Veterans

How Is A Napoleonic-Era Fortress In Hampshire Helping Veterans?

Fort Cumberland in Southsea is a place of protection for ex-military personnel.

A former soldier has set up a camp to help struggling veterans.

It pays tribute to soldiers who have died either in service or who have lost their battle with their mental health.

It is run from a unique base - Fort Cumberland in Southsea, Hampshire.

Gary Weaving, CEO of Forgotten Veterans UK, is in charge of it.

He says he found it difficult after leaving the forces and nearly took his own life.

"Some people that come here - these aren't the pin-up boys, they won't be in the Paralympics," he said.

"They've been ill for years, and some of them may be ill for the rest of their lives.

"To bring them out of isolation, and put them together as a team working as one again, is so powerful.

"We feel like we've lost a community, so now we're bringing it back."

The camp pays tribute to soldiers who’ve died either in service or who’ve lost their battle with their mental health, their names at the foot of each tent.

The Napoleonic-era fortress was built to be a place of protection and in 2019 its ultimate purpose remains the same.

Among the veterans is Dan - he was a marine engineer submariner, but left the Royal Navy in 2018 and later became homeless.

His former captain found him and brought him to Gosport to a shelter before a friend took him to Fort Cumberland and he has not looked back.

"I'm very proud to be part of that charity now because it's given me things like my core values back - my courage, my integrity, my leadership, and above all, teamwork which is something I miss and something I've never found on a civilian street."

Veteran Mel says he used to be a warrant officer and was "used to shouting and marching people around", but "lost all that confidence" when he left the Army.

"In 1973, my Sergeant Major was blown up in front of me, in Northern Ireland. I was only 19 at the time," he said.

"So that's sort of the beginning of the problems that I've got, but mixing with people who've been through similar to what you've been, it helps a lot," he added.