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Hero soldier's compensation battle

PUBLISHED: 09:25 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 July 2010

This is brave Norfolk soldier Tony Duncan on the front-line of the war against the Taliban, photographed this week as part of the British army effort to win hearts and minds, giving sweets to children.

This is brave Norfolk soldier Tony Duncan on the front-line of the war against the Taliban, photographed this week as part of the British army effort to win hearts and minds, giving sweets to children.

But even as he puts his life on the line on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence is trying to reduce the compensation he received after being injured in Iraq.

The soldier, who lives in barracks at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, has spent two years in rehabilitation after a bullet ripped through his leg on his last tour of duty in Iraq in 2005. He overcame his injuries - and his fears - to set off to Afghanistan for six months - and is due home for two weeks of rest and recuperation on Saturday.

Yesterday the MoD went to the Appeal Court to reduce his compensation payout.

Describing the moment he was injured, he said: “I thought I'd been rugby-tackled at first. I was looking around for someone to swing for, then realised I couldn't feel my leg.

“I saw the blood and thought I'd been involved in an explosion. The guys got me out of there. I'd never so much as broken a bone before.”

Cpl Duncan spent nearly two years working with medics from the Army rehabilitation unit, Hedley Court in Surrey. He said: “I was a bit reluctant to come out again but with the training and rehabilitation it was just a case of getting my confidence back.

“Don't get me wrong - I'm still a bit nervous. But you get through on the knowledge that, from the lowest trooper to the highest ranks, we can all rely on each other. This tour has been mentally and physically challenging.

“There have been obvious tragedies and you have to deal with that. You have to pick yourself up and focus on the job in hand.

“We all have families back home but the guys you're working with are more than family. They're friends, comrades and brothers. We are always looking out for each other.”

His girlfriend, Hollie Stearman, 24, lives in Dereham and is a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. She said they had not really discussed his compensation, but added: “I think every soldier who has been injured fighting for our country should get what they are entitled to.”

She said he was “a hero” to her, adding: “I do think he is very brave. He is completely dedicated to his job. He has got a lot of dedication to his colleagues as well.”

The couple have known each other for seven years but have only been in a relationship since February. She said: “I didn't want him to go back. But he loves his job.

“It was a big challenge for him. He was a bit nervous about it. He was excited though about getting on with the job in hand.”

Cpl Duncan said he was particularly looking forward to seeing his girlfriend again. He said: “She's an absolute star, sending me letters and parcels. She's a top girlfriend.”

He said: “I love her lots and miss her and can't wait for my R&R to get back and start our lives together again.”

He said the just-completed Panther's Claw operation, which saw troops take and hold Taliban land, has worked. “The effect we've had is that civilians can begin to get back to day-to-day life without worrying about being extorted by the Taliban and not feeling safe in their own homes. We're giving Afghans their country back.”

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