My Invictus Games challenge

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
August 2023

Kate Chapman meets inspirational athlete David Argyle, who has been selected to represent Team UK at this year’s Invictus Games.

Lincolnshire veteran David Argyle says it’s a privilege and an honour to be selected to represent Team UK in two sports in the forthcoming Invictus Games in Germany.

David, an assistant practitioner in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Learning Disabilities Team at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT), is delighted to be part of the 59-strong UK contingent of Armed Forces veterans and serving personnel at the Games, taking place in Düsseldorf in September.

The 51-year-old will compete in wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball and hopes to challenge himself as an athlete, improving his sporting abilities and increasing his self-confidence.

“I’m immensely proud to have been selected for Team UK. If you’d asked me even a few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed in a million years that I would have this opportunity,” said David, who has also been selected as the Wheelchair Basketball Team UK captain for the Games.

“Sport is a great release; it’s an escape where I can do physical exercise and seriously compete in a team again.

“Going to the Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity – I can’t wait to embrace everything about it and take it all in for the experience.”

The Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, is an international multi-sport event first held in 2014, open to wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, the Royal British Legion (RBL) will deliver Team UK to the Invictus Games this autumn.

Early ambitions
David, who lives in Ruskington, but originally hails from the Wirral, in Merseyside, joined the RAF in May 1990 and moved to Lincolnshire when he was posted to RAF Coningsby in June 1991.

“From around the age of 13, all I wanted to be was an armourer in the RAF. I don’t know why, I think it all started after a career’s day at school, when they came in and talked about weapons, bombs and guns and as a young teenage lad that all sounded great,” he recalls. “I trained at Swinderby and then did my trade training at RAF Cosford. The role of armourer involves lots of different things – I was involved in aircraft weapon loading, maintaining aircraft weapon systems and aircraft emergency escape systems and weapon preparation. It could be a high-pressure role, but I certainly enjoyed it.”

David spent 10 years on 229 OCU/56R (Squadron), Tornado F3s, at RAF Coningsby before moving to Tactical Armament Squadron managing and maintaining explosives and various aircraft weaponry at RAF Marham, deploying with the Squadron during the second Gulf War. He then took up a role as an RAF recruiter, working out of Nottingham Armed Forces’ careers office.

His final posting was as an instructor on Training and Consolidation Flight on the Engineering Officers’ course at RAF Cranwell, which was cut short when he was medically discharged in 2010.

Health issues
In the latter stage of his career, David was diagnosed with the joint condition Osteochondritis Dissecans, where cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow, and Osteoarthritis. Following his discharge, he was later diagnosed with depressive disorder and Fibromyalgia too.

“‘I loved lots of sport during my time in the RAF, football, badminton and rugby, but I started having problems and suffered a couple of injuries; it was around 2005 that my knee started playing up and just got worse from there,” says David, who is married to Rebecca, with whom he has children Jessica (20) and Callum (19).

“‘I had multiple operations and finally had it replaced in 2020. During that 15-year period my other knee developed issues and I suffered problems with my nervous system, that I was told were all a knock-on for over-compensating due to the original knee pain.

“It’s really hard, as when I was going through it, it was a time when the kids wanted me to run around with them because they were young, and I couldn’t; that had a massive impact on me mentally as well.”

After leaving the RAF, David worked as a primary school teaching assistant. He enjoyed the job so much he enrolled at university to complete a teaching degree, but was forced to withdraw when his knee injury worsened, becoming reliant on medication, crutches or walking stick to aid his mobility.

Over the next six years, he says his physical and mental health were up and down to the point where he had a major breakdown in 2016 and only with the amazing support of his family was he able to get back on track.

Sporting inspiration
It wasn’t until 2019, while working for LPFT in a previous role, that David discovered wheelchair basketball by accident when in a meeting with Active Lincolnshire. He decided to give it a go and has been playing for Newark team Jaguars WBC in the National League since June 2019, and plays in the second team who recently won the Central Division.

“I absolutely loved it and was hooked from the start,” he says. “I met another chap who was playing, and he advised me about getting a wheelchair funded; I applied through SSAFA who sought funding from H4H and RAF Benevolent Fund. It’s been a dream to play sport again and the same guy encouraged me to apply for the Invictus Games, so I thought I’d give it a go.”

After attending several pre-selection camps at the end of last year, David found out in February that he’d been selected to represent Team UK. He’s now thrown himself into a rigorous training programme, which includes gym sessions and several weekend training camps with his teammates and he’s looking forward to making the trip to Germany, where he will be supported by family and friends.

“I am so looking forward to it, being with a group of like-minded inspirational people, all looking to push ourselves. The focus now is the same as in the Forces – working hard, training hard and also having a laugh along the way,” he added.

“I’d never played wheelchair rugby until I tried it at the pre-selection camps, but it’s brilliant too – it’s all a challenge and I’ve set my sights on improving what I can, for this absolutely amazing opportunity.

“It’s an absolute privilege and honour to be selected, especially if I think back to where I was seven years ago, not wanting to be here, having put my family through a lot.

“I’m already feeling emotional about the opening ceremony as it gets closer, but I can’t wait to get out there and enjoy it. To be going means so much.”

For more information about the Invictus Games, visit

Photographs: courtesy of David Argyle

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