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Real-life stories: Suffering from physical, sexual or mental abuse

A Choice Of Borstal Or The Services For Fearsome Fighter

Jeff Coombes’ natural tendency was to fight his way out of trouble. Instead he landed himself in deeper. He endured an unhappy, abused childhood. Though bright he was forced to leave school at 14 to take a job. Poaching helped fund his wild ways. Then he got caught. He had a choice of sorts - "Borstal or the Services" said the Magistrate and thus began the career of a fighter. Here he tells his story.


Three weeks later I was in the Royal Marines and set for a change of life and many different adventures.

The subsequent years saw me posted to a Commando unit in Singapore, fighting in the jungles of Malaya, Sarawak and Borneo; qualifying for Special Forces and serving in many countries around the world.

After leaving the Forces I found work as a mercenary in Libya for Colonel Gadaffi and in the Lebanon for the PLO and Yasser Arafat. At a later point I decided to leave the mercenary world and went to work in the North Sea as a commercial diver working on oil and gas exploration and I was then offered diving work in the Middle East but things went pear shaped and I lost all of the money I had earned. As a result we lost our home and my wife Annie and I separated.

Circumstances brought us together again and I took a job in a large abattoir and meat processing plant. As we began to get ourselves back on our feet Annie was diagnosed with Cancer. After a long course of chemotherapy and other treatment, Annie came home desperately ill with the information that nothing else could be done. We struggled on as best we could but things were very traumatic. All of my life I had solved problems but now I could do nothing.

A local church was praying for Annie and a woman told me I should do the same. I thought "no chance of that, I don't believe in that rubbish".

After some weeks I had a mini breakdown. At this point I prayed to God that he would make her better. A year later she climbed a 3500 foot mountain in Scotland! Of course I didn't accept God's result, it was mine, and life went on pretty much as before.

Annie had to go to the gym to rebuild her strength and a Christian woman befriended her and invited her to various events to which I had to drive her. Eventually she was invited to an Alpha course. I went along as I had to drive and there was also food and wine available. This was not for me and on the third evening I told the organisers so. In fact I told them it was a load of rubbish and they didn't know what they were talking about. But on the way home God had other ideas.

After leaving the meeting we got into our car and set off for home. After driving for about three hundred metres I felt the need to stop the car. Something compelled me to go into an old, nearby building. I pushed open the wooden door and found myself on my knees, with the absolute knowledge that I was where I should be. The building was a Pentecostal church. Six months later I was baptized in the river Exe.

From the moment of accepting Jesus into my life my world changed. I stopped swearing overnight and my visits to the pub became less frequent and my drinking less compulsive. At work my management style changed and staff commented on the difference in me and my attitude.

I became very unhappy with the situation at work and prayed for a change. God moved me out and gave me my own business and I currently run a business consultancy providing training and advice to companies across the United Kingdom. I am also a trustee and project director of Seeway Trust, a charity taking orphans and extremely poor children from a place of despair to a place of hope.

I attend a Baptist Church near Exeter where I am a Deacon. Truly this has been a journey from darkness to light. It hasn't been an easy walk - more a vertical climb but when I fall my Jesus picks me up dusts me off and sets me on the way.

Jeff Coombes, 2009

Story and picture by courtesy of Challenge Newsline

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