St. John’s native is the face of British poppy campaign

Lance Cpl. Cassidy Little says he’s made it onto taxicabs

Bonnie Belec bbelec@thetelegram.com
Published on October 30, 2013
St. John’s native Lance Cpl. Cassidy Little was asked by the Royal British Legion to participate in its 2013 poppy campaign. — Photo courtesy of the Royal British Legion

He went to England to be a standup comedian, but when Lance Cpl. Cassidy Little got there, he says, he realized he wasn’t very funny.

But the St. John’s native definitely has a sense of humour because if he didn’t he would have never survived the journey he was about to undertake.

Little’s life-changing story began in 2005 in England after he decided standup comedy wasn’t for him. Instead, he says, he joined the Royal Marines as part of a friendly wager with friends.

After receiving basic training, Little did his first tour in Afghanistan without incident.

He wasn’t so lucky when he returned the second time in 2011 after his retraining as a commando medic.

His unit fell victim to an improvised explosive device and two of his comrades were killed.  

“I lost my right leg, below the knee,” 

Little told The Telegram Wednesday evening.

“I almost lost the  left one. Had a couple of fractures of my pelvis, got my head knocked around and my eye was damaged as well,” he said.

Now 32, Little has been named the poster soldier for the British Legion’s 2013 poppy campaign.

Worked hard to get life back on track

He said there’s no preparing for injury while on a tour of duty and an understanding of why such things happen isn’t a requirement.

“You just have to acknowledge that it could happen and get on with it, and if it does happen you say, ‘oh shit.’ The good news is I survived. Two of my friends died. I was the closest one to the blast to survive it — two feet in another direction and I wouldn’t be here today,” he said, matter of fact.

The former student of Holy Heart was in a coma for two weeks and said he doesn’t recall much of the events of the day of the explosion except for walking and the feeling that something was about to happen.

When he woke up in the hospital, he said, it wasn’t a good scene.

 “I came out of the coma rather violently as you can imagine because the last thing I remember I was in Afghanistan and then all of a sudden the first thing after that, I can’t move. I feel pinned down. I’m sore. In pain. I don’t know who anyone is. I made the assumption, rightly or wrongly, I had been captured,” he said from his home in Market Deeping, England.

“So I started fighting everybody and anybody and negotiating, trying to manipulate them into letting me go, to untie me. I was never tied up obviously, but I thought I was because there was a lot of powerful drugs in me, and I was doing a lot of hallucinating. So it was a rather violent, aggressive wakeup,” he recalled.

 Little was delusional for a couple weeks. His now wife, Laura, and family stood by his bedside every day.

Through a rigorous recuperation schedule at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court in Surrey, England, and a strong will to get his life back, Little was walking on a prosthetic in several weeks.

Little met author Owen Sheers and director Stephen Rayne during his recovery.

“At the time they were working with Alice Driver, who wanted to create a piece of theatre based around the lives of soldiers out there, and hopefully a side-effect of show would be in some form a voice — something to focus on,” said Little.

He said he did an interview and was hired to act in the play and has since taken on the lead role which he was doing seven months after his accident.

“The Two Worlds of Charlie F” was first performed in January 2012 at two charity fundraising evenings at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, according to the website www.charlie-f.com, and will start a new U.K. tour in 2014, preceded by a two-week run at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. Mirvish Productions in Toronto announced the play will fun from Feb. 25-March 9.

The cast is comprised of medically discharged military personnel, as well as professional actors. The production is supported through public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Royal British Legion by raising funds at each performance.

“It tuned out to be a West End show (London’s top theatre district likened to New York’s Broadway,” he said laughing.

“Not bad for a blown-up actor who performed in a couple of shows with the Beothuck Street Players (St. John’s based community theatre group) back in the day,” said Little.

 He said teaming up with the British Legion was a natural progression. Little said the organization spends a tremendous amount of money supporting its servicemen and their families and he volunteers his time to it through its poppy campaign.

“It’s one of their biggest fundraisers. I’ve been doing some media interviews and talking about the legion and what they did to help me. My face is on the side of taxicabs,” he said chuckling.

“It’s important people know the legion is not just about putting stair lifts in to peoples’ houses. The Royal British Legion helped me put my mind back together,” said Little.