£6.3m new facilities for veterans’ home

Some of the old soldiers who live there will remember the sounds of clanking tracks - from wartime tanks. But now they are hearing similar sounds outside their windows, as mechanical diggers set about a major revamp of their home.

Some of the old soldiers who live there will remember the sounds of clanking tracks - from wartime tanks.

But now they are hearing similar sounds outside their windows, as mechanical diggers set about a major revamp of their home.

Halsey House, at Cromer, is a month into a £6.3m building project which is the biggest ever done by the Royal British Legion.

The front grounds look a little like a battlefield at the moment - with gardens and a garage flattened to make way for the first phase.

But by 2008 the complex will have a smart new wing of modern rooms and a 16-bed dementia unit.

Ironically it is the home's newest extension, opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1984, that is being pulled down.

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Matron manager Sally Mills said the wings to be demolished had shared toilets, and did not meet modern care standards, so they had to go.

In their place would be a range of en suite rooms, a tea bar and improved staff facilities including training rooms.

The first bit of building was the new dementia unit at the front of the house, which would also have a tranquil room and lounge overlooking a central garden.

It would then be used to house residents, as the extension was knocked down and replaced in two phases.

The aim was to prevent anyone having to be moved off the site while the work was carried out, she explained.

The house currently has 55 residents, but its capacity will rise from 73 to 89 when the project, which will also create 20 new care jobs, is completed.

Fourteen rooms will remain in the main house, which was built as a home for the Barrett-Leyland family in 1901, and called the Red House.

It had a spell as a school, but its connections with the services began when it became a wartime hospital and convalescence home for troops, before being bought by the Legion in 1946.

The dementia unit would also be used by servicemen and their spouses and dependants - drawn from all over the country and there was already a waiting list, added Ms Mills.

Residents, along with local schools, were playing their part in the future - by having a hand in designing a trio of new courtyard gardens, which could include raised gardens to enable people to potter.

The residents, who currently range from 61 to 101, were also planning what to put in a time capsule which will be buried in the new buildings. Items so far included wartime memories, old photographs and views on life today.

An appeal would also be going out to Legion branches in a bid to get some of the rooms sponsored, added Ms Mills.

The home is pressing ahead with its annual fete, on August 5 at 2pm, as the rear grounds will still be available.