UK

Soldiers battling back after being wounded in action

  • 16 August 2010
  • From the section UK
A Legion nurse and a wounded soldier
Image caption The centre is due to offer rehabilitation for soldiers wounded in battle

The Battle Back Challenge Centre wants to become one of the UK's leading rehabilitation centres for wounded soldiers, according to the Royal British Legion.

Construction is due to start in 2011, and the centre could by open in summer 2012 - but its location has yet to be decided.

The Legion expects that most injured personnel who are able to return to active duty will go through the centre as part of their recovery.

The centre, which will be open to personnel across the Armed Forces, will provide accommodation, a gym and training facility.

It will use adventure training and sport to help wounded soldiers back into the military or civilian life.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has already pledged to provide the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals to staff the centre.

Military or civilian life

The Battle Back Challenge Centre is a major part of the MoD's personnel recovery centre programme, which was announced earlier this year and aims to help injured service personnel get back to active duty or civilian life.

The Legion itself has already committed £25m over 10 years to support the project and is working in partnership with the MoD and Help4Heroes charity to fund the establishment of four personnel recovery centres.

The first will be in Colchester and is expected to open in spring 2011, with the others located in the garrison centres of Tidworth, Catterick and Edinburgh.

The centres will also provide residential accommodation for recovering personnel who do not have suitable alternative accommodation.

The charity's funding support covers the running of the four planned rehabilitation centres and all the capital and running costs of the Battle Back Challenge Centre.

The largest single donation ever received by the Legion has come from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has pledged a reported £4m advance payment for his memoirs and any royalties to the centre.

Chris Simpkins, director general of the Legion, said it was "delighted" with the "very generous donation" toward the Battle Back Challenge Centre.

"The Royal British Legion doesn't have a position on the political decisions that put people in harm's way. Those are political decisions and nothing to do with a charity.

"Our concern is to deal with the consequences of that, particularly for those who have been injured both physically and mentally."

Medical confidence

Simon Brown, a former corporal, was shot in the head in 2006 while in Iraq.

The 31-year-old from Morley, West Yorkshire, spent more than two years in rehabilitation at St Dunstan's, a charity which supports blind veterans.

He said having high-quality rehab centres is "essential at this present time" for wounded soldiers.

"If you get your rehab wrong then bitterness can set in and it's all downhill from there. The doctors will fix your body, but you have to fix your mind and attitude.

"If you have confidence in the medical staff, then it's a real weight off your mind and you can concentrate on your mental state.

"You also need to be with other people who understand your situation, and can help you through it."

Mr Brown, who left the Army on 1 August, said it "did not matter" where the funding for the new centre came from and that the important thing was for "facilities to be put into place".

He added: "Tony Blair didn't have to give the money over, he could have just banked it. It if helps ease his conscience then why not?"

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