It is rather fitting that Prince Harry, a veteran himself, celebrated the 25th anniversary of Veterans UK. Veterans UK provides a 24-hour helpline service based in Blackpool for veterans and their families.
It provides 24-hour welfare care for ex-servicemen and women and their families. To handle the hundreds of calls received every day, it works in partnership with other charities and support networks. The Ministry of Defence service also administers pension and compensation schemes for those injured or for family members who are bereaved through their service in the Armed Forces.
The Prince met some of those who have been, or who are currently being assisted by Veterans UK. Jemma Neilson, 29, of Preston was widowed four months ago when her husband, Darren, 31, was killed in a tank explosion at Castlemartin, West Wales.
Gemma explained how she received a pension entitlement and access to the Armed Forces compensation scheme. After the death of Darren, Gemma and her eight-year-old daughter moved from military accommodations. They are living with her parents until they find housing of their own. Veterans UK is assisting them so they might purchase a home. “The service has been absolutely invaluable. I don’t know where I would be without it,” she said.
She went on to say Prince Harry was so friendly and discussed how he “instantly” put her at ease as he listened and paid attention to her.
Retired RAF squadron leader Stephen Flaherty, 66, received a war disablement pension, said Harry was: “a delight. “He has a very detailed knowledge of an awful lot, without a shadow of a doubt. A very caring person.”
Mr Flaherty, from Lytham, had to quit flying in 1986 due to medical issues. He was eventually introduced to Veterans UK. He said: “They tell you about allowances that I had never heard of. They are always there.
“I am very privileged to be all to call on them.”
Harry toured the site at Norcross and listened in on a call with helpline adviser Lyndsay Ethell.
Ms Ethell said: “It was a great honour meeting Prince Harry, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I feel extremely privileged to be part of.
“The whole helpline deserve this recognition for all the hard work we do.”
Jon Parkin, head of Veterans UK, said: “I was delighted to welcome Prince Harry to Veterans UK. I am hugely inspired by his work with veterans, so I was very proud to be able to demonstrate the breadth of services we provide here.”
Later in his visit, children of Veterans UK staff presented the Prince with a “brass Passchendaele commemorative poppy made from shell fuses found on First World War battlefields.” Harry then unveiled a plaque to commemorate 25 years at the Norcross site. He then told everyone present: “Happy anniversary everyone. Thank you for all the amazing work that you have been doing and see you in another 25 years.”