A FORMER soldier hopes to use his restored vintage fire engine to raise money for a charity helping war veterans

Heybridge Basin resident Shaun Morgan is a member of the Pilgrim Bandits.

The charity supports former soldiers and emergency service personnel with major trauma, amputations and post traumatic stress disorder.

He has restored a 1984 Dennis fire engine ready for post-lockdown charity events in a bid to raise publicity and to try getting fundraising started again.

Shaun, who was discharged from the Army with a serious spine injury, said: “2020 has been a rough time for everybody and the unfortunate part is that a lot of charities have been in greater demand than usual.

“We have had no opportunities to raise funds due to lockdowns and other social restrictions.

“We all understand why the rules are in place, but the mental toll has been very high in many communities.”

Shaun also volunteers with the Royal British Legion, Joint Civil Defence Force, RE:ACT veterans response team and other charities.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Shaun in Colchester with the Pilgrim Bandit cycle team on route to Arnhem for the 75th anniversary last yearShaun in Colchester with the Pilgrim Bandit cycle team on route to Arnhem for the 75th anniversary last year

He added: “A positive result of the lockdowns has been some fantastic support from communities and individuals helping each other and forming new neighbourly integrations.

“We recommend something called a ‘buddy check’ which is quite simply a message or a phone call to ensure friends and relations are coping OK.

“But if things are going wrong for individuals, that’s often when government agencies or charities are needed, be it with urgent mental health direction, food and supplies or financial assistance.”

The Pilgrim Bandits originally helped ex-Special Forces operatives but expanded to all areas of the military in the past few years.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Britains most injured serviceman Ben Parkinson MBE with Shaun at a pre lockdown charity eventBritains most injured serviceman Ben Parkinson MBE with Shaun at a pre lockdown charity event

Shaun said: “We are very lucky to have some extremely brave, injured soldiers in our organisation, including the UK’s most injured serviceman Ben Parkinson MBE, who to be honest inspired me after my spine damage.

“I know personally what it’s like to leave the Army injured and have no support from them or the Government.

“I was lucky I had family and friends to help me, but there are so many former troops on their own and who don’t know who to turn to, though I think this year’s epidemic has highlighted how many people generally need help.

“It’s still too early to firm up plans for next year, but we are all hoping next summer may be at least halfway to normality.”

For details, visit pilgrimbandits.org.