Norfolk-based forces charity Bridge for Heroes opens new Military Experience Day Centre in King’s Lynn
- Credit: IAN BURT
A unique military experience centre has been opned by a Norfolk armed forces charity which helps former personnel suffering from stress disorders.
Former head of the army, General The Lord Richard Dannatt, cut the ribbon to open Bridge for Heroes's Military Experience Day Centre (ME-DC) in the Millfleet, opposite Hillington Square in King's Lynn.
He told guests, including West Norfolk Mayor Liz Watson and senior officers from all three branches of the armed forces, that Bridge for Heroes was a vital part of the veterans' support network in Norfolk.
'It's on the ground, where people need help,' he said. 'This is just the start of something that's going to be really valuable now and in the future.'
Former soldier Mike Taylor, who founded the charity in 2010, said the building, a former social club, was derelict four months ago.
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'This has all been done on a budget of less than £1,000 by volunteers working around the clock,' he added. 'This charity isn't about helping lives - it's about saving lives.'
Mr Taylor thanked the centre's supporters including the borough and county councils, Prince's Trust, the military and Freebridge Community Housing.
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Inside, the ME-DC features battlefield displays where visitors can fire airsoft weapons in simulated conflict. Locations include a D-Day beach, First World War trench, a German bunker and a street scene from Afghanistan.
There are also displays of military memorabilia, including a Norfolk soldier's personal kit and rations from the Second World War, and models.
Bridge for Heroes hopes the centre will help veterans to recall and talk through their experiences. It will also be open for school parties and re-enactment groups to visit.
The charity provides advice and support, confidential counselling and opportunities for veterans from all branches of the military to meet and share experiences.
The new centre will be open on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10am - 5pm. It will operate alongside Bridge for Heroes's contact centre, in South Clough Lane.
Admission is free but anyone wishing to visit should book by calling 01553 760230.