I’m Graham Tolson, I am 62, married with 2 children and have grandchildren. I’m a military Veteran, having served nearly 25 years in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. I joined the Army in 1975 as a Junior Soldier and trained in Aldershot at the Depot of the Parachute Regiment. In 1977 I passed out of the Depot and joined my designated Battalion, 3 Para. I served for 8 years in the Battalion and have some fond memories of great times with great men.
In 1985 it was time for me to move on, I decided to make a complete career change, I trained at RAF Lyneham with 47 Air Despatch Squadron to become an Air Despatcher. Having passed the course, I later transferred to the Royal Corps of Transport. By the end of my career in 1999 I had risen through the ranks to become the Squadron’s Quarter Master Sergeant and was also a Despatch Crew Commander. Once again this was a memorable time of my life, with great times and equally great men.
Despite the diversity of service, the enjoyment, the life skills I had learnt throughout my career, things were not as they seemed… …in 1996 sadly and suddenly my Mother passed away. I was devastated by her passing. However, I became troubled by the sudden rush of “reliving” memories of my past. When I was in 3 Para I was on “Operation Corporate”, the Falklands War 1982. At the age of 23 I had been to war, I had witnessed and been mixed up in armed conflict at close quarters, where some of my friends and colleagues were killed, others were maimed. I on the other hand had survived, or so I thought. It was then that I was diagnosed with Chronic and Severe Combat PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Although I have received lots of treatment and support over the years for my PTSD, the symptoms always seem to slowly creep back. I’m constantly looking for ways to control the condition, but it’s difficult. At home, I find keeping busy is the best method for me to bury my past. However, that is exhausting. I enjoy fishing, I like to go for a number of days, and “bivvy” by the lake. I joined a Veterans support group called ICARP. I find mixing with other Veterans now and then helps me to unwind, while fishing with people who understand.
Recently all of that has been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been stuck indoors with my condition. In lockdown and unable to get out, my PTSD started to spiral out of control so I turned to NHS TILS (Transition Intervention Liaison Services) for help. In support, they suggested referring me to “Models for Heroes”. Instantly I had visions of being on a catwalk in me undies… Urgh!. Then they said Airfix models? And I understood. A few days later I had a call from Malcolm Childs. He wanted to know if I had had previous experience with making models and what models I would be interested in. In 3 Para I was in the Anti-Tank Platoon. I used to teach AFV recognition (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) and to help with the instruction I would make models of Main Battle Tanks to display in the lecture room. But that was years ago. As to the question of “What kind of models I would like?” I’ve learnt to stay away from anything that reminds me of the Falklands. So I said anything, but nothing from my era!
A few weeks later a box was delivered to my address. It was a large box and had “Harrods” plastered all over it! I thought “What the hell has she been buying now?” When my Wife got home we opened the box, and… I was wrong, because in the box was 12 models and an assortment of modelling aids from Malcolm and Models for Heroes. Superb! Thanks! Suddenly in the midst of a pandemic I had been given something to do, I had to consider what I should make first. I’ve lived with PTSD for years, so I knew that failure in anything I do could be detrimental to my condition, so I thought, “I’ll do something easy and get my `eye in` first.” I found two Humvee vehicles 1/144 scale, there was no box nor instructions, but it seemed an easy build… so I started. Unlike Fishing… modern technology allows for meeting others through social media, Zoom etc. I was amazed by the fact I could interact with other Veterans online, from the comfort of my home! I could get help and advice on my builds and enjoy the banter of military Veterans. This is great!
As the Humvee build progressed I found myself thinking of how would I display them? I made a diorama which eventually evolved into a desk tidy.
I am very happy with the end result and proud to have
achieved something when before there was nothing.
Being successful in this first build has given me the confidence to do more and despite the lack of instructions I found I had never really lost the knack! However I did find choosing the right paints and painting in particular, a skill that I do need to improve on. Especially with paint kits being so expensive now!
I would like to personally thank those that organised and now run Models for Heroes it was fantastic foresight to realise that model making could benefit veterans who suffer with mental health issues due to serving their country. Thanks to you I have something to get up for in the mornings, something that concentrates the mind, something that gives pleasure and a sense of pride. Best of all it enables interaction with other veterans, I’m confident I would get help and/or advice if I’m in crisis.. Thank you.
I would also like to thank the individuals and companies that donate the model kits and modelling tools. Without you I’m sure this brilliant Veterans Organisation would not be able to run as it does. I for one will be forever grateful. Thank you all.
With kind regards… Graham.
You can contact the NHS TILS (see below)
•North of England services: call 0303 123 1145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
•Midlands or East of England services: call 0300 323 0137 or email email@example.com
•London or South East of England services: call 020 3317 6818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
•South West of England services: call 0300 365 0300 or email email@example.com
Investigating Countryside and Angling Research Projects
•contact them on www.icarp.org.uk/contact/