Stephen Fry has joined Prince William, Angelina Jolie and the leaders of the three main political parties in backing The Independent’s Homeless Veterans campaign, urging the public “to ensure that no veteran faces a future without a home”.
The actor, author and television presenter – whose depiction of the unhinged General Melchett in the First World War sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth remains one of his most memorable roles – said it was “shocking” to think that some of Britain’s ex-servicemen and women could be left homeless after re-entering civilian life.
Proceeds from The Independent’s Homeless Veterans appeal will be split evenly between ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, an umbrella organisation which gives grants to thousands of individuals and smaller projects, and Veterans Aid, which directly combats homelessness among former servicemen and women through its London drop-in centre and hostel.
“There are some well-loved symbols of the British way of life: Routemaster buses, village cricket, rain-drenched flower shows and the dazzling displays of precision drill performed at the Trooping of the Colour and the Royal Tournament,” Fry said. “Our armed forces, however, are so much more than just an ornamental national institution. They brave danger, they are prepared to sacrifice all, they leave everything behind and they do it with heroic good cheer and without a whisper of complaint. It’s shocking, then, to think that after dangerous deployment in the service of their country some veterans face housing hardship. Others battle mental ill-health, alcohol dependency, family breakdown or injury too. They are desperately in need of financial assistance and public recognition.”
Fry, who attended the opening of The Soldiers’ Charity garden at the Chelsea Flower Show last year, reading a selection of First World War poetry, also spoke of his own family’s military past.
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
“My grandfather served in the Austro-Hungarian Army in the First World War. Despite being just 18 years old when he volunteered, he won a medal on the Eastern Front, where millions of men lost their lives in the battle for Romania. He trudged home on his own, receiving nothing in the way of support or help. Luckily, today we have much more in place to look after our soldiers,” he said.
“I am in good company. Members of the Royal Family and many others from all walks of life have all backed this campaign. It is surely up to those of us who have a voice to support those who have none. Give veterans the help they deserve.”
The heads of both charities being supported by The Independent’s appeal welcomed the actor’s words. Major General (Ret’d) Martin Rutledge, chief executive of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, said: “We are extremely proud of the support Stephen has given [us] throughout the year. He gave a very moving poetry reading at the Chelsea Flower Show and has now shown to the country the depth of his support for the men and women of our armed forces.
“As with Stephen, many of us in the UK have a direct relationship with someone who has served, be it recently or 100 years ago, so the campaign is very personal to many of us. This appeal is highlighting the plight that many veterans go through when leaving the services – but it is also giving the country a chance to let all those that have served know that they will not be forgotten, at all levels.”
Dr Hugh Milroy, the CEO of Veterans Aid, said the actor’s words were particularly poignant given his own history of mental health problems. Fry has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has spoken in the past about attempting suicide.
“I’m delighted that Stephen Fry is backing the campaign – not because he’s a ‘celebrity’ but because he is an individual whose honesty about his own mental health problems has given other sufferers the courage to come forward and seek help,” said Dr Milroy.
“There are so many elephants in the room where veterans are concerned that it is particularly valuable to have the support of someone who understands that men and women whose battles are against depression, addiction and relationship issues also deserve our help. Here at Veterans Aid we know from hard experience that all these things mitigate against being able to secure and sustain accommodation.”Reuse content