AN Oxfordshire soldier who lost both legs and an arm in a Taliban bomb blast has found love after taking up rally driving.
Corporal Tom Neathway, 29, met promo girl and fellow rally driver Rachael Patterson, 24, while fundraising for the Dakar Rally.
The RAF Brize Norton soldier, from 2 Para, hopes to take part in 6,000-mile event with a team of fellow injured service personnel.
Cpl Neathway said: “As soon as I saw her, I knew she was my dream girl. But I didn’t think I stood a chance with her.
“Even now, I often think ‘What is a good-looking girl like her doing with me?’ But when I’m with Rachael, I don’t even feel injured.”
Cpl Neathway was not expected to survive after he moved booby-trapped sandbags in Helmand Province in 2008 and a concealed bomb exploded.
His left arm was amputated at Camp Bastion before he was flown back to the UK, where both legs were removed above the knee.
Cpl Neathway, from Worcester, spent four weeks in intensive care and another month in a burns and plastic surgery unit.
But in December that year he managed to stand up from his wheelchair to receive a campaign medal from Prince Charles.
Since then, he has handcycled a marathon with one arm, skydived for charity and was a torchbearer during the 2012 London Olympics.
He met Miss Patterson, from Bristol, after he joined the Race 2 Recovery team, which is largely made up of wounded service personnel.
The project aims to create a team capable of competing in the Dakar Rally – a 16-day event from Lima in Peru to Santiago in Chile in August.
Cpl Cpl Neathway said: “When I was recovering, I did wonder if I was ever going to find a woman who would love and accept me without my limbs, but I tried my hardest not to dwell on it and just to get on with things.
“I found that, in the past, girlfriends didn’t like to be seen in public with me – I felt like they were a bit ashamed of me. But with Rachael, she takes me everywhere.
“At the moment she is living in Bristol and I go up and down from Worcester to be with her, but I’m due to leave the Army next year and I hope we can live together as I fully intend on spending the rest of my life with her.”
Miss Patterson, who posed nude for a Race 2 Recovery charity calendar, said: “I was definitely attracted to him the first time I saw him, but I was worried that he would assume I was just some blonde bimbo promo girl and I didn’t think he would be interested in me, so I was really happy that he wanted to stay in touch afterwards.
“I’ve never been the kind of person who has a checklist of the perfect man but there were a lot of things that attracted me to Tom. He has the most fantastic personality and a great sense of humour.”
l To sponsor the Race 2 Recovery team, visit race2recovery.com