Hero soldier lights up Paralympic Games

Royal Marine Joe Townsend brought the flame into the Olympic Park at the opening ceremony.
Royal Marine Joe Townsend brought the flame into the Olympic Park at the opening ceremony.

IT WAS a thrilling moment never to be forgotten by family and friends who have journeyed with Royal Marine Joe Townsend ever since he lost both legs in a landmine explosion whilst fighting for Queen and country in Afghanistan more than four years ago.

Her Majesty and millions around the world looked up into the dark night sky above the Olympic Park Stadium as the glowing outline of Marine Townsend descended 115m from the ArcelorMittal Orbit - attached to a zip wire.

The Paralympic Flame was grasped firmly in his hand as he gently landed on the stage to hand over the flame to David Clarke, the 41-year-old captain of the British visually impaired five-a-side football team, for the famous cauldron to be lit marking the beginning of the games.

Hero Joe Townsend, aged 24, from Hankham Hall Road, Westham near Pevensey, said on Twitter, the internet social networking website, on Wednesday morning (August 29), before the event: “I hope you are all watching the Paralympic opening ceremony tonight.

“If not I advise you do, as you might see someone familiar.”

After taking part in the amazing opening ceremony, he said: “Tonight was brilliant.

“After facing disability as a result of serving my country, this was an amazing award.Thank you Paralympics 2012.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who recently suffered a famous mishap on a zip wire, tweeted his congratulations, saying: “And thanks to Royal Marine Joe Townsend for the stunning zip wire display. That’s how to do it.”

Joe Townsend tweeted in reply: “It was an honour, come on GB!”

Alastair Campbell, the former press man for Tony Blair, was also impressed.

He said: “Joe Townsend flying on zip wire with flame vies with flying Paralympians as top moment so far. Now this is beautiful. Best flame ever.”

The Marine is planning to train for the triathlon at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Marine Townsend has suffered countless operations since he lost both legs standing on an anti-tank mine in February 2008.

Earlier this year he took part in a ‘Team Battle Back’ 3,051 mile Race Across America, supported by charity Help for Heroes.