Help for Heroes veterans visit sculpture

Help for Heroes recent Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters visit to the Weeping Window installation and The Black Watch Museum and Castle in Perth.
Help for Heroes recent Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters visit to the Weeping Window installation and The Black Watch Museum and Castle in Perth.
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A group of Help for Heroes veterans and their families have paid an emotional visit to Poppies: Weeping Window by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper at The Black Watch Castle and Museum in Perth.

The installation is specially presented by 14-18 NOW to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Help for Heroes provides lifelong support to those who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses attributable to service in the armed forces. One form of support is received through the Band of Brothers (BoB) Fellowship while the Band of Sisters (BoS) provides lifelong support to their loved ones. There are almost 500 BoB and BoS members in Scotland. One of them is Laura Fermor who is a collections volunteer at The Black Watch Castle and Museum – the only location on the Scottish mainland to host the commemoration artwork.

Laura, from Spittalfield, Perthshire, was medically discharged from the Royal Logistic Corps three years ago. Laura, 33, was a captain before being medically retired in October 2013, after sustaining life changing hip injuries, eventually requiring bilateral hip replacements.

She finds her voluntary work with the museum’s collections team gives structure to her life, which she had struggled to have since leaving the Army.

She said: “My role doesn’t highlight the physical limitations put on me by my injuries, which is a pleasant change from the almost constant daily reminders of the fact that my life has changed almost beyond recognition since I was injured in 2008.”

As part of its centenary commemoration of WW1, The Black Watch Castle and Museum honours those who served with The Black Watch and who gave their lives from 1914-1918, with a memorial wall, displaying wooden crosses bearing the name of each soldier. The crosses are ceremoniously placed on the wall on the anniversary of the exact date on which they were killed. Relatives of fallen soldiers have often been present to pin the memorial cross for their ancestor to the wall.

Laura added: “Although this installation focuses on the WW1 centenary, for me as a veteran, it also serves as a memorial to those who were killed in conflicts since, including those known to me personally who were killed serving in Afghanistan. Despite being on a smaller scale to that featured at the Tower of London, the installation at the Castle and Museum has lost none of its emotional impact.”

Mary Wilson, Help for Heroes Band of Brothers and Sisters Coordinator for Scotland, agreed: “It was a really poignant visit for our beneficiaries, seeing the dramatic Weeping Window sculpture at first-hand in such a stunning setting and being able to pay tribute to our fallen comrades from World War One and other conflicts.”

On behalf of Help for Heroes, Mary organises coffee mornings in Perth, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen, Inverness, Lossiemouth, Ullapool, Helensburgh, and Galashiels, as well as a fortnightly drop-in centre Veterans Café in Edinburgh which provides tai chi, yoga and free drinks and snacks. Other activities include a Sailability programme with dinghies especially adapted for disabled people, wheelchair curling and wheelchair tennis with plans to introduce badminton and lawn bowls sessions.

Anyone who served in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force who needs the support of Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre can self-refer by calling 01748 834148. Mary Wilson can be contacted on 07773593317 or email mary.wilson@helpforheroes.org.uk

The striking Weeping Window sculpture comprises a cascade of several thousand handmade ceramic poppies pouring from a second floor turret window. Originally conceived as part of the 2014 installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, which was visited by over five million people, it can be seen in Perth until September 25 and will be gifted to the Imperial War Museum after the tour ends in 2018.