WHEN media coverage mounted last year for the quarter-century anniversary since the bombing of the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, memories of his time as part of the clean-up crew became too difficult to cope with.

Bob, 52, who lives in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, but grew up in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, was last year diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and signed off sick from his job as Pertemps manager for Northallerton, Harrogate and Skipton.

“As part of the clean-up crew, I had to walk the area and identify evidence. If it was clothing, we had to bag it.

“If it was a body part, we called the police over and they would deal with it,” Bob, who has served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Kenya, Portugal, Canada and America, says.

At the time of the bombing, on December 21, 1988, Bob, who has been married to Daniella for 32 years and has two children, was stationed in Inverness with the Gordon Highlanders.

He says: “The Royal Highland Fusiliers were deployed first but, on Christmas Eve, I was packing the car to go home on leave to Glasgow with my wife and children when we were told to attend a briefing on Christmas Day to go to Lockerbie.

“We were deployed on Boxing Day.”

After two days as clean-up crew, Bob was moved into the communication centre, where he had to maintain contact with crews on the ground, and mark finds on a map of the area.

He adds: “At the time we were angry to be missing Christmas and angry someone had decided to do that because it affected those on the aircraft, the town of Lockerbie and the wider community.

“I didn’t think much about what we were doing.

“It was just a job but then, 25 years later when I was watching the anniversary coverage, it triggered something off.”

Bob made contact with the charity Vulnerable Veterans and Adult Dependants (VVADS), a bespoke Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service based at Catterick Garrison.

He began Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) - a relatively new treatment that has been found to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

The charity also put him in touch with Help for Heroes and Phoenix House, in Catterick Garrison.

He says: “The PTSD has really surprised me. I just thought I was a bit depressed but when the anniversary coverage started in the media, it just came flooding back and I was quite floored with it all.

“When I was serving, I had the support of the guys in my battalion but, when you leave, you lose all that.”

Bob says that, before attending Phoenix House, he had withdrawn into himself.

But he started to visit the centre, particularly the art room, where serving personnel and veterans can do a variety of activities from painting to woodwork.

“It takes your mind off things and it’s been a great help to me,” he says.

“I’m not artistic at all but since I’ve been coming here, I have done woodwork, painting and clay modelling.

“I particularly enjoy the woodwork as it’s destructive but creative at the same time. I’m currently making my cap badge for the Gordon Highlanders. The art takes my mind off things.

“If I have had a therapy session prior to coming, I won’t go near the woodworking because of my state of mind so, on those days, I try painting and modelling.”

Bob says he did not know Phoenix House existed for veterans to use but now says he would recommend it to any injured, wounded or sick veteran.

He adds: “There’s something for everyone here. For me, I’m picking and choosing what I do and slowly building my confidence up to get into group activities.

Di Williams, a volunteer who runs weekly art classes at Phoenix House, says art can help veterans and service personnel take their minds off their problems for a while.

Di says: “Art gives them a chance to express themselves in ways they probably cannot do verbally. It’s their own space where they can have their own time and thoughts.

“Art is very individual, finding different mediums and subjects to explore their feelings.”