David Cruickshanks joined the Navy at age 16 in 1981 as a junior marine engineering mechanic. Within a month of his first draft on HMS Fearless he was off to the Falklands where he served for the duration of the conflict.

“We were under sustained attack for the first few weeks. It was exhilarating and terrifying. It was a war of the senses. As an engineer I spent a lot of time below deck listening to the guns, explosions and bombs going off. I never knew what was really happening. There were several air raids. We took cover and hoped we wouldn’t be hit.

“Our ship was hit on the first day. We had casualties on the bridge that day. I remember one very bad day some time later when two of our landing ships The Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram and our own landing craft Foxtrot 4 were hit by Argentine Air Force. There was so much loss of life. It was appalling.”

The 49 year old is going back for the first time later this year ahead of Remembrance Day.

“I am very happy to be going back. I want to do fishing while I am there and experience a boat on a peaceful setting.”

David, from Glenrothes in Fife, is backing the Legion Scotland ‘Voices of Veteran’s’ campaign. And despite getting no funding for the project he is making a short film about a woman with dementia who remembers her long lost father going off to fight in World War One when she was a little girl.

“I have had this incredible life that others were denied fighting for my freedom. They didn’t get to have the experiences I have had. Service personnel can be very young and they are just starting out in life. Then they have that taken away from them.”

After a knee injury from running David was discharged from active service on medical grounds after serving the duration of the Falklands in the notorious ‘bomb alley’ at San Carlos Bay. He went shore side and worked at the naval base in Rosyth for a year up to 1986 before going into a career in photography, working for newspapers including the Fife Free Press, The Glaswegian and The Daily Record.

It wasn’t until he went to London to work freelance that his experiences in service came back to haunt him. Around 2001 he had a panic attack and realised that he needed help. “It was tough getting work there was a lot of rejection and knock backs. I had a lot of anxiety and went do see a doctor. She suggested I talk to a clinical psychologist. It really helped me understand my condition.

“I was a classic case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms were so physical. Things were mounting up inside me. To the point I got scared of living. The therapy didn’t work overnight but it did help me immensely. I started playing football again and then I turned a corner.”

He manages PTSD better now but says it is an ongoing battle. When he came back to Scotland with his wife in 2004 and was struggling with work and money the old demons came back.

“It all started to flare up again. I could see I had a short fuse and was getting wound up easily. I went back to the doctor to ask for help again. It’s not easy to do that. Now I am taking medication for it and it really does help keep me on an even keel.”

“I think people need to be able to talk more openly about mental health problems. And we need to recognise this, especially when it comes to veterans. For me I took everything with a pinch of salt at the time it happened. And afterwards it didn’t even seem like a big deal. But it all came to the surface later.”

David went back to University three years ago and completed a Masters in writing for TV and started working with Veterans Scotland helping with their social media and making films.