Ben McBean

Ben McBean

Presenter | Speaker | Host | Expert

Ben can recall in minute detail the moment he stepped on a Taliban landmine in 2008.

It was five months into his first tour of duty in Kajaki, southern Afghanistan. He remembers laughing and joking with his mates before the routine desert patrol, then 'legging it' as fast as he could over exposed ground, while other members of the unit covered him.

It was a boiling-hot day, sweat ran into his eyes and he recalls swiping a fly from his face. Then the sound of a 'massive blast.' Later, other patrol members told him he was thrown at least 20ft into the air. A friend of Ben's says he never lost consciousness: 'Even when they got him back to Camp Bastion, where the rest of his leg was amputated, he was still talking, still making sense.'

After Ben shared a transport plane back to the UK with Prince Harry, there were reports of the prince hailing him as 'the real hero,' saying how 'humbled' he felt by Ben's bravery. At the time Ben felt neither heroic nor brave. He woke up in the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, to discover that his arm had been amputated too.

After five weeks there and almost 10 months of rehab at Headley Court Military Hospital in Surrey, Ben continued his rehab at HMS Drake within the naval base in Devonport, and is living at home with his family having left the Marines in April 2010.

Ben says 'The leg's fine but not having two arms, man, it's annoying. I've learnt to do everything I did before laces, buttons, making a cup of tea but it takes five times longer.' His new arm, complete with hairs and 'veins' is beautifully made but heavy and, he admits, not very useful. 'You go into a shop, drop your change, struggle to open a bag... you can see people thinking, 'Why's he not using it''

Ben, who dreamt of being a marine from the age of 10, has no regrets. 'If I'd lost my limbs because I'd got drunk and fallen in front of a car I'd feel differently,' he explains. 'But I was doing a job I love. We all knew the risks and we took them in good faith. In many ways it was the best time of my life.'

The hardest time for Ben was leaving hospital and realising this wasn't like having a broken arm and leg; it wasn't going to get better. That and coping with the distress of his mum and dad, who were 'in bits.' Ben's way is to be remorselessly tough on himself. He was given a wheelchair but he left it at Headley Court. 'So I had no choice, I have to walk.'

Not long afterwards Prince Harry visited HMS Drake and found Ben in the gym, halfway up a climbing wall. 'Get to the top and I'll buy you a beer,' shouted Harry. Ben went over the top and next day a crate of beer duly arrived.

Ben continues to accomplish great things. He ran the London Marathon in 2009 just 12 months after sustaining his injuries even though the specially designed running leg bit into his thigh and rubbed the skin until it bled. He ran it again in 2010 not realising he was running on a stress fracture in his stump. He took part in the Khumbu Challenge, an expedition to the Everest Base Camp in Himalayas for injured marine and navy personnel in late 2009 and in 2012 he took on the Three Peaks Challenge to raise funds for Child Bereavement UK. He was awarded the Overcoming Adversity award at the Sun Military Awards in 2009 by ex-Spice Girls Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell, who said he was a complete inspiration.

These days Ben is much in demand as an inspirational speaker and he is building an impressive property portfolio in his home town of Plymouth.

The biggest part of Ben's rehabilitation is his resilience. 'I'm alive, aren't I' I'm the same person. I'm just missing two limbs, which I lost fighting for my country. How can I complain about that''

Ben McBean



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