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.”