Sunday 19 November 2017

Amputee trains for South Pole race

Kate Philp, a member of the Walking With The Wounded team, during training on the Langiokull Glacier in Iceland
Kate Philp, a member of the Walking With The Wounded team, during training on the Langiokull Glacier in Iceland
Major Philp was in command of a Warrior armoured vehicle in Musa Qala in Helmand Province when it went over an IED

A female soldier who lost her leg after a bomb blast in Afghanistan has said she is lucky to be alive as she prepares for a race to the South Pole.

Major Kate Philp, 34, was in command of a Warrior armoured vehicle in Musa Qala in Helmand Province when it went over an IED (improvised explosive device) that killed one of her men.

The Royal Artillery officer, from Knightwick in Worcestershire, who chose to have her left leg amputated below the knee, has been training in Iceland for an Antarctic trek with the Walking With The Wounded charity.

"I've always felt hugely lucky," she said after spending five nights in sub-zero temperatures on a glacier. "I think that's the main thing that made it so easy to accept - the fact that I was lying in the UK in a hospital bed and I hadn't been killed. That gives you a huge sense of perspective and gratitude. Just the fact that you're alive and relatively unscathed."

Oxford graduate Maj Philp, who still serves in the Army with 3 UK Division in Bulford, Wiltshire, is hoping to be selected for a team of four British servicemen and women for a race to the South Pole against teams from America and the Commonwealth.

But despite being the first female British soldier to have lost a leg in combat, the self-confessed tomboy insisted she is not a hero. "I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "It was just unlucky. There's nothing brave or heroic about being injured, unless you are injured in the line or doing something extraordinary."

Maj Philp said she recognises why she will be seen as a female role model, but said gaining a place on Team Glenfiddich - the British team in the South Pole Allied Challenge - was not about gender.

"I'd love to sit here and genuinely say, 'Yea, I'm absolutely doing this for the girls'," she said. "I really hope that they're inspired, and if girls are particularly motivated by me being involved then that is fantastic, but that is not my motivation for doing it. That's not to say that I don't have a strong female bond with fellow females in the military or my friends. This is about so much more than the division between men and women, or bridging that."

Maj Philp was halfway through her six-month tour of Afghanistan in 2008 when the vehicle she was commanding from its turret was hit by the roadside explosion. She was evacuated to Camp Bastion and flown back to the UK for treatment at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. The blast had shattered her lower left leg, leaving her heel and ankle with jigsaw fractures.

Maj Philp made the decision to have the leg removed after speaking to doctors rather than live with the constant pain and difficulty with walking. Maj Philp, who now lives in Marlborough in Wiltshire, was then treated at the military rehabilitation centre in Headley Court, Surrey. Surrounded by other wounded servicemen and women, the classics graduate said the experience helped her deal with her life-changing injury.

Press Association

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