Veterans give Harry three cheers

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Prince Harry was given a rousing three cheers by ex-servicemen when he visited a residential home for veterans – some of whom were in Afghanistan at the same time as him.

He was at Avondale House, an oasis of more than 30 one-bedroom flats in the heart of Newcastle’s tough Byker Wall estate.

Run by the charity Armed Forces & Veterans Launchpad, it supports former personnel who may have struggled with life after leaving the services. Among them were Martin Appleby, a 46-year-old former Army medic from Ashington, Northumberland, who suffered post traumatic stress following the Musgrave Park Hospital bomb in 1991.

For 23 years he worked in hotels but never settled and finally he found himself living in his pigeon loft for eight weeks. He has since resettled at Avondale House.

The Prince also spoke to Stuart Hardman, 31, from Durham, a Rifleman who also suffered post traumatic stress, and who fell into heavy drinking. The veteran of three tours of Afghanistan and two of Iraq is the newest resident and is enjoying the calm, supportive environment.

After settling in, he hopes to gain the qualifications he needs to work in road construction.

Major Ken McMillan, one of the three founder members of the charity, proudly showed the prince around the facilities and led the three cheers at the end.

Afterwards, he said: “It was absolutely fantastic. He is so personable and they loved him.

“Some of them served in Afghanistan at the same time as he was at Bastion as an Apache pilot. There are a couple of lads who were infantrymen who he would have supported.

“He has massive respect for them and from them. He is one of them as far as they are concerned.

“The visit has boosted the lads’ morale and he had a good craic with them.”

The aim of Launchpad is to support former service personnel of all ages manage their transition from military to civilian life.

Some may need help with issues that could lead to homelessness and unemployment and the aim is to get them into their own homes within two years.

Earlier, Harry found out just how endangered red squirrels are when he was unable to spot a single one in a conservation area.

He was at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Red Squirrel Northern England project near Fourstones, and spent time in a hide. But crucially, there were none of the grey squirrels which have endangered the reds either.

His guide Conrad Dickinson, who joined him on the Walking With The Wounded expedition in December 2013, said: “He was disappointed (he didn’t get to see the squirrels) but it was a half-hour slot.

“He was saying that the red squirrel is a British icon. It’s part of our heritage, it’s so important that future generations can see red squirrels.”

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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