Charlie Charles raising his hands to the crowd at the Invictus Games before a swimming heat

Invictus Games: Charlie’s story

After a serious cycling accident ended his military career, we helped Charlie rebuild his confidence and reconnect with fellow veterans.

Charlie joined the Royal Marines when he came across an eye-catching poster in his hometown of Plymouth. 

“I knew I wanted to join the Armed Forces and considered the Army originally as I hadn’t heard much about the Royal Marines,” he says.

Charlie on tour. He is crouched over some cooking utensils together with another colleague. They are wearing combat gear and are in the middle of a dusty road.
Charlie on tour in Afghanistan

“Then after seeing a publicity poster, where the Royal Marines said they’re the best, I thought I might as well go for it and see where I end up.”  

As a Motor Transport he was able to travel widely over the course of his 21-year career, completing tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and training in Norway.  

“Every job has its ups and downs but, in a nutshell, it was just an amazing place to be.” 

Charlie on tour in Afghanistan

I felt like I'd lost a part of my identity


It was when he was stationed back home in the UK, travelling back one evening from the barracks, that an accident occurred which changed his life forever. 

“I was cycling home from the barracks one evening and was involved in a road collision with a car, which left me with a broken neck, fractured ribs, fractured skull, shattered nose, blood clot in my spinal cord and bleed in left lobe of my brain. 

“We had only just gone into the Covid lockdown, so I wasn’t in hospital for long. I had to wear a collar for three months, and during this time I couldn’t have any of my injuries repaired because of my neck injury.  

“I have some numbness from my left shoulder to my finger, which can still be painful, and I have painful joints, and really struggle with cognitive processing and can become fatigued easily as a result.”  

As Charlie was nearing the end of his 22-year career, and hoping to extend and get promoted, it was hard for him to accept that his life had suddenly changed direction.

Charlie sat on a sofa, he has a neck brace around his neck. Charlie sat on the sofa. He has a neck brace around his neck. Charlie is wearing his Team UK Invictus Games navy t-shirt. He is taking a selfie and smiling. He is standing inside a leisure centre and behind him we can see a swimming pool.

Journey to recovery

“I’ve had such a long career in the military and felt like I’d lost part of my identity. I’m very much still in recovery and trying to work out what to do with my life.”  

Charlie spent some time recovering at the Defence Medical and Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) and at the Naval Service Recovery Centre Hasler in Plymouth, before being discharged in January 2023. 

He heard about the Invictus Games at Hasler and was encouraged to go along by the people there.  

“I liked the physical challenge side of Invictus, but for me it was mainly the confidence building that inspired me to apply. Meeting new people is really tough for me, but I like being able to help them, and in turn they also help me.” 

When Charlie found out he’d been selected for Team UK, he couldn’t quite believe it.

“I felt chuffed! I was very thankful and grateful, and I wasn’t expecting it. The training camps and everyone at RBL were amazing and I felt like it came at the right time for me,” Charlie explains.  



Competing with Team UK

Charlie took part in a number of swimming events and was one of 59 veterans and serving personnel to compete as part of Team UK in Düsseldorf in 2023. 

“Competing with Team UK gave me a focus and a more positive outlook on things,” says Charlie.


"Being around other likeminded people and the feeling of community was unbelievable."

One of Charlie’s main goals was to go under 60 seconds in the 100m freestyle event.

“It’s incredible what can be achieved through sport,” he says. 

“I wanted to feel like a teenager again! I could hardly believe my eyes when I finished the race and looked at the time  of 59.72.

“Being part of Team UK has given me much more confidence. I was able to be more sociable and enjoy chatting to people, and understand what I’m truly capable of.  

“One of the things I kept repeating to myself was ‘use this moment’. 

“And since returning home I’m still swimming twice a week and I’ve kept in touch with quite a few fellow competitors.”

Charlie Charles and family

Family support

At the Invictus Games, Charlie was accompanied by his wife, Jenny, along with his son, daughter and grandson. 

"It's hard to put into words the impact attending the games has had on us all," says Jenny.

"I have never cried so much from happiness and pride.

"We were accepted, supported, and encouraged by new friends we will treasure for life. We regained hope about a more positive future, and we shared a unique experience that will stay with us for ever.

"Invictus Games gave us a bit of Charlie back that we thought we had lost, it gave us a renewed love of sport as a therapy, a sense of identity as part of the military family, and an appreciation of all the things that can be achieved when you are given the right opportunities."

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