Micky Yule and Tom Weatherall say goodbye to Headley Court.
Veterans

Veterans From Different Eras Say Goodbye To Headley Court

Forces News has followed two veterans, once treated at Headley Court but decades apart, as they said farewell to the rehabilitation centre.

Micky Yule and Tom Weatherall say goodbye to Headley Court.

Forces News has followed two veterans, once treated at Headley Court but decades apart, as they said farewell to the rehabilitation centre. 

At its peak, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court treated more than 20,000 patients a year.

But this autumn, its doors are set to close for good.

Based in Surrey, the centre has helped hundreds of thousands of military patients rebuild their lives after injury since it opened in the late 1940s. 

Micky Yule, a former Royal Engineer, was treated at Headley Court in 2010 after being wounded in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, RAF veteran Tom Weatherall was treated in the 1970s and returned with Micky to Headley Court to find a place he once knew so well had changed:

"Oooh yeah its changed a bit, this accommodation's all new," Tom said to Micky as they walked through the grounds. 

Micky showed Tom just how much the centre had changed since Tom was discharged.

The site has grown and grown since it was first established, state-of-the-art modern facilities now sit alongside decades of history.

The manor house at Headley Court was built in the 1890s, it was twice used as a headquarter during WWII and in 1947 it became a rehabilitation unit for the RAF. Four decades later, it became tri-service.

Headley court became tri-service in the 1980s.
Headley court became tri-service in the 1980s.

After injury in Afghanistan, Micky had both legs amputated and arrived at Headley Court for rehabilitation. He said: "I came down here as a big-time, injured soldier...two people to transfer me off a bed, full-time wheelchair user and I came to this place and seen double amputees, who were not only running - they were climbing walls, they were water-skiing and everything.

"My eyes were really wide open coming here, just to see what you could do as an amputee.

"The staff here are amazing, you have people here who not only care about you but they're reassuring you and your family that things are going to be alright.

"It's a really dark place when you come here and you're wondering where your place in the family is, if you're ever going to be able to get back into your community again and you get reassured here...and there's no doubt, that's what I always thought, there was no doubt I'd ever walk again because they've done it before and they'll do it again."

Micky Yule powerlifting.
Micky Yule powerlifting.

Since being able to walk on his prosthetics, Micky has achieved a lot, becoming a European powerlifting champion, an Invictus Games gold medalist and a Paralympic athlete.

"I'd seen these guys [Paralympic athletes] on TV, absolutely destroying the field when they were doing throwing or running events and I wanted to be one of those guys," Micky explained.

"I set myself a goal to go to the next Paralympics which was Rio (2016), I knew I had to work hard.

"I was always interested in strength, sport and powerlifting and I put all my efforts and all my motivation to do that."

Tom and Micky reminisce Headley Court.
Tom and Micky reminisce Headley Court.

Tom Weatherall did national service with the RAF, taking part in the Queen's coronation and becoming a sportsman and radar operator.

He later rejoined the forces in catering but a deep cut to his arm nearly ended his career. Tom told Forces News: "I nearly cut my hand off with a glass and it was hanging off and I was put into the hospital, I was in there for four-and-a-half hours and lost four-and-a-half pints of blood. 

"They put a plastic cast on, which was on for a long time, then they said 'we're sending you down to Headley Court for rehabilitation'."

The pair walked around the grounds, reminiscing of the food served to memorable moments and the Officer's Mess. 

The Duke of Cambridge at the DNRC unveiling (Picture: PA).
The Duke of Cambridge at the DNRC unveiling (Image: PA).

As Headley Court closes, patients and staff will move to the £300 million Defence National Rehabilitation Centre in Nottinghamshire - the new facility was formally gifted to the nation by the Duke of Cambridge in June. 

The DNRC was the idea of the late 6th Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, who led the £300 million fundraising drive with a personal gift of £70 million.