Androcles Scicluna was nicknamed the “Maltese Pavarotti” during his time as an entertainer while serving with the British Army.
Now, thanks to support from a military veterans charity, he is finding his voice again by performing Shakespeare on stage. Mr Scicluna struggled with depression after leaving the Army, but he said that acting with the Combat Veteran Players, which he found through the charity Combat Stress, has made the past few years “the best time of my life”.
The 65-year-old left the Army in December 1979, but he found it difficult to adjust. Although he was given a council house with his wife and three children, he recalled: “I couldn’t cope. I was still military, obsessed with everything being in the right place.”
One day, he walked out and slept rough for a time. He spent his nights in doorways in Soho or parks, and was forced to steal food before securing a council house of his own. He kept in contact with his family, but kept his situation a secret. “I was too proud to tell them,” he said.
But three years ago he made contact with Combat Stress, a mental health charity for veterans which this year received an annual grant of £200,000 from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, one of two being supported by The Independent’s appeal for homeless veterans. Staff there encouraged him to get involved with Stoll, which provides housing and support to vulnerable and disabled ex-servicemen and women, and he now works as a tour guide at the Poppy Factory in Richmond, west London.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
He is also involved with the Combat Veteran Players, a Shakespearean theatre company comprised of veterans overcoming mental trauma, which he said has helped him rediscover his talents.
His first role was as Theseus, the Duke of Athens, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic Tunnels.
“Joining the Players has been so helpful, it brought that character out of me. It’s a great improvement,” he said.
“The last three years are much better than the rest of the years of my life. It is great. Not just being helped but the feeling of now helping others.”Reuse content