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Former soldier tells how he was shot by a Kalashnikov, blown up by a landmine, crashed in a helicopter, served behind enemy lines in Bosnia, made 20 Para jumps, served in the Gulf Wars and earned bravery medals. But John Bartley's tales of heroism are.. FAKE; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: By Keith McLeod

A FORMER soldier has gone from hero to zero after his tales of heroism were exposed as fantasy.

Fake war hero John Bartley invented an Army record and took his story to the national media in a bid to win a better ex-serviceman's pension.

Bartley, 38, did actually serve in the Army from 1989 to 1995.

But rather than being proud of his actual service, he bought medals on the black market and created a new past.

He thought nothing of wearing the Paras wings, which he never earned, and posing with a breast full of medals while real heroes and their families pay a daily price in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He claimed he was shot in the leg by a Kalashnikov rifle, blown up by a landmine which put him in a coma for seven months and survived a helicopter crash that saw two soldiers beheaded.

He also said he was a pathfinder behind enemy lines in Bosnia, claimed he made 20 jumps from planes while in the Paras and served in the Gulf.

He tops off his catalogue of lies by claiming his courage earned him medals for bravery and left him crippled.

But the Record can reveal Bartley served in the Paras for only a few weeks before leaving to join another regiment.

Not only did he not earn his wings, the Army say he probably never even completed one parachute jump.

Yet that has not stopped him using the media to tell tales of his heroics in the Gulf, Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

Bartley has also claimed he suffered severe injuries when a wall collapsed on him in Ulster in a mortar attack.

But, in fact, he was treated at the scene by a medic and was off work for just a day.

Bartley's real military record shows tours in Northern Ireland, Canada, Cyprus and Germany between 1989 and 1995.

His time in the Parachute Regiment was only from January to April, 1989.

He was not shot by a Kalashnikov nor in a helicopter crash that left two dead.

The Army describe the chopper incident as a "rough landing" - a common hazard for soldiers serving in Northern Ireland - but no one died.

He claims the landmine incident in Bosnia, which left him in a coma, happened in 1999 when he was a pathfinder.

But by 1999, he had already been discharged from the Army for four years.

Similarly, Bartley, originally from Northern Ireland, but now living in Hamilton, never served in the first or second Gulf Wars.

An Army source said: "The Bosnia claims about the landmine and the coma are comical. UK forces did not engage in undercover ops in Bosnia.

"The claim about being shot by a Kalashnikov is also total nonsense."

As for his claims on the 20 jumps in the Paras, an official document states: "Mr Bartley only did three months in the Parachute Regiment and is unlikely to have done any drops."

Bartley is rarely seen in public out of the wheelchair he now uses.

He claimed recently in a national newspaper he woke in 2003 to find he could not move his legs.

He stated: "Everything was numb. I was taken to hospital and two discs were removed from my back.

"I was in absolute agony. Everything has gone downhill since.

"The pain in my back has increased and I have to wear plastic casing around my legs to support them."

Bartley won the sympathy of some newspapers, who took up his case for a full war pension. He currently draws a 50 per cent pension, which Army sources say is "very generous".

His real record also qualified him to be allocated a veteran's house.

One veteran said: "The very fact he is an ex-soldier in receipt of an Army pension means he would qualify for a veteran's house.

"There is no need to make up these ludicrous claims, other than for self-gratification or to get the media onside for a better pension.

"He's happy to talk to the press about his 'heroics' but with real soldiers, he clams up in case he is rumbled."

Bartley also recently posed with a real hero, Benny Gough, 91, of Hamilton. Benny, a Burma Star medal holder, was a prisoner of war during Word War II.

When Benny and Bartley presented a cheque for pounds 100 to a local school earlier this year, Benny would have had no way of knowing he was a fake.

An Army spokeswoman confirmed Bartley had never earned his Paras wings and said the only medal he would have qualified for was the Northern Ireland Service Medal.

She said: "We find this kind of thing thoroughly distasteful.

"No soldier should claim medals or military honours which he has not earned.

"And he should certainly not be making these claims in schools or in public."

When the Record put the facts to Bartley, he was unrepentant.

He insisted: "I haven't put myself forward for anything. Those dates you have are wrong.

"I've been fighting the Ministry of Defence for quite a while. People have come and spoken to me and I've just explained things to them.

"I've been fighting a case with the Army for the last two years. Two of the medals are not recognised officially."

Bartley also posed for photos with a case full of medals.

Yesterday, one source who has seen Bartley's medals up close, said: "Genuine medals have inscriptions on the rim. I know his do not. They were most likely bought on the internet."

CAPTION(S):

FANTASY: Bartley poses with medals, left, and claims his Army bravery has resulted in him being confined to a wheelchair, with his legs in casings, but he only served in the Parachute Regiment, top, for a few weeks
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 14, 2007
Words:964
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