Tony McNally

Tony McNally Tony McNally

Tony McNally
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Tony McNally was born in Barrow-in-Furness, England, and has spent most of his life living on the fringe of the beautiful Lake District. As a young lad growing up he always dreamed of being a soldier, joining the army cadets as soon as he was old enough. This led on the joining the Royal Artillery at the age of 16, when the playing stopped and the real soldiering began. ‘Cloudpuncher’ (an army nickname for Rapier missile operators) follows Tony through his training, his time in Germany and his growing up from a ‘spotty teenager to a young soldier and ‘man of the world’

In 1982, still only 19, he is sent of the war with ‘Maggie’s Army’ to the Falkland Islands to man the Rapier missile units defending the troops and the landings. After early initial success, and euphoria of shooting down two enemy aircraft, he was to witness the carnage of the destruction of the ‘Sir Galahad. ‘His Rapier missile unit 32 alpha on the hillside overlooking the sound, was useless disabled with a minor electrical fault he sat there ‘as though at the cinema’ watching the tragedy unfold in front of him, helpless to do anything. This sight was to come back to haunt him again and again images of the dead and the badly burned bodies of the guardsmen lying around the shore and in the water.

After the eventual victory he was to witness the clearing up, the bodies, the desecration, the utter inhumanity of war.

He returned home to a hero’s welcome, but he did not feel like a hero. After all the training and the action of war, the return to utter boredom of routine, drill, spit and polish, drove him to leave the army and go back to ‘civvy life’. Home in Furness he could only find mundane employment in a factory and the boredom of ‘civvy life’, gradually turned his attention to the exciting prospect of becoming a mercenary. He applied for a job, advertising in ‘Soldier of fortune’, with a Vietnam veteran operating in Africa. After a short Mediterranean holiday he came back to find his face plastered all over the National newspapers branding him a ‘mercenary. ‘After less than three years he enlisted again and this time was sent to Northern Ireland. There he was to see another kind of horror and war the hatred of man for his fellow man. In the Falklands the Argentine enemy were like him soldiers doing a job for their country.

But in Northern Ireland, there were fellow British people trying to kill him! Every smile could hide a bomb. Even children were unwittingly involved in traps laid for unwary soldiers. If it wasn’t bullets and bombs it was fridges and unmentionables dropped from the balconies of flats. The dehumanizing experiences there were to affect him deeply.

After five years he left the army for good and returned home, again to a ‘dead-end’ job as a security guard. But now the ‘traumas’, nightmares and hallucinations, started to seriously affect his life and his marriage was suffering. He sought help and was eventually diagnosed by a civilian doctor, as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition the British army refused to accept existed. Watching Men Burn follows Tony through his eventful at times shocking army career and then through the struggle to recover his ‘self’ and rebuild his life and, ultimately, to find contentment and fulfilment.

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