Royal Marine injured in training now lives independently nine years on

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A former Royal Marine Commando left unable to walk or talk after suffering a brain injury during a training exercise is defying the odds to continue his remarkable recovery.

James Cobby suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell 20 feet from on obstacle course, landing on his head, at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon.

James, who was 19 and undertaking basic training at the time of the accident in June 2011, was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

He was transferred to a specialist brain injury hospital where he was minimally conscious for a year. In 2013 he was then transferred to a care home, where he spent another five years.

Doctors believed he would not be able to talk, stand or feed himself again.

With James’s condition not improving mum, Janet, 58, of Eltham, south east London, contacted specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.

She was put in touch with the law firm’s serious injury team which launched a legal case against the Ministry of Defence. The MoD admitted liability for his injuries and agreed to provide substantial payments to help fund James’s care.

The funds are being managed by Irwin Mitchell’s Court of Protection team to ensure they last for James’s lifetime. They have allowed James to move out the care home and into independent living in Shoreham-by-Sea, where he is supported by a dedicated care team. He also has access to specialist care and therapies.

Eight years after his injury James started speaking. He sent a video saying ‘hello’ to his mum as well as a happy birthday message to sister Jessica, 26.

His feeding tube has been removed and he can now stand with support.



He has been able to take part in Zoom calls with his family during lockdown. James is now also set to take part in the country’s main Remembrance Sunday parade in London after receiving support from military charity Help for Heroes.

Janet is now using Action for Brain Injury Week to share her son’s story to provide hope to other families who have a loved one living with a brain injury.

Sarah Griggs, James’s lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in supporting people with brain injuries, said: “James’s and Janet’s lives had been turned upside by the devastating injuries he suffered.

“For around seven years Janet devoted herself to her son effectively acting as his informal carer, travelling hundreds of miles a week to care for him while still holding down a job.

“It was vital that the process of securing James the best bespoke care package designed to meet his specific needs wasn’t rushed.

“Over the years James has had setbacks with his health and some of his treating doctors never thought he could live independently. Despite this we never gave up on him and really pushed the boundaries to secure James’s independent living as we believed this would increase his quality of life.

“It’s been a real team effort but since James has moved into independent living everyone is amazed and incredibly proud of his progress.

“James is proof that those with even the most severe life-changing injuries can make progress and start to flourish if given the right care and support they need.

“James has exceeded all expectations in what he has achieved and is continuing to do so. He’s like a completely different man. This is a testament to all of the hard work and dedication everyone now involved in James’s care has shown. We will continue to support James and his family and look forward to seeing him defy the odds even more.”

Janet was involved in the process of choosing her son’s care team. Once the team was in place James helped choose the colour scheme and some of the property’s fixtures and fittings before moving in in 2018.

As well as more traditional therapies, including physiotherapy and speech therapy, James started attending music therapy sessions which his family believe really helped develop his vocal ability.

The following year he sent the video messages to his mum and sister. He has also hosted family get-togethers.



James, who likes to be near water, has been able to continue his rehabilitation during lockdown. He is taking part in a Sailability programme aimed at encouraging people with disabilities to take up sailing. He has been on a sailing trip to Cowes, taken part in adapted cycling sessions and undertaken an indoor skydive.

With the help of assisted technology he can use switches to operate kitchen appliances and a joystick for gaming.

Janet said: “When I found out about James’s injuries my world fell apart. He had also wanted to join the Military. He was physically fit and strong as you would expect someone who wanted become a Marine would be.

“Seeing him after his accident was heartbreaking. He had no quality of life and trying to be his carer while juggling everything else was difficult to say the least.

“James wasn’t really improving and there appeared to be no end in sight.”

Janet added: “At first I was nervous about James moving to independent living but I was reassured that it would be the best thing for James. Since he’s moved to independent living he’s much happier. He’s made amazing progress and has a much more active life. James is recognised in the community and people stop and say hello to him. Just small things like that make such a difference.

“James’s whole mood has changed. He wants to do well. He is more engaged, his strength is developing and he doesn’t get as tired as quickly.

“The biggest breakthrough has been that he can now speak again. I longed to hear his voice but eight years from the accident it seemed that this would be nearly impossible.

“When his support team sent me the video of him saying ‘hello’, I burst into tears. It was just unbelievable.

“I can now video call James and have a conversation with him. James’s speech isn’t always clear but he can say a full sentence. His vocabulary is coming on and it’s a delight just listening to him describe objects.

“In the dark days I never dreamed any of this would’ve been possible. I was more of a carer than his mum. Now I have my son back and we can spend quality time together.

“Life may have turned out differently to what we had hoped but I couldn’t be any prouder of James and the strength and determination he’s shown to make the progress he has.

“I just hope that his story may give hope to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.”



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