Page last updated at 20:50 GMT, Saturday, 14 February 2009

Injured soldier completes sea row

Major Phil Packer (left) and Alastair Humphreys
Major Phil Packer and Alastair Humphreys are not regular rowers

A soldier who was told he would never walk again has succeeded in his bid to row across the English Channel.

Major Phil Packer, 36, arrived in Calais at 1530 GMT, almost a year to the day after he was injured in a rocket attack in Basra.

Maj Packer, from Westminster, left Folkestone on Friday night with adventurer Alastair Humphreys. Their 30 mile (48km) feat took about 15 hours.

Speaking after his arrival he said "I'm really happy, just very, very happy."

He said he had been left "knackered" after the crossing.

'Debt of gratitude'

"It was quite windy last night, but we wore lots of layers to keep us warm," he said.

"The main thing was trying to keep out of the way of the big tankers, they came pretty close."

After his row, he hitched a lift back to the UK on a boat with news crews and said the first thing he was going to do when he got home was "have a hot bath and relax, then go to bed".

He added: "I'm very happy and relieved but tired. My rowing partner has been fantastic, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude."

It was the first in a series of challenges Maj Packer, who lives in Westminster, is taking on to raise 1m for the Help for Heroes charity, which supports those who have been wounded in Britain's current conflicts.

He is returning to Headley Court, the armed forces rehabilitation centre in Leatherhead, for treatment, but plans to complete the London Marathon in two weeks on crutches, and also climb El Capitan, a 3,000ft rock formation in the US.

Maj Packer, who served with the Royal Military Police, was injured on 19 February last year in Basra. He was hit by a vehicle and dragged underneath it during an incident that followed a rocket attack.

He suffered a bruised heart and damage to his ribs and chest and became a complete paraplegic, losing the motor and sensory use of his legs. As a result of his injuries he was told he would never walk again.

Return to work

Almost a year later, Maj Packer, who remains a serving army officer, has regained some feeling in his legs and is determined to walk once more.

So far his appeal, run through his website, has raised 155,000, with a further 35,000 due to be added from an event organised last Christmas.

Major Phil Packer
Major Packer is raising money for injured soldiers

Maj Packer, who has also served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland, is hoping to return to work later in the year.

His rowing companion Mr Humphreys, 32, from Clapham, south London, previously spent four years cycling round the world, has written two books and run the Marathon des Sables, a six-day endurance race across the Sahara desert.

The pair only began training together for their rowing challenge at the start of this month.

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