An injured soldier was given the opportunity of attending a woodturning course run by one of his idols – thanks to a military charity.
Former Staff Sergeant Gareth Roberts of Selsey, Chichester, joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1976 and served for 17 years – during this time he was injured on exercise in Canada when he fell from a Challenger 2 tank which resulted in multiple injuries including a spinal injury.
Roberts left the military in 1993 after a British Armed Forces restructure called Options for Change, where total manpower was cut by approximately 18%.
Gareth went into the world of Forensic Science after his military career but still struggled with his physical injuries – especially as his predominant left hand was damaged, but found it was difficult to cope mentally too: “The three tours of Northern Ireland have always stayed with me. We were subjected to daily bombings and rioting. I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD in 2008. As time went on and without help, my PTSD was getting progressively worse.”
Staff Sergeant Roberts became a part of the Help for Heroes Band of Brothers (BoB) membership where wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans come together for experience days, courses and support.
Gareth had always had a keen interest in crafts and woodturning and being creative and saw a course that jumped out for him: “Once I joined the BoB fellowship, I saw a Woodturning course advertised and applied for it. I was gobsmacked to see that the tutor was Stuart Mortimer – who has an international reputation – he’s one of the foremost wood turners in the world.”. He’s not just a craftsman, he’s an artist. ”
The group that attended the course made a variety of objects including a fruit bowl and a long and short stemmed chalice – all in a relaxed environment with expert guidance and other military folks: “The course was great, I was able to take things at my own pace due to my injury in my left hand. It was my first time at Tedworth House but I felt so comfortable. I was able to talk to people outside of a clinical setting to people that are going through similar things as me – I didn’t have to be so guarded and because I felt comfortable, I felt better.”
“It has definitely relaxed me because I enjoyed it so much. I was very focused, therefore less stressed. I learned new skills, and I really enjoyed the week – I’d love go to further with this. It’s really fulfilling being given a tree trunk in the morning and turning it into something completely different by the afternoon.”
Gareth is now looking into ways he can further hone his craft skills and his taste for making things has now extended to making wooden pens, and leathercraft items.
If you are inspired by Gareth’s story and would like to support Help for Heroes visit http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-involved/