Rob French Poppy Tattoo 091117
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Former Royal Marine Has Huge Tattoo To Remember Fallen Comrades

A former Royal Marine wears his poppies with pride all year long - with seven tattooed on his back...

Rob French Poppy Tattoo 091117

PICTURES: Facebook/Rob French 

A former Royal Marine wears his poppies with pride all year long - as he has seven tattooed on his back to represent comrades killed in Afghanistan.

The tattoo, positioned on former Royal Marine Rob French’s upper back, features the silhouettes of the seven Royal Marines killed in the conflict between 2008 and 2009.

The silhouettes are surrounded by seven large poppies, each representing one of the “magnificent seven” as they came to be called by colleagues.

Mr French, 35, served as a Royal Marine from 2006 to 2013, when he was medically discharged having reached the rank of Lance Corporal.

The father-of-two, from Weston-super-Mare, is raising money for the Royal British Legion to honour his fallen friends.

He said:

"Around this time of year, the public start wearing poppies to show that they remember the fallen, but for me and all the other servicemen and women who have been to war, every single day is Remembrance Day."

"That's why I will always wear my poppies."

Mr French, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), began his tattoo in November 2015.

Rob French Poppy Tattoo 091117

He described how he was particularly close to three of the Marines it features - L/Cpl Steven "Jamie" Fellows, L/Cpl Ben Whatley, and L/Cpl Jason Mackie:

"I decided to get the tattoo to place the reminder on my back so that they are with me and behind me pushing me on, rather than in front and holding me back”.

Mr French was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, and badly broke his wrist whilst serving as a machine gunner.

He was flown back to the UK four months into his deployment to have the injury examined:

"I have always carried the weight of Ben Whatley's death on my shoulders as he was killed on Christmas Eve two weeks after I was sent home."

"I have always felt that if I was there I may have been selected to take that position on the same rooftop and therefore taken the round that hit Ben.

"I still live with that guilt now.

"I have used Ben's name as my first born son, Joseph's middle name and I will make sure he knows where the name came from and what price Ben paid so I could come home and become a dad."

Mr French underwent an operation on his wrist in 2009 and completed the full Operation Herrick 12 deployment in 2011.

Further operations were required on his wrist following that tour.

In March 2013, he was medically discharged due in part to his suffering from PTSD.

Rob French Poppy Tattoo

He later became a beneficiary of the Royal British Legion in 2014, when a money and debt adviser from the charity represented him during a tribunal.

It also helped him receive counselling to help with PTSD and his transition to civilian life.

He is a regular visitor to the charity's drop-in centre in his hometown.

Mr French has released a poem in tribute to those who have fallen in conflicts.

Part of it, addressed to L/Cpl Whatley, reads:

"I owe you my life so I will make it a good one, full of love and happiness and a lot of good fun.

"I hope to live till I'm old and die peacefully in bed, with that soft pillow under my head.

"I will see you again be it hot or it cold, until then I will make sure your story is told.

"I hope you will be waiting holding open the gates, all I want is a slap on my back and to see all of our mates."

Both of Mr French's grandfathers served in the Second World War - one in the RAF and one in the Army.

He hopes to take part in a swimming event at the Invictus Games in the future.

Mr French's fundraising page in aid of The Royal Marines Charity and The Royal British Legion is:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/2minutesto2minutes