was paralysed down one side of his body. He was awarded the Military Cross on 11 October 1982.[8] He was discharged from the army on 14 November 1983.[9] He spent a year in a wheelchair and doctors predicted he would never walk again. He eventually regained most movement although with a slight limp, a paralysed left arm, involuntary muscle contractions and posttraumatic stress disorder.[10]

His story was adapted into the BBC television play Tumbledown by Charles Wood, starring Colin Firth as Lawrence, which was viewed by more than 10 million people on its first showing.

Lawrence married and emigrated to Australia where he worked in the film industry. He subsequently divorced, returned to England and remarried. He was interviewed by several British newspapers on the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. He has since established and now runs Global Adventure Plus, a project to help rehabilitate British ex-servicemen through expeditions to foreign countries.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lawrence, John; Lawrence, Robert (1988). When the Fighting Is Over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and Its Aftermath. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747501742. 
  2. ^ Rose Hill School Register 1970
  3. ^ Townsend, Mark (14 January 2007). "The hardest fight of all for a Falklands hero". The Observer. London. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "No. 47996". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 November 1979. pp. 13896–13897. 
  5. ^ "No. 48710". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 August 1981. p. 10652. 
  6. ^ http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1362425-un-heroe-todos-los-heroes Un héroe, todos los héroes lanacion.com, 03/04/2011
  7. ^ Hugh Bicheno (2007). Razor's Edge. Phoenix. p. 309. 
  8. ^ "No. 49134". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 October 1982. p. 12831. 
  9. ^ "No. 49545". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 November 1983. p. 15398. 
  10. ^ a b Calman, Barney (24 October 2010). "Falklands War hero is back on the march: Robert Lawrence's miraculous recovery inspires his action holiday charity". Daily Mail. London. 

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