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Veterans join forces to combat PTSD by restoring 1960s tank

PUBLISHED: 11:52 10 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 10 February 2019

From left to right: Paul Werden-Hutchinson, Brian Munro, Dave Taylor, Dusty Duddridge, Thomas Young and Duncan Mansfield with the Chieftain tank they are restoring at Raydon Airfield Picture: Neil Didsbury

From left to right: Paul Werden-Hutchinson, Brian Munro, Dave Taylor, Dusty Duddridge, Thomas Young and Duncan Mansfield with the Chieftain tank they are restoring at Raydon Airfield Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

An Army veteran who served across two continents is heading up a project to restore a priceless piece of British history in an effort to help ex-servicemen cope with PTSD.

Duncan Mansfield, who served in Ireland, Germany, Belize and Canada, bought a 1960s Chieftain Tank two years ago – and has now made it his mission to restore the vehicle to its former glory.

Based at Raydon Airfield near Ipswich, the project serves as an opportunity for ex-servicemen living with loneliness or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to spend time in a semi-military environment, where they can begin to process their experiences and get to know like-minded veterans.

Duncan Mansfield is helping to combat PTSD and loneliness among former military personnel Picture: Neil DidsburyDuncan Mansfield is helping to combat PTSD and loneliness among former military personnel Picture: Neil Didsbury

Speaking about the idea behind the restoration group, Mr Mansfield said: “When you leave the armed forces it’s such a culture shock to come back into civvy street, and a lot of the guys really miss working with old soldiers again and being around them and having the same experiences.

“So the idea is to get these guys who are maybe suffering from PTSD or just from being lonely in civvy street and want to come down and be around military personnel again.”

The 1960s Chieftain tank which is being restored at Raydon Airfield Picture: Neil DidsburyThe 1960s Chieftain tank which is being restored at Raydon Airfield Picture: Neil Didsbury

Mr Mansfield explained that PTSD can be triggered after experiencing traumatic events, and often affects those who have spent time in war zones.

“If you’re a 19/20 year old and you go into a battle situation, you see people being blown apart, you see your friends dying – these have long term implications and they stay on your mind constantly,” he said.

Brian Munro, a former tank engineer says the camaraderie among the restoration volunteers is special Picture: Neil DidsburyBrian Munro, a former tank engineer says the camaraderie among the restoration volunteers is special Picture: Neil Didsbury

“Saying that, sometimes you don’t think about it for six months then all of a sudden it will become an urgent priority again. It leads to depression, it leads to drinking, it can lead to domestic violence.”

He added that time spent with fellow ex-servicemen can be especially cathartic for those feeling lonely, as they can speak openly about their experiences with people who will understand.

The Facebook group has a growing following among enthusiasts and ex-military personnel Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYThe Facebook group has a growing following among enthusiasts and ex-military personnel Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

“You can talk to a soldier who you consider to be a brother – you can talk to them about everything and anything and you would not feel embarrassed to do so,” he said.

“We’ve all been in the same boat, we’ve all been there, so it gives them a chance to de-stress.

From left to right, Thomas Young, Dave Taylor,  Dusty Duddridge, Duncan Mansfield, Brian Munro and Paul Werden-Hutchinson with the Chieftain tank they are restoring near Ipswich Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYFrom left to right, Thomas Young, Dave Taylor, Dusty Duddridge, Duncan Mansfield, Brian Munro and Paul Werden-Hutchinson with the Chieftain tank they are restoring near Ipswich Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

“That’s the idea – the long term project of all these military vehicles here is to give them a chance to come down, get dirty, have a chat with the guys, have a laugh, have a barbecue or dinner or whatever, and go back to their lives afterwards.”

Brian ‘Mungo’ Munro, a former tank engineer who is a keen participant in the project, said he particularly enjoyed the social side of the project.

All but one of the volunteers helping to restore a Chieftain tank at Raydon Airfield are ex-military Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYAll but one of the volunteers helping to restore a Chieftain tank at Raydon Airfield are ex-military Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

“It’s the same banter as when you were in the Army,” he said.

“Everyone gets on with everyone and we all take the mick out of each other which is what you do in the Army anyway.“

The 1960s Chieftain tank near Ipswich which will be restored over the next two years Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYThe 1960s Chieftain tank near Ipswich which will be restored over the next two years Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

More information about the project can be found on its Facebook page, ‘Chieftain 03EB39 Restoration Group’.

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