This week, eleven veterans across our service have travelled to help renovate a historic military landmark on top of the world-renowned Mediterranean rock. This marks the second year an Alabaré team helped restore militaria in Gibraltar, having successfully helped complete vital renovation work in May 2022 as well.
O’Hara’s Battery is an iconic element of Gibraltar’s heritage, having been built by British troops in 1890 and named after past Governor of Gibraltar General Charles O’Hara. Along with its sister gun at nearby Lord Airey Battery, O’Hara’s BL 9.2-inch Mk IX gun saw service throughout both World Wars. Since being decommissioned in 1976, the gun has fallen into disrepair and is now the subject of a renovation project spearheaded by military historian Pete Jackson, a member of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
Now a team of eleven veterans from Alabaré, including eight who have struggled and faced homelessness since leaving the Armed Forces, are returning to Gibraltar, a UK territory where many personnel spent time serving.
The Gibraltar Veterans Heritage Project is being run as part of Alabaré’s Boots on the Ground programme, which promotes and encourages veterans’ mental and physical well-being through outdoor activity. Alabaré runs homes, mental health support services and social enterprises dedicated to supporting veterans back into healthy, independent lives.
Boots on the Ground Manager and Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers’ veteran Karen Langley is one of the Alabaré team who will support the eight veterans who have benefitted from Alabaré’s services. Karen says:
“Last year, we saw how beneficial it was for our veterans to work together on the restoration of Lord Airey’s Battery – both for the upkeep of a unique part of Gibraltar’s military heritage and vitally for our veterans as well. This year, we are delighted to return with a new team to work on O’Hara’s Battery and hope to have a similarly positive impact for all involved.
“The veterans we support at Alabaré have each come through some very difficult times. Each of them has been homeless or faced homelessness. Each has several challenges that they are working to overcome, and as a charity, we are supporting them to build new, resilient futures for themselves in their civilian lives.
“The chance to come to Gibraltar makes a big difference to them. The recognition that other people believe in them, the camaraderie of working alongside others who have had a similar experience, and the chance to give something back to a community that is so rooted in the hearts of many UK military families is very significant. The project will be physically hard work, but mentally it greatly boosts our veteran’s morale and self-confidence. We can’t wait to get started.”
Whilst in Gibraltar, the team will be working under the guidance of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, the independent statutory body working to preserve and promote the territory’s culture and heritage.
Chief Executive of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, Claire Montado, says;
“After a very successful collaboration last year, we are very pleased to welcome Alabaré back to the Rock for a second time. There are many individuals and organisations involved in making this project a reality, a project which directly benefits the physical conservation of our heritage, but also has wider impacts on the social and personal development of all those involved.”
Pete Jackson, who served with the Royal Artillery for 12 years and the Royal Gibraltar Regiment for 20 years, is a highly respected local military historian and Trustee of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Pete will be overseeing the works undertaken by the Alabaré veterans’ team.
Pete says, “I am so happy to receive the support from Alabaré in the ongoing restoration of the Battery. This work is much needed to bring this artillery artefact back to a standard where it can receive future visitors. Without this kind of input, we would sadly lose this unique piece of Gibraltar’s military history”.
Matt served 22 years Leading Seaman Warfare as a Radar operator in the Royal Navy. Upon returning home, he struggled to find affordable accommodation and was offered a home and support by Alabaré. Matt will be joining the Alabaré Gibraltar Heritage Team and says:
“I spent time in Malta working in the Marina before returning to the UK. I was then introduced to Alabaré through veterans’ outreach in Portsmouth, and now I live with Homes for Veterans in Salisbury. I volunteer with the Alabaré retail team and at the Community Garden every week at Arundells with the Boots on the Ground team. Being offered a place on the 2023 Gibraltar Heritage Team will give me a chance to give something back and will enable me to meet new people as part of a team. I look forward to seeing how Gibraltar has changed since I last saw it while serving in the Royal Navy.”
The project has been made possible thanks to support and funding from HM Government of Gibraltar, Greenwich Hospital, The Not Forgotten, Gibraltar Naval Trust, Friends of Gibraltar Heritage Society, the Salisbury and Amesbury Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club, businesses and individuals.
Domonic Lopez for the Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Heritage and Culture says, “I am really pleased to see the collaboration between Alabaré, and the Ministry for Heritage continue. I sincerely welcome their support in preserving our heritage and hope it is a positive experience yet again. The Ministry for Heritage would also like to thank the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, especially Pete Jackson, for his efforts and assistance in leading the works.”
Alabaré would also like to thank Community Transport South Wiltshire for their generous support in helping make this project possible.