Veterans raise awareness of PTSD in gruelling swimming challenge off Devon coast

  • Watch Richard Lawrence's report from Paignton

A former Royal Marine Commando and his friend have completed a 30 mile swim from Sidmouth to Paignton to raise awareness about the mental health condition PTSD.

The challenge was much tougher than they had imaged. Paul Wood swapped his green beret for a swimming cap, staggered to his feet alongside close friend Neil Aggart.

Both were physically exhausted but delighted to have received such a fantastic welcome from friends and relatives as they made their way ashore.

Paul Wood said: "All we can describe that as was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Neil Aggett added: "More downs than ups I'd say. It was the toughest thing I've ever done in my life."

Paul went on to say: "We went to some dark places out there, but the thought of getting back here, friends, family, think about loved ones, lost comrades pulled us all the way through."

The swimmers describe it as the 'toughest thing' they've ever had to do

21 miles is the traditional distance for a cross channel swim and they had completed more than thirty since their start in Sidmouth yesterday - swimming through the day and night, stopping for occasional food and drink breaks.

Their families who joined them at certain points, say they are so proud:

Jade Wood, Paul's wife said: "All of them have worked so hard and to go through physically and mentally what they've done in the last 24 hours is something else."

Paul's son Luke said: "To get through it they must be so happy and so relieved. We're all really proud of them."

Henry, Paul's other son said: "He's been off the scale."

Stacey Aggett, Neil's wife, told ITV West Country she's in shock: "It's been really emotional. I didn't sleep at all last night, I was just constantly on the group chat checking where they were."

They have been guided by two kayaks throughout until the final stage , when one of the canoeists had to drop out through sickness.

Ben Branch, one of the canoeists said: "We struggled at times in the kayaks so god knows what they were going through."

Another canoeist Steve Hands told ITV: "Coming across there, they the final 4 kilometers and you could just see the mental torture they had and they had 4km left."

But they say their biggest achievement was to raise awareness and thousands of pounds for the royal marines charity campaign to offer help to former service men and women suffering from post traumatic stress.