"IN all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

"He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning."

That verse, from Wilfred Owen’s renowned poem ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, hints at his shell shock; traumatic flashbacks to his life on the frontline.

Sunday marked 100 years since Owen, one of the war's leading poets, was killed in action, just one week before the conflict came to an end.

He had earlier been hospitalised with shell shock, now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is rife among veterans.

David Richardson, 59, from Distington, has battled with the condition since he returned from the Falklands Islands.

Serving in the Navy, he was on a ship which was blown up by the enemy and suffered serious injuries to his leg, shoulder and face.

He locked his memories away, hidden from his family – until he went to sleep.

"I have never talked about my past, not even with my family," said David. "I never wanted my family involved in that part of my life.

“I have seen and been part of many things during operations in many parts of the world.

“Those memories became part of my life, part of me."

David met his wife Diane, 53, on a blind date in 1989, she knew he had physical injuries but the mental problems were more difficult to identify.

“Diane was not with me when I was injured, we met years later. She only knew something had happened to me as I had visible scars and to her credit she never pushed me for answers.

“It was only through my nightmares that she started to piece things together. I would wake bolt upright, shouting and screaming, covered in sweat.

“She would ask me questions in the morning and I would give her a quick answer, with not much content, to fob her away.

“I didn’t realise what effect this was having on Diane."

Everything came to a head for David when his father died and, four years later, British Army soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered near Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.

“I would talk a little to my father at rugby games but when he died in 2009, followed by the Lee Rigby murder, something happened to me.

“I reached a tipping point, I became more withdrawn. I relied heavily on Diane in social situations. As long as she was with me I could be normal, even friends in Distington never noticed anything was wrong with me.

“At night, my dreams became more descriptive and energetic.

“It scared Diane and when napping during the day my children would run to Diane saying ‘Daddy’s crying and shouting’.

“Diane would quietly close the door and occupy our girls – she insisted we get help."

The couple, who have two daughters, are speaking out about PTSD and its impact in the hope of encouraging more veterans to seek support.

Their lives have been made easier by Help for Heroes, and the charity's northern recovery centre at Phoenix House, Catterick.

In January, Diane opened up about her experiences, backing a Help for Heroes campaign aimed at helping Armed Forces families find mental health care.

She had felt trapped, unable to leave David on his own.

“I knew from the start that David had physical injuries due to the scars on his knee and because he walked with a stick," she said. "He went on to have several more operations on his knee and, eventually, an amputation.

“The mental injuries, I didn’t really understand. He used to get really bad nightmares where he would be shouting and screaming, jumping in his sleep.

“But when I asked him about them, he would never tell me. He would just go into himself. I didn’t realise at the time that it was PTSD because he never discussed them with me.”

Help for Heroes has helped David with his PTSD on his own terms.

“I was never forced to talk or made to sit in group sessions," he said, "It has all been in my own time."

He has been allocated a psychological welfare officer and a social welfare officer.

“I cannot speak more highly of them, they have been very patient with me, even though I have been reticent to talk about my memories.

“They know about my service career via my records, they are friendly and understanding and have never tried to force me to talk.

“I still get nightmares, but not as often. The day time oddities, that most veterans suffering from PTSD will understand, are getting better."

Phoenix House, which has a gym, tutored woodshed, art room, computer suite, music room, relaxation room with yoga, massage and Pilates, a TV room and cafe, gives the couple ideal respite.

David said: “I can mix with other veterans, get the banter and feel at ease among people who understand.

“Diane gets to talk to partners and wives who are going through the same as she is. It has helped her to feel she is not alone.

“Among the people who attend you never feel the need to reveal where you served or anything else."

The pair have become part of the Help for Heroes family and travelled to Wick, Scotland, where David represented the charity in the Highland Games, competing against locals and an American team.

“It was fantastic fun," he said. "We were all presented to and shook hands with Prince Charles, who started the men’s tug of war final.

“We lost to the Help for Heroes staff team, they only won because they had more arms and legs than we veterans did!”

Diane has continued with her recovery work, taking on a 184km coast to coast walk from St Bees to Robin Hood's bay, with injured veterans and servicemen.

Despite falling on Fleetwith Pike, badly cutting her head and bruising her face, Diane pushed on, completing over 150km of the walk before suffering pain in her lower back.

Just three days from the end of the challenge, she had to stop; she intends to complete the remaining section of the route when her back has recovered. She has also completed a sports massage, business management and mental health courses through Phoenix House.

As attention turns to the anniversary of the end of World War One and the horrors faced by soldiers at that time, it is also an opportune moment to remember the daily battles some veterans face.

The wars may come to an end, but their impact endures.

*If you, or a loved one, would like to find out more about the services Help for Heroes can offer to wounded, injured or sick veterans, service personnel and their families, call Phoenix House on 01748 834148.