On Wednesday 31st August VOS had a day out to visit Fort Nelson and see their exhibition marking 40 years since the Falklands conflict. Here’s a reflection on the visit:
A group of VOS volunteers and service users headed up by Pips have met up to explore Fort Nelson. Before we go inside we pose for a group picture; it’s very windy and blustery, but we manage to hold onto the VOS banner and fly the red duster, well a little one, in recognition of Merchant Navy Day. The fort sits on Portsdown Hill overlooking Portsmouth Harbour and is one of a chain of Palmerston’s Victorian forts built to protect the harbour from a landward French Invasion.
Before we’re let loose to wander around, our guide gives us a brief history of the fort and tells us it was obsolete by the time it was completed in 1871, and never used for its intended purpose!
After various uses, it was abandoned in 1950 and eventually bought by Hampshire Council and gradually restored with the help of Royal Armouries into the fascinating museum of today. There’s plenty to see: guns and canons, including the Iraqi super gun, the living quarters for the soldiers and the hospital, the tunnel leading to the gunpowder store and the ramparts with views over the surrounding countryside.
There is also the Falklands 40, What Portsmouth Saw, Exhibition. There’s a series of photos from The News archives; it’s fascinating to see actual papers from 40 years ago and pictures of many of the ships returning to Portsmouth. A display of some of the weapons used by both sides in the war is a reminder of the brutality of war. A continuous video loop is playing with 10 veterans telling their experiences of the war, including Joe Erskine, one of the founder members of VOS. It’s very moving and a sober reminder of the memories that veterans carry from such conflicts. This exhibition demonstrates how important Veterans Outreach Support’s approach of ‘cure sometimes, heal often and comfort always’ is to the veteran community.
In good VOS style, we round the visit off with a brew and banter. It’s been a great visit and plenty more left to see on another day.
(Written by M. Freer)
If you’re a veteran from the UK Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy (from any time of service) or a partner to one, VOS would love for you to join our community. We are here to offer our support: call us on 02392 731 767, visit an upcoming drop-in, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOS is immensely grateful to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, as without their support and funding we would not be able to provide activities such as this one.