In early 2013 VIA moved into its new centre which comprises of two buildings with the first being where we have first floor offices. The second building was an old farm building that needed a bit of tlc with an old stud wall structure inside which we soon ripped down.
Billy MacLeod approached a friend from the Royal Engineers called Grant Holley (Ssgt) who was stationed with 26 Engineer Regt at Perham Down and who was a Clerk of Works with the aim of asking him if plans could be drawn up to replace the old structure that had been ripped down.
Grant visited the centre in late 2013 to have a look at what we wanted and suggested that we put this to the Corps Of Royal Engineers to take the job on as a task in what we used to call Military Aid to the Civilian Community (MACC Task).
This idea then went off to the Corps but due to deployments and how busy they were they couldn’t do the task at that time. One of the stumbling blocks to getting the task done was the funds to carry out the task as although the Corps would carry out the task, VIA would have to fund it.
The first thing we did was clean the old building out to give us an empty canvas to work from and we then set about painting the building inside and outside giving it a fresh appearance and we operated this way right through until 2015.
During 2015 VIA set off on our largest challenge called Walk 4 PTSD walking 4,000 miles around the coastline of Britain. Shortly after our return in September Billy MacLeod was approached by a representative from 26 Engineer Regiment about the task as they were looking to do some pre-deployment training.
Again the only stumbling block was the funding for the task and Billy MacLeod asked if a revised plan could be put together that would include the funding for the basic structure which would include the block and timber work.
A revised costing list was sent to VIA with the costings of the building materials for just the basic structure at around £5,000. With this figure in mind VIA put out an online appeal through Facebook in the hope of raising this amount.
A meeting was then set up with Major Anna Scott, the OC of 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron who wanted her Squadron to take on the task. After a successful meeting with Major Scott and her Team she made a decision to take the task on putting great faith in VIA to access the funds.
The appeal for funds was done as a bit tongue in cheek with the name being VIA SOS – The Wee Build as some of the VIA TEAM and supporters had recently taken part on the DIY SOS – The Big Build where they helped renovate a street of houses in Manchester for veterans.
As said, we were hoping we could raise up to £5,000 on the online appeal but the support we received was overwhelming and funds came pouring to the tune of £23,000 in the lead up and during the task.
The Troop Commander Lt Matt Hankin and Troop Sgt Adam brown were running the task with their Troop from 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron and VIA were going to provide some trades and expertise from former Sappers who had either learned their trades in the Corps or after they left.
The Troop arrived on the 02nd of November and very quickly settled into the centre and with the VIA Team as in reality we had been exactly where they had been on different tasks around the world.
We invited our celebrity bricklayer and friend of the stars, Derek Shannon who is our Glasgow team Leader to come and help get things started with the blockwork and he took a week off work to take part. Del had recently been the bricklayer on the DIY SOS task again giving up 2 weeks work to take part.
Del worked incredibly well with the bricklayers from 33 and the basic structure went up very quickly before he had to leave and of all things go to a 33 Reunion in Blackpool from the Squadron when they based in Northern Ireland and where the Squadron Logo comes from and the name Shamrock Squadron. The Troop presented Del with a 33 Armoured Engineer T Shirt.
The Carpenters then took over on the structure with Duncan Crockett, the Operations Manager of VIA passing on his wealth of knowledge as a Corps trained carpenter and joiner and then many years running sites in the civilian world with his latest large construction task being in the Falkland Islands.
At the same time the carpenters were working on the structure the plumbers and Plant Operator set about getting the drainage and plumbing installed and for this task, Billy MacLeod invited his friend Mark Finn who he had served with in Hameln and Northern Ireland to help out as a Corps trained plumber and who now teaches plumbing at college.
The interaction between the former members of the Corps and those serving was fantastic and something that has to be learned from this task in future tasks that the Corps take on. The wealth of knowledge that they were able to pass on was huge and something that was really appreciated by the Corps trades personnel.
There are 1,000 of former Corps personnel who could help out on tasks around the world or in the UK to help those serving who don’t get the opportunity to use their trades all the time. Perhaps this is something that could be discussed with VIA and the Corps in the future as we have a huge following from veterans from the Corps who would jump at the chance.
Billy Macleod worked with the Troop Commander, Matt Hankin who was undertaking his first Construction Task and a great working relationship developed. Duncan Crockett worked tirelessly sourcing materials needed so that the task never slowed down and apart from a few things that held the task up at no fault of anyone it worked seamlessly as Duncan used all his experience.
It was huge for VIA to have the Troop undertaking the task as from the very start of the process VIA wanted the Corps involved as part of trade training and this was down to our own experience of perhaps not touching our trades for long periods whilst serving then all of a sudden you go on tour and are told to, build this………
That is a scary proposition but somehow it always manages to get done and as said previously perhaps this is something the Corps should look at to give their trades personnel the best chances to keep in touch with their trades.
The task was to be completed in 4 weeks and nearing that time with a few jobs still needing completed the OC Anna Scott pulled the ace out of her sleeve which was an extra week to get things completed.
This gave time for the few tasks left to be completed and the troop would have liked to stay and continue to finish the whole task which is being done by VIA (mainly Duncan Crockett) which is lay flooring, fit the kitchen and complete the project room.
A huge thanks need to be put out to companies who also supported the task, which are as follows;
- Fonterra Building Products who supplied the blocks
- Yesss Electrical who supplied all the electrical materials
- Working Environments who supplied all the plumbing materials
- Poly Pipe who supplied all drainage
- Howdens who supplied kitchen cupboards
- Curry’s who supplied all kitchen appliances
- Frankie Corrado who supplied a window
I have missed anyone from this then please forgive me and let me know and I will add it to the list above.
Most of all I would like to thank everyone who donated to the Wee Build, it was YOU that made it happen, without your donations there would have been no Wee Build and no pre-deployment training for 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron.
The structure will help many veterans in the future that need the help from VIA so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for MAKING this happen.
VIA plan to have an official opening at our VIA ALIVE Centre on Saturday 07th of May, the date was chosen because 33 AES will have completed their deployment and will hopefully be able to attend.
A Sapper on the task asked Billy MacLeod who VIA were…………….he thought for a few seconds knowing the usual charity talk wasn’t what was asked for and looking him in the eyes, Billy MacLeod replied. “We are you in 30 years’ time”.
The task was a huge step forward for VIA in the development of our centre it was carried out by Sappers to help a Sapper led charity involving veteran Sappers to help all, just as we did in the army helping all cap badges and in the true nature of the Corps and VIA.
Everyone involved should be proud that they are now a part in changing lives and believe me you will be so never think whatever you did didn’t mean much, it does to VIA and it WILL to those who use the facility.
From everyone at VIA a huge thank you.