Ian’s story – why we’re campaigning on Gulf War illnesses

Ian Ewers-Larose, 48, lives in Ipswich, Suffolk. He served for several years as a medic in the RAF, serving a tour in the Falklands and on Operation Granby in the 1st Gulf War. He tells us how his health deteriorated after Service.

I was serving in the RAF at a Jaguar Aircraft Base as a JNCO Medic. Two of the Squadrons were called into preparation for Operation Granby and as an appointed Squadron Detachment Medic I was put on standby.

I was also trained in Special NBC Team (nuclear, biological and chemical) to deal with any medical incident involving those three weapon usage. Because of this I was told I would be on high alert so I had to be prepared.

"I collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage."

About six to nine months after serving in the first Gulf War I became unwell and this next information is only what I have been told as I cannot remember myself. 

I collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage. After several days in hospital and the loss of feeling in my legs, it was found that the myelin sheath (that coats your spinal column to protect your central nervous system in your spine) was destroyed.

Initially the civilian hospital thought I had Multiple Sclerosis, as this is a symptom of this, but I had no other real symptoms to suggest this, so it was all a big question mark. This was then dismissed and I was discharged back to the RAF.

I had to try to get on with my job without being able to walk properly. I also had an issue with my vision in my left eye. As I was constantly falling ill, I was advised to take redundancy in 1996, rather than being medically discharged. At a medical board in London, they gave me the diagnosis of post-viral syndrome (better known today as chronic fatigue syndrome).

"I now have to take a cocktail of medications to keep me alive – without this I do not know where I would be."

No-one has ever found out what happened, and to this day I "short circuit" and this causes mini TIA's (mini strokes). Since all this I have had two major strokes and 2 major TIA's and have occasional "vacant episodes" which are said to be linked to this problem.

When I left the RAF I went to a resettlement course where a Royal British Legion person was there and advised I apply for a War Pension; which I did and was awarded this status. I was given £1,500 compensation and a letter for free prescription and war pensioner status. Because my condition had become so bad over the last few years, I had to give up work. I now receive my Service pension from the RAF.

I left the RAF in 1996. I now have to take a cocktail of medications to keep me alive – without this I do not know where I would be. I continue to live with neuropathy pains in legs and arms, excessive tiredness - chronic fatigue, forgetfulness and occasional loss of cognitively activity, global pain and heart arrhythmia.

Help the campaign

Have you been diagnosed with a Gulf War illness or are you a family member or friend of someone who has? Help us learn more about the illnesses of the Gulf War veterans community by completing our short survey.

Your feedback will directly inform our campaign and will help us demonstrate to the Government why it is so important to properly support veterans with Gulf War illnesses.

Find out more about our Gulf War illnesses campaign.

support for veterans

If you served in the First Gulf War and you are concerned that your health has been affected as a direct result, there are options available.

Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme

Please call the Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme on 0800 032 6258

Apply for disablement pension

If you think you have suffered ill health as a result of your service in the Gulf with the UK Armed Forces, you may be able to claim a War Disablement Pension.

The Legion can help veterans claim compensation for injuries and illnesses sustained during Service. We offer independent advice and information and can represent veterans at a tribunal for free, if they want to take further action.

For more information or to get help with a claim or Appeals Tribunal, contact:

Freephone: 0808 802 8080

Email: info@britishlegion.org.uk