1. ITV Report

Andrew Bull, Wounded in Action

Andrew Bull served with the first Battalion, Royal Regiment of Wales in 1983 Photo: Andrew Bull

On the 23rd November 1983, a team from Wales This Week were completing their final day of filming with the soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Wales in Belfast.

As the day drew to a close, Private Andrew Bull, joined his colleagues on a routine patrol along the city streets.

What happened next would remain engraved in Andrews mind to this day - and his patrol route, and those who walked with him, would be the last sights that Andrew would ever see.

As he walked along the notorious Falls Road in West Belfast, Andrew Bull, from Nant y Glo in Gwent, was critically injured in a bomb blast.

The following is Andrew’s account of what happened that night - in Andrew’s words

November 24th 1983 West Belfast

There were six of us in the patrol that night - four soldiers and two police officers. We were following a route that would lead us out of our makeshift barracks at MacRory park, down the Whiterock hill, and left on to the Falls Road, which leads all the way from Andersonstown in West Belfast towards the city centre.

The road was really busy with it being late evening, and as I made my way along the patrol route, I passed a pub on my left known as the Rock bar. Ahead of me, and on the opposite side of the road I could see one of my patrol colleagues, and in front of him, the two Royal Ulster Constabulary officers.

That day I was carrying a special piece of equipment, which would override and cut out the signal being emitted from a remote control device used by the IRA in the detonation of their bombs.

Unfortunately for me and everyone else that was injured that day, on this occasion, the IRA chose a command wire to detonate their bomb.

I often wonder, had the bomb been detonated by remote control would the equipment have done its job that day, but I suppose I shall never know.

I never heard the bang, or if I did my brain couldn’t comprehend what had happened. It was like a giant switch had been thrown, because all the sounds from the immediate traffic and the normal everyday sounds of a busy city environment had disappeared. My only recollection was the terrible high pitched screaming buzzing sounds in my ears.

The bomb was a large welder’s acetylene bottle which had been packed inside with nails, nuts and bolts, and about 6 pounds of semtex plastic explosive. It had been placed behind a wall of thick, dressed stone.

As I lay there, it felt like there was a great weight on my chest and I couldn’t fill my lungs with air. It was a feeling that I can only describe as drowning,

All around me was mayhem and destruction, there were people screaming, some bleeding, some crying and many just stunned into silence with shock. To the onlookers the Falls Road had been turned into a giant scrap yard at the flick of a switch.

As the carnage unfolded around me, I was totally oblivious to it all.

I didn’t know that half my face had been crushed in; that my throat had been sliced open by shrapnel; and that my jugular had been nicked. Most of my upper body had been peppered in shrapnel. The reason for the drowning feeling was not only the blood pouring down my throat, but also because one of my lungs had collapsed.

My colleagues couldn’t work out where the blood was escaping from, until my combat jacket was opened and they had unzipped the bullet proof plate that was covering my heart. My flak jacket had pushed up against my neck and the bullet proof plate had wedged under my throat. A good rugby friend and colleague of mine was working over me, and he later told me that he had never seen so much blood in his life and was only too grateful when the Paramedics arrived and took over.

I left behind me a road full of crushed and smashed cars, as well as wounded people. Where the bomb had exploded the thick dressed stones of the wall had been flung brutally broadside into the busy traffic. The youngest casualty that day was a 6 month old baby, who was lying in a baby seat in the rear of the car when the rear wind screen exploded, covering the baby in glass and debris.

I was taken immediately to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where I was linked to a life support machine

I think it was about a week to ten days later when I regained full consciousness , I had no idea where I was or of what had happened.

Hear Andrew’s story in full, in Wales This Week: After the Fall, Monday at 8 on ITV Cymru Wales