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Gloucester Community Networking

Better Together

National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Armed Forces Veterans with Disabilities Day Out

29th April 2023

GCN Visit to the National Memorial Arboretum

Why did GCN carry out this event?

GCN's Forces Hub (FHUB) » had the opportunity to hire a specially designed coach called The Jumbulance », to take a group of Veterans and their families with a mixture of disabilities to the The National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire.

Aims of the Event

To provide an accessible Day Trip for Veterans with additional mobility needs,and carers, as part of our FORCES HUB (FHUB) - Churchdown.

To combat loneliness and promote 'In Person Networks'.

Feedback from Veterans

Click here » to read some of the feedback GCN received

Click each image below to see full-size

Veteran Testimonials

"Thank you very much for organising the trip to the National Arboretum. Meeting and socialising with many members, veterans and carers, I had a great time looking around the National Armed Forces Memorials. All the hard work tha tyou and the team completed was warmly apreciated by the veterans and carers. Thank you!"

- Steve, Veteran

"At 0830 on Saturday the 29th of April a group of Veterans, including wheelchairs, carers and family met at a car park near to Imjin Barracks ready to board a coach for a visst to the National Memorial Arboretum. The Accessible visit was arranged by Chris Auker-Howlett (Disabled Veteran & Founder of Gloucester Community Networking), who runs the Forces Hub - Churchdown Project.

The coach was a monster; I had never seen anything like it before, although I am sure others had. The side opened up and down came a ramp / lift for wheelchairs, which were loaded and then anchored to the deck (that is the floor for the non Naval types). All able-bodied persons then boarded.

We were all ticked off on a clipboard by a GCN Volunteer. The driver and wheelchair loader, Marie Claire » drove as smooth as silk, with no excessive breaking or accelerating, which made for a superb journey, except for the rain (!), however, it soon cleared and all was well!

On arrival we were met by a courier and directed to where the refreshments were being served. The wheelchair users were taken to get their mobile scooters, which had all been arranged by Chris.

Chris and the GCN Volunteers were on hand at all times making sure we were all okay.

After coffee, we had an hour to wander around before lunch, which went well with a selection of food and drinks.

Chris organised the Land Train; a wonderful vehicle, which is able to deal with wheelchair users. When we were all aboard, the journey started for our tour. For anyone who had not visited before, it was wonderful and so sad, but for those who had relatives' names inscribed on memorials the heart strings were stretched to the limit, there was a commentary throughout which was very informative. On completion of tour there was time for tea and a wander around the gift shop.

We were asked to be ready to load the coach by 4.15 for the journey home, this was uneventful except for another heavy rain storm.

My overall impression was of a group of veterans, all of whom still regarded their Service time with respect. Many of them had had difficult times and some were prisoners; they were all still disciplined and when asked to be at a place at a certain time, everyone was there; no hanging around.

My admiration for Chris and the GCN Volunteers is second to none and they have my sincere thanks for a wonderful day and all their hard work!

- B, Ex Royal Navy Wren