How the Not Forgotten Association helps ex-service men and women
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 February 2019
A charity providing injured service personnel with life-affirming experiences has passionate supporters in Lancashire. Roger Borrell spoke to one of them
They say an elephant never forgets and that is why it is the perfect symbol for an organisation that not only remembers ex-service men and women who bear physical and mental scars, but also provides them with practical help and life-affirming experiences.
The Not Forgotten association was set up after World War One by American opera star Marta Cunningham. During a tour of Britain she was appalled at shameful treatment of casualties from the trenches, many hidden away and ignored in hospitals. She decided to do something about it and the charity was born.
That passion for helping ex-service personnel continues to burn and nowhere more brightly than in Lancashire. Croston businessman Graeme Barlow, along with family, friends and colleagues, has raised more than £200,000 for this and other north west charities.
It is a cause that has deep meaning for him. Graeme is ex-Army and spent two years in Northern Ireland with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps working with sniffer dogs to seek out explosives. While he came through without any physical injuries, he saw comrades killed and severely injured.
Graeme and his family became regular fundraisers for various charities but after one event that brought in £18,000 he decided to follow in Marta Cunningham’s footsteps and place the money with the Not Forgotten association.
The charity doesn’t hand out cash but provides recreation, leisure and entertainment for any veteran with a disability, illness or infirmity, whatever the cause. This help can come in many forms – from being invited to high profile events like a Royal garden party to simply being bought a much-needed new television. Their motto ‘From Comradeship to Challenge’ is designed to show the variety and breadth of the support offered. Some of the activities provide a physical challenge and the opportunity to develop self-confidence. A prime example is an annual trip paid for by Graeme, who most recently took 20 injured veterans on a week-long break at a country house on the Scottish island of Jura. The trip involved a packed programme of country pursuits – from clay pigeon shooting to overland hikes. ‘It was a week of good fun and great company but we couldn’t do this without the support of my wife, Nicky, and our friends Chris and Sharon Livesey,’ said Graeme, whose children Katy, Jack and Jessica also help during the trips.
During the Jura visit, attended by the charity’s national chairman David Cowley OBE, guests were able to try out a World War One Lee Enfield 303 rifle which Graeme and his friend Chris had purchased. The first to fire it on the trip was a former Royal Marine sniper.
Once they have its full history, it will be auctioned off in 2020, the charity’s centenary year.
‘Although I left the forces some 26 years ago, the welfare of ex-service people is still close to my heart and it’s good to feel the sense of comradeship on these trips,’ said Graeme, who runs the family firm of Barlow Trailers with his brothers. They supply trailers and parts across the UK.’
‘We all really enjoy helping these lads, who are appreciative and well-mannered. It’s a fantastic charity. While they don’t hand out cash, the people they help go on amazing journeys they’ll never forget.
‘There was a skiing trip to Colorado and we recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. One man, Welsh Guardsman Al Roberts, completed it despite being a double amputee who lost his legs after being the victim of an IED. It was worth every ounce of effort just to see the look on his face when he got to the top.’