'Battle Back' Centre Opened For Wounded Troops

Lisa Dowd, Midlands Correspondent
'Battle Back' Centre Opened For Wounded Troops

A £27m centre to help injured and sick Armed Forces personnel recover has been opened by Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle MBE.

The Battle Back Centre, based at Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Shropshire, is funded by the Royal British Legion, which is donating £50m over 10 years.

Ms Tweddle, who trains with the national gymnastics squad at Lilleshall, received treatment there after picking up a knee injury before the Olympics.

The 27-year-old said it was "an amazing honour" to share the Lilleshall site with the Battle Back Centre.

"They go out to Afghanistan to serve for us and it's humbling to know they're putting their lives at risk," she said.

"We hope to put a smile back on their faces by knowing they can just come back to Lilleshall. They are heroes."

Sapper Clive Smith, who had both legs amputated after he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2010, said: "I spent five weeks in hospital, and I spend most of my time with physios at Headley Court and I've been to Lilleshall several times.

"It's more based around sports and adventurous training here, there's wheelchair basketball, volleyball, sailing, shooting, climbing, archery, they'll adapt each sport to your needs.

"Obviously, you get certain people injured who lose focus and become withdrawn and this centre aims to bring them out as they used to be, servicemen and women tend to be sporty, and they can find a release this way."

The Ministry of Defence provides staff for the centre and coaches come from Leeds Metropolitan University. It is hoped 600 servicemen and women will benefit every year from the facilities.

"We fully expect our commitment will continue on from 10 years", said Chris Simpkins, director general of the Royal British Legion.

"Even when we pull out of Afghanistan there will still be injuries, for example in training, and servicemen and women will be living with their injuries for the rest of their lives so they'll benefit for years to come."

The Legion spends over £1.7m a week providing welfare and care services to personnel.