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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Wounded soldiers appeal started
Paratrooper Sgt Stuart Pearson in one of the gyms at Headley Court
Headley Court has been expanded to cope with more casualties
An 8m appeal has been launched to improve facilities for the growing number of wounded UK service personnel.

A "non-political" charity, Help for Heroes, wants to build a gym and full-sized pool at Headley Court rehabilitation centre in Surrey.

It is the idea of cartoonist Bryn Parry who served in The Royal Green Jackets.

He said he had been "profoundly humbled" meeting soldiers and staff at Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham, the first stop for injured service people.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, is a trustee for the appeal and said there was an increased need for public support to improve facilities.

"As our operational commitments have become more intense, so the need for support from the nation has grown," he said.

We would question why this needs to be delivered through the charitable sector rather than the government
Sue Freeth

"Help for Heroes gives the public a practical way to demonstrate their support for those serving our country."

The charity's first planned fund-raising event, a 320-mile bike ride through World War I and World War II battlefields in France, is scheduled to take place in May next year.

Mr Parry said: "I just feel we ought to be showing we care and appreciate these brave young men.

"We owe a debt to these people and we need to ensure that if they are injured then they get the very best of care to help them overcome any disability."

A new 30-bed ward has been added to the existing 170 beds at Headley Court in July to cope with the growing numbers of forces personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In August, plans to turn a 1.7m house in nearby Ashtead into a "home from home" for families of injured service personnel were approved by the local council.

Bryn Parry
Cartoonist Bryn Parry served in The Royal Green Jackets

Sue Freeth, the Royal British Legion's director of welfare, said improvements to rehabilitation facilities were "urgently needed".

But she added that the new charity raised questions over the government's approach to caring for the wounded.

"We would question why this needs to be delivered through the charitable sector rather than it being a top funding priority for the government."

Defence minister Derek Twigg said the government had invested heavily to make Headley Court a "world-class" facility.

"The offer of extra funding from Help for Heroes is very welcome," he said.

"It will allow us to further improve the quality of life of patients at Headley Court."




SEE ALSO
Ministers 'failing UK soldiers'
15 Aug 07 |  UK Politics
Service families' home approved
01 Aug 07 |  Surrey

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