Hero of the month…WO2 Paddy Bashford 1975 - 2017
“Paddy was the best guy anyone could ever meet…he fought everything that life threw at him and was the most amazing dad to our children”
WO2 Paddy Bashford was a fighter. The proud Northern Irishman dedicated his life to the Army and refused to give up, even when issues with his health got in the way. In the years prior to his death, Paddy had fought to overcome a number of health battles, including testicular cancer and a brain tumour. He and his wife, Feebi, had also welcomed two beautiful, long-awaited children into the world, Bonnie and Bailey.
However, on 10th December 2017, 6 months before he and Feebi were due to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Paddy was involved in an accident and tragically died. He was just 42 years old. Bonnie and Bailey were nine and seven at the time of their dad’s death.
Bonnie and Bailey, now 12 and 11, are members of Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved Forces children and young people. This month, Scotty’s is paying tribute to their dad, WO2 Paddy Bashford.
Paddy was serving with the AGC when he died. He dedicated his life to the Army. Having grown up in a military family, reaching WO2, Feebi explains, was his greatest professional achievement.
His other was greatest achievement in life was his family, and he was a proud father to his much-wanted children. He and his wife Feebi struggled for almost a decade before conceiving Bonnie, then miraculously, just 17 months later Bailey came along.
Feebi said she and Paddy were destined to be together. “Paddy and I met when we were 22,” said Feebi, “but we’d been in the same place at the same time on a number of occasions in the 10 years before we officially met. Once when we were 12, and then again when we were 17 when we were staying in the same hotel in Ibiza!”
Feebi and Paddy’s paths finally crossed in 1997. Feebi said: “I lived in Leeds at the time, and we met on a night out. It was definitely fate that brought us together as Paddy wasn’t really supposed to be there, he should have been on leave but, because of the troubles going on in Northern Ireland at the time, he couldn’t return home. Paddy then proposed to me a week after we met, and we got married 10 months later.”
Feebi and Paddy moved to Germany 10 days after they got married and spent the next chapter of their lives travelling from Germany to Northern Ireland and back, until they decided to finally settle in Northern Ireland in 2012 to bring up their family.
During that time Paddy faced a number of serious health issues including testicular cancer and a brain tumour which was removed in 2003. Feebi said: “Even when he was recovering from his op, he wanted to get out there and serve with his friends. His brain tumour was removed at the same time that British troops were being deployed to Iraq and he found it incredibly difficult not to be there serving on the front line. That’s testament to the kind of guy he was, he never gave up, he was so determined to keep fighting.”
As well as his commitment to the Army, Paddy also had a fun side, Feebi said: “Paddy was the best guy anyone could ever meet, he was amazingly generous and always the life and soul of the party. I once remember watching him in a barracks he hadn't been in for a long while, he was just picking something up, and then all of a sudden, I hear his name being shouted from different directions, then there's a massive huddle of guys shaking hands, all so happy to see my Paddy. That's the kind of guy he was. He'd go to the opposite end of the world and bump into someone he knew or make a new friend for life. He was the guy that would take people under his wing and look after them - he hated the thought of singles in the block, so we always had a full house for Sunday lunch.”
Feebi’s favourite memories of Paddy are the surprises he used to make. She said: “I'll never forget him turning up early from a tour. He'd kept it all a secret and turned up on the doorstep with the biggest smile on his face - I was obviously mortified as I hadn't had any of the beauty appointments we need in prep for our men returning from tour! He didn't care one bit thankfully.”
Paddy had always wanted to be a dad and, in 2008, Bonnie was born. She was just five weeks old when Paddy was deployed to Iraq, and he didn’t return home until she was seven months old. Feebi said: “He missed a lot of the first few months of Bonnie’s life but he more than made up for it when he came home. We’d always longed to be parents and, when it finally did happen, he slotted into being a dad perfectly. We were taken by surprise when we found out we were expecting Bailey, but he was over the moon. Nothing was too much trouble when his babies were born. He was a fantastic dad and the children adored him. He was so hands-on and would always help where he could.”
It was on 10th December 2017 that Feebi and her children’s lives were turned upside down. Paddy was at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham for his regiment’s Christmas function when he died. Feebi, who was at home in Northern Ireland at the time, knew something was wrong when she hadn’t heard from Paddy in the morning, as she always did, and when he didn’t get in touch to wish their son Bailey good luck in his ice hockey trial.
Feebi said: “Paddy would always message me in a morning and when I didn’t hear from him after his Christmas party I started to worry. I left it until the evening and contacted the welfare team who said, ‘sorry, have no officers been to see you?’ I knew then that it was bad news. About 10 minutes later two officers appeared at my door to tell me that Paddy had been involved in an accident and had passed away.”
Feebi explained that the rest of the day was a blur. She said: “I don’t really remember much after that, I explained to the children that daddy had died, and they both screamed, they were so upset. I didn’t know what to tell them.”
Almost four years on and keeping Paddy’s memory alive is incredibly important to Feebi, she said: “The children and I talk a lot about him, we also make fun of him and laugh at his expense - he'd expect nothing less! We go to some of his favourite places, just to reflect and feel close and if we need a cry, we cry. The children both have a Huggable Hero of their Daddy, so he goes with us on our adventures.”
Since their dad’s death, Bonnie and Bailey have been supported by Scotty’s Little Soldiers. The pair have both dealt with their dad’s death in different ways, and the charity has been integral in providing the youngest, Bailey, with access to counselling through Winston’s Wish.
Feebi said: “Scotty's has always been there for the kids (and me) right from the start, every birthday, every Christmas, every Easter and every anniversary. I can't express enough how much help we've had. Bailey has struggled terribly over the last few years and the counselling provided was incredible and really made a difference. We’ve had the opportunity to go on holiday together as a family and to take part in bereavement residentials.”
“I really don't know where I would have turned for all the things I didn't understand in the beginning and knowing my children will have Scotty's all through their childhood gives me great reassurance that's there more than just me cheering them on.”