The IRA blast took both my legs and broke my pelvis – now I’m rowing the English Channel



A former amputee tells how army friends risked their own lives to save him after a bomb exploded as he joins a team of heroes crossing the English Channel to raise money for injured military personnel

Members of the rowing team in training for their Channel crossing in aid of the Pilgrim Bandits charity

Private Al Hodgson thought he was done for when he set off an IRA trap.

The blast took both of the 21-year-old’s legs and shattered his pelvis. But the bomb had only half exploded – and three brave buddies ignored the danger to charge in and save it.

Matt Hellyer, Kenny Davidson and Ian ‘Ilch’ Illidge, members of the Parachute Regiment, took Al in a helicopter near Cappagh, County Tyrone on May 12, 1992.

And now, Al and Matt are part of a team of 10 who criss-cross the English Channel, from Poole Harbor to Cherbourg and back, for the association Pilgrim Bandits, which helps the injured.

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Al Hodgson on the beach during a practice session with the charity rowing team

Al, now 51, from Kendal, Cumbria, said: “Matt and I will be rowing side by side, trying to set a record.

“When I look back on that day, one of the things that stands out and fills me with so much pride was seeing those three boys running towards me, through danger, with the sole purpose of keeping me alive.

Al Hodgson (second from left) with other charity rowers

“It was like a movie moment, when you watch something amazing on a movie screen.

“I try to live each day in honor of being given a second chance at life and their heroism that day.”

Matt, the charity’s boss, said of the fateful day: “We started working on him and then we realized the device had only half exploded and he was still smoldering beneath him. Your priorities take over – we were never going to leave him.

Al Hodgson (right) with Army buddies who saved him after he was blown up by an IRA bomb

Al added: “I remember saying to Matt, ‘I feel really tired.’ He said, “I’ll be fine.” They all did their part to save me.

Since then, Al has fulfilled his promise to live life to the fullest by becoming an international skydiving champion.

He added: “When Matt asked me to join the team I thought there was no way I would miss it as I owe everything to Matt, Ilch and Kenny – who died of illness. few years ago -.”

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