Born in Bootle, Merseyside, where he still lives, James O'Connell enlisted in the Parachute Regiment in 1979.
In April 1982, after a posting in Cold War Germany and a tour of Northern Ireland, the call came to take part in the British Task Force to re-capture the Falklands. During the attack on Mount Longdon, James was shot in the face. A bullet passed through his nose, destroying his right eye, cheekbone and front teeth. Though he survived, five years of reconstructive surgery followed, and James left the army in 1985 as a result of his injuries.
Following the conflict, transition to civilian life was a difficult and James suffered from what was likely undiagnosed PTSD. He eventually married his long-term girlfriend Maureen, who he met in 1981, and they have two sons.
Since 2014, James has helped with the campaign to get a posthumous gallantry medal for Cpl Stewart McLaughlin and was instrumental in getting a memorial erected on Mount Longdon on the exact location where Sgt Ian McKay was killed winning a posthumous Victoria Cross, and he has travelled to the Falklands several times in order to write this book.