Portsmouth called to arms to help lonely veterans over Christmas

A plea has gone out to News readers to keep an eye out for lonely veterans this Christmas
A plea has gone out to News readers to keep an eye out for lonely veterans this Christmas
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TODAY The News is issuing a rallying cry to our readers urging them to brighten up the life of a lonely veteran over the Christmas period.

Armed forces charities, MPs, council leaders and former soldiers have thrown their weight behind the appeal.

Pompey legend Alan Knight makes a surprise visit to Second World War veteran Charlie Pratt, 93, at his home

Pompey legend Alan Knight makes a surprise visit to Second World War veteran Charlie Pratt, 93, at his home

It comes amid rising concern that veterans – of all ages – could be left isolated and alone across the Portsmouth area this winter.

The effort is calling on residents to keep an eye on elderly neighbours and for families of veterans to make sure their loved one feels supported over the Christmas period.

Louise Purcell, Portsmouth’s Poppy Appeal organiser for the Royal British Legion, is among those backing this year’s plea.

Her husband, Chris, suffers with PTSD after surviving the sinking of HMS Sheffield in the Falklands War 1982.

I’m proud to back this brilliant campaign by The News. Let’s make Pompey proud with everyone doing their part.

Louise said Christmas can be a challenging time for Chris and his navy pals.

She said: ‘Christmas can make veterans remember those people they’ve lost.

‘It brings back all those horrible memories and survivor’s guilt of comrades who aren’t there anymore. It can be a very depressing time for them.’

D-Day hero Ronald Cross, of Gosport, is lucky – he will be celebrating Christmas with his loving family.

But the 97-year-old decorated veteran said there were many others who are not so fortunate. He said: ‘Veterans shouldn’t be left on their own with no help at Christmas. It can be a lonely time.’

Charities and celebrities have already been showing their support this year.

Age UK Portsmouth teamed up with Pompey legend Alan Knight to brighten the day of a lonely retired soldier.

The Blues’s beloved keeper made a surprise trip to the home of Second World War veteran Charlie Pratt, 93, in Paulsgrove.

Avid Pompey fan Charlie said the visit had meant a lot, adding: ‘It was a great surprise to see him. It was nice to meet somebody like that. I remember seeing him in goal. He was brilliant.’

The day was part of Age UK’s Joining Forces Portsmouth project.

Kandy Lucas, socialisation manager for Age UK, said the befriending service aimed to help older veterans who feel isolated and lonely. She’s now urging people to volunteer with the scheme.

‘We are looking for anyone who can spare an hour or two a week to meet with an older veteran in person, or chat over the phone,’ she said.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP and former armed forces minister, said the city has plenty of support out their for lonely veterans

But she added: ‘We all need to be good neighbours. This time of year is busy but let’s ensure we all make time to check on those who might be on their own.’

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, said: ‘The loneliness and isolation too often experienced by our veterans requires urgent action.

‘The very least we owe our ex-armed forces personnel is some warmth and company over Christmas.

‘That’s why I’m proud to back this brilliant campaign by The News. Let’s make Pompey proud with everyone doing their part.’

A study by the Royal British Legion of the ex-service community revealed about 370,000 veterans of all ages feel lonely and isolated.

A spokesman added: ‘In particular at this time of year, it is important to support those who may feel cut off from society. We would encourage anyone to take the time to engage with veterans in their community and to ensure that their service is not forgotten.’

To join Age UK’s ‘Joining Forces’, call 023 9288 3506, email kandy.lucas@ageukportsmouth.org.uk or visit The Bradbury Centre, in Kingston Road, Buckland.

The Royal British Legion has funded Forces Friends, a similar award-winning scheme by Age UK, in Nottingham.