Wiltshire Publications

Rob and son, Matthew, snooze under canvas for veterans charity

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A FATHER and son from Westbury are taking part in a sleep out during March to raise funds and awareness for the Royal British Legion Industries’ work to support homeless ex-service personnel.

Rob Yuill, a former army officer, served for 25 years – 8 in the territorial army and 17 in the regular army and he was in The Light Infantry regiment and The Rifles. His service included operational tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and multiple tours in Iraq.

He is sleeping in his garden under his old army basha and is being joined by his son when possible, Wilts Army Cadet Force (ACF) cadet Matthew, 

And for the final weekend, Rob’s daughter Catherine (also a cadet with Wilts ACF) and wife Anne will be joining them in sleeping out.

The RBLI help veterans with shelter, health support, training and getting them into work and properly transitioned and prepared for civilian life. The Great Tommy Sleepout event this month is the first of its kind held by the RBLI and there are currently around 3,600 participants sleeping in all sorts of locations across the UK to help raise the £75,000 target. 

Rob says, “In 2013, I was made redundant as part of the defence cuts, and the sense of loss, fear at what I was going to do next, how would I support my family, and feelings of somehow being a failure at being made redundant from my chosen vocation; put me in a bad place for a bit and I can empathise with how people – without the strong family support network that I had – can go off the rails when getting out of the army and end up without focus drifting onto the streets.”

He continued, “This is the first year the Royal British Legion have done a sleep out like this, and my first year specifically fundraising for this cause, though I’ve helped in other fundraisers for other service charities in the past. 

“The RBLI have been hampered in fundraising by the Covid lockdowns, so had to come up with a way of fundraising remotely. Given that the cause is for homeless people who nightly sleep out in all weathers in improvised shelters, the method is very in tune with the cause. 

“I did a sleep out like this last year – along with the rest of the family – called The Great British Camp Out which was to raise funds to support the NHS. But that was only for 3 nights over a weekend during lockdown. This one has been for much longer – 13 nights so far and keeping going till the end of the month.”

At the same time Matthew is also doing Marches in March in support of Combat Stress, the mental health support charity for veterans. He was originally challenged to do 10 miles for the ACF in March but completed that in the first three days and has just kept going when he can, in between a return to school. By last week (19th March) he had notched up 20 miles.

Matthew said he completes each march carrying no less than 15kg of kit each time he goes out to signify the burdens, worries, anxiety and many other things that veterans may feel because of mental health issues.

Homeless charities assess that there are between 6-7000 homeless ex service personnel across the UK. In Wiltshire which is a centre for the armed forces with Salisbury Plain surrounded by garrisons such as Bulford Tidworth, Larkhill, Warminster, Porton, Boscomb and Perham Downs etc, it is estimated that 25% of homeless people are ex-forces. 

Rob says, ”It is a travesty that people who volunteered to serve the nation, to the point where they are willing to risk their lives for it, are left so utterly helpless on discharge that they end up on the streets. 

“This is what The Armed Forces Covenant was meant to prevent but although all municipal authorities across the UK have signed up to the covenant, in reality few implement it effectively and charities such as RBLI are left to pick up where they fail. The RBLI try to make a difference and I’m trying to help them do it by raising funds for their homeless programme.”

To support Rob’s fund-raiser go to www.facebook.com/donate/261230535656694/

To support The Great Tommy Sleep Out go to https://rbli.co.uk/the-great-tommy-sleepout-2021/

To support Matthew’s Combat Stress fundraiser go to   https://events.combatstress.org.uk/fundraisers/matthewyuill/marchinmarch?fbclid=IwAR2at2IBrAk5JHn9LuWLK4LDiLDD7fvYLpZajWazefIeVj2HR57RZvTh7Xg


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