How An Historic Fort Is Helping Veterans Transition To Civilian Life

The derelict “casemate” is being turned into a space for veterans’ courses.

Veterans are being given the chance to restore part of a historic fort in Eastney, on the south-eastern tip of Portsmouth.

Built in the 1700s, Fort Cumberland was originally used to defend the Naval Base from a landward attack and stayed in military service until the 1970s.

Veterans are now being encouraged to restore and repurpose the semi-derelict casemate.

"Rather than just doing the restoration and then running the workshops, we thought, 'why not making the restoration the workshop?'" says Steve Bomford, from Company of Makers.

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Veterans are sharing their ideas about the future of Fort Cumberland.

Several groups of veterans have spent time at Fort Cumberland and have developed ideas for how the space will look.

"I suffer from PTSD. I have done for a long time," says Army veteran Danny Lloyd, who was presenting his ideas.

He feels that the location and the activities are helping him with his anxiety:

"It has only been two days, but because of the location it is really quiet and my anxiety has dropped considerably."

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Veterans and creatives are working together to restore Fort Cumberland.

The project has received funding support from the RAF Benevolent Fund, ABF the Soldiers Charity and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

Once up and running, the casemate will host workshops, and activities like painting, photography and even sewing.

Helping the project come to fruition is architectural designer Nick Hopper.

Mr Hopper says to be impressed by the ideas the veterans have for Fort Cumberland:

"The way they have approached it has been very individual, incredibly creative."

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The location of Fort Cumberland is believed to have positive effects on veterans' mental health.

The location of the fort is also believed to be helping veterans re-adjust to civilian life. 

Close to one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, Fort Cumberland is also peaceful and surrounded by wildlife.

Royal Navy veteran John Butter believes the location will help veterans:

"It is old, and because it is old, it is not busy.

"The flora, the fauna and all of these buildings just take you into a calm, cool [state]."

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When working on the Fort Cumberland project, veterans also get the chance to be close to nature.

The team behind the project hope to have the casemate up and running soon and already want veterans to get in touch if they are interested.