Erskine, one of the UK’s largest Veterans’ charities, has vowed to honour those who didn’t come home and support those who did as it launches its Futures for the Brave campaign to mark this year’s Remembrance Day.
Carers and residents across Erskine’s network of homes will come together on November 11 to remember the brave servicemen and women who gave their lives in conflict. The charity honours their memory every day by providing crucial post-military support to 1,000 Veterans and their spouses.
One man that will never forget is Erskine Veteran Craig McDermott.
A Royal Navy gunner from Sheffield, Craig, was just 17-years-old when onboard HMS Antrim during the recovery of South Georgia in the midst of the Falkland Islands conflict.
What was originally planned to be a five-day expedition to Gibraltar turned into being thrown right into the heart of full-blown warfare, including the rescue of 16 SAS men from the Fortuna Glacier, the disabling of the Santa Fe submarine, as well as the removal of a 1000lb bomb which had crashed through the Antrim’s flight deck.
He said: “When I first heard of the Falkland Islands, like many people I thought they were just off the north of Scotland. I didn’t know where they were – but there is no way I will ever forget them after everything that I witnessed.
“We didn’t know what we were going into. We were naïve and too young to understand the severity of what we were about to encounter. That became evident when we were made to write our wills on the way, just 17-years old.”
Craig was unfazed by the brutal reality unfolding in front of him, admitting the ferociousness of the conflict only became clear when he and his fellow crew members were informed that this may not just be a few days stay.
“We were sent looking for the Argentine submarine Santa Fe on April 25th”, Craig explains. “Our helicopter attacked, dropping two depth charges to blow the stern out of the water, and immediately all hell broke loose. Bombarding lasted about six hours before we finally hoisted the Union flag above South Georgia. We seriously thought that was job done. We thought we were going home – but it soon became clear that was not going to be the case.
“The air attacks were constant and there were several injured during each of the attacks. We had about 10 seconds warning when we were going to be attacked, it was simply a case of bracing. The suffering was indescribable and something that I will never be able to forget. I am forever grateful for making it through to the other side. I will always be scarred by all that I have seen, but it is for that reason I will always remember those who were not as lucky as me.”
Craig, now 57, stayed in the Navy for another seven years after retraining to be a medic, becoming one of the first paramedics in the Navy. On leaving the Navy he joined the Scottish Ambulance Service before moving on to a role with the United Nations. Following an illness in 2019, Craig has made Erskine Edinburgh his permanent home.
He says he owes everything to Erskine after it provided him with a new lease of life and “a future in a home which is safe, secure and happy” following the trauma of fighting in the Falklands. The face of Erskine’s Future for the Brave campaign, Craig tells other Veterans to seek the invaluable support of the charity, and urges others to support Erskine this Remembrance Day.
He said: “The work that Erskine does for so many Veterans cannot be underestimated. I was struggling and realised that I required help with my own medical problems.
“I applied to Erskine and I was lucky to be offered a place. Without Erskine I don’t know where I would be now. It has done so much for me, I’ve got people to speak to, I’ve got food and shelter, and I can’t speak highly enough of the staff. Erskine has provided me with a lifeline, they truly support futures for the brave.”
As a charity, Erskine relies on the generosity of supporters to maintain its commitment to care for Scotland’s Veterans – without donations it simply cannot continue this work. However, to do so Erskine must raise around £10 million annually in order to maintain the level of high-quality care provided.
Erskine Chief Executive, Wing Commander Ian Cumming said: “Every day, for 105 years, Erskine has delivered high-quality nursing care and holistic support, directly to the nation’s Veterans. We know our Veterans very well and conversations with them are always more poignant in the run-up to Armistice Day. This reminds us of the devastating physical and emotional impact that military conflict can have upon those who bravely served and upon their families, who bravely supported them. Erskine will always mark Remembrance, but we truly honour those who fell, by delivering meaningful care and opportunities, to those who returned. Regardless of their age or circumstances, Erskine will strive to deliver the very best possible futures for the brave. We warmly welcome all direct donations in support of our work”
To donate directly to Erskine, please visit www.erskine.org.uk/donate or search “Erskine Veterans”.