UK Veterans help restore Gibraltar military landmark

A team of Armed Forces veterans have returned from a week-long trip to Gibraltar, where they have helped restore Lord Airey’s Battery which sits on top of the iconic Mediterranean rock.

The team are from Alabaré, a UK charity supporting vulnerable veterans and those who have experienced homelessness since leaving the military.  Alabaré runs homes, mental health support services and wellbeing activities dedicated to supporting veterans back into healthy, independent lives.

Each of the veterans who took part have experienced difficulties in their civilian lives which have included being homeless, in debt, loss of employment, addiction as well as struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.  The Gibraltar Veterans Heritage Project is being run as part of Alabaré’s Boots on the Ground programme, which promotes and encourages veterans’ mental and physical well-being through outdoor activity.  The trip, and the energy and commitment that they have put into the week long project, is part of each veteran’s recovery journey, and has a lasting positive impact on their self-belief.

Matt, a Royal Navy veteran, who took part, said;

“I had a brilliant time in Gibraltar.  I have realised that there are some things in this World that you just can’t buy.  We achieved more things in one week than some do in a lifetime.  We improvised and overcome no matter what the situation.  I learnt to never give up on hope.”

This is the third consecutive year that a team from veterans’ charity Alabaré will have helped restore militaria in Gibraltar.

Sitting above the territory, Lord Airey’s Battery is an iconic element of Gibraltar’s heritage, having been built by British troops in 1891 and seen service throughout both World Wars. Since being decommissioned 1976, the gun has fallen into disrepair and is now the subject of a renovation project spearheaded by military historian Pete Jackson, Trustee of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.  The Alabaré team worked under Pete’s guidance for 5 days, significantly moving the restoration forward and helping to preserve this piece of militaria for years to come.

Simon Frith is Alabaré’s Wellbeing Enterprise Manager. Simon lived in Gibraltar for a short time as a child, and visited when he was serving on HMS Glasgow. He said:

“Projects like this have some incredibly profound impact on those taking part and are so much more than you’d assume at first glance. For some the trip becomes that light bulb moment that then opens the door to thinking about a bigger future and that they gain a lot when they get back out in the World and their comfort zones. You see ambition return and mindset shift which is inspiring to witness when some of the guys have felt very ‘stuck’ for a while.

“Health benefits are a standout win for those attending as doing physically demanding activities is a great reminder that we have to invest in our health if we want to do more of these things, we frequently see beneficiaries go away with a clearer focus on wellbeing and lifestyle.

“The support from volunteers and generosity of our benefactors and donors also gives those attending that they are believed in and valued, which can be very powerful when you feel that your self-belief has been battered by life events. This creates a strong sense of wishing to do a good job of what we cane to achieve and repay the faith and kindness shown.”

The project was made possible thanks to the support of a number of organisations both in Gibraltar and the UK.

Claire Montado, Chief Executive of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, said:

“The Gibraltar Heritage Trust is pleased to be able to once again help facilitate the return of Alabaré to Lord Airey’s. The work that Pete Jackson has been undertaking at the gun over the last few years has been pushed along by spurts of focused assistance such as that the Alabaré team have provided again.  Heritage restoration projects have an ability to deliver so much more than just the physical improvement of the monument. In this case, this project is helping to revitalise and preserve a protected historical military structure which additionally enhances Gibraltar’s Tourist offering, but it is also contributing to the improved wellbeing of military veterans.”

The Hon. Dr John Cortes MP is Minister for the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Heritage and Culture, HM Government of Gibraltar, said:

“As the Minister for Heritage, I express my utmost gratitude for the work Alabaré undertakes in Gibraltar. Their efforts in enhancing our military structures are commendable, and this remarkable charity truly deserves our support and admiration. Military heritage assets hold significant value as symbols within our community, playing a vital role in defining our sense of home. While they may sometimes evoke controversy and complexity, they ultimately contribute to the fabric of our cultural identity. “

Alabaré would also like to thank Peter Jackson MBE, HM Government of Gibraltar, Greenwich Hospital, Gibraltar Naval Trust, Friends of Gibraltar Heritage Society, Wright Tech Media, the Salisbury and Amesbury Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club, as well as the many businesses and individuals for all their support in making this project possible.

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