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East Yorkshire Veteran Tackles Loneliness and Isolation

East Yorkshire Veteran Tackles Loneliness and Isolation

Published by Karen Liu at 6:01am 17th June 2020.

A group of Royal British Legion members in East Yorkshire is taking part in a telephone buddy scheme set up by the charity to tackle loneliness and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The volunteers are helping to lift the spirits of isolated and vulnerable people by keeping them connected to their community.

One of the volunteers is former Army Staff Sergeant Dennis Woollons, who turns 94 this Sunday.

He said:

“I’ve been involved with the Legion and the Poppy Appeal for almost 25 years. When I heard about the buddy scheme I realised that I was perhaps one of the lucky ones able to cope with the situation, but there might be people who would benefit from contact with someone with possibly similar lifetime experiences, so I decided to give it a go.” 

Dennis has been in contact with two D-Day veterans in North Yorkshire, both in their 90s. He said:

“We talk about our service, of course, but also football, rugby league, the weather and we put the world to rights - we all get something out of it. They enjoy talking to somebody from their own era with similar experiences to them."

Dennis, who lost his wife Audrey, 92, late last year, has been isolating for ten weeks but says his voluntary work with the Legion is keeping him occupied:

“I call the veterans once a week and we all look forward to it. It will be nice to meet up when all this is over!”

Dennis had a distinguished military career, having been seconded to the Indian Army in 1945 based at Burma Command HQ, where he was heavily involved in Operation Nip-Off, the repatriation of Japanese surrendered personnel from Rangoon.

He signed the Official Secrets Act, making him probably the only NCO in the Far East allowed to handle a top-secret guard file. After two years he contracted hepatitis and was sent home on a hospital ship in November 1947, before returning to his career in accountancy.

The Legion’s Area Manager for Yorkshire, Debbie Harding, said:

“The Covid-19 outbreak has created new challenges for those dealing with social isolation and those challenges have increased significantly over the last few weeks. 

But being at the heart of local communities, the Legion is providing support to so many people during this difficult time, reaching out through our incredible network of members, branches, staff and volunteers. 

We have seen an increase in the number of people struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, so the Legion is encouraging anyone who would like to talk to someone to join our telephone buddy scheme.

Through our branch network, many of our members and volunteers have been trained to be telephone buddies, and our network is helping to keep individuals and communities connected during this pandemic.”

  • Anyone who would like to access the Telephone Buddy scheme can contact the Legion on 0808 802 8080.

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