Ex-soldier who helped at Lockerbie bombing fronts new campaign for veterans

The charity needs to raise around £10 million annually in order to maintain the level of high-quality care it provides to veterans of all ages, such as Alan Kennedy.

A former soldier who suffered PTSD after helping with the rescue effort following the Lockerbie bombing is fronting the Remembrance fundraising campaign for veterans charity Erskine.

The charity needs to raise around £10 million annually in order to maintain the level of high-quality care it provides to veterans of all ages such as Alan Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, 53, was 19 when he was sent to help on the ground after Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York, exploded on 21 December 1998, killing 270 people – 259 on board and 11 on the ground.

Mr Kennedy, who served in the Royal Scots, was left traumatised by his experience at the crash site and was eventually discharged from the army – having served just under three years.

Rescuers at the scene following the Lockerbie bombing Credit: PA

It took 32 years for him to be diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the incident, and he was eventually helped by the charity Erskine after he suffered a breakdown and became a recluse.

Describing the impact of his experience at Lockerbie, he said: "I was no longer any use as a soldier, I was a mess.

"As soon as I had the opportunity to leave the army I seized it, I had never been the same, I knew that, and I knew the people around me knew it.

AI had bad nights of nightmares when I was back in Lockerbie again, and always approaching the anniversary is worse. I have tried to go back on several occasions to see if I can get some closure but a mile or so outside the town I always turn back.

"Eventually, in March 2016 I had a massive breakdown."

Mr Kennedy, who served in Northern Ireland and Germany before being sent to Lockerbie, became a recluse for two years following his breakdown and did not venture out despite his friends and family trying to help.

However he was introduced to Erskine through the Venture Trust following a week of canoeing and outdoor activities at Loch Awe and has since turned his life around.

He attended the Erskine Reid Macewen Activity Centre at the charity’s base in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, and recently qualified as an archery instructor.

The veteran said that Erskine has been a "complete life saver" for him.

He said: "It cannot be understated how much of an impact Erskine has had on my life.

"I feel fresh and confident, and maybe next year I will get to Lockerbie and find that little bit of closure now that I am on the right path again.

"I thought my life was over before I found Erskine, now I realise it is only just beginning."

Wing Commander Ian Cumming, Erskine chief executive, is urging people to donate to the charity to help veterans of every age, from elderly veterans who rely on nursing care to younger ones who make use of the activity centre or need temporary homes and supportive mentoring when their transition into civilian life becomes disrupted.

He said: "When people think of our nation’s veterans, their minds will instantly go to the horrors of war and the wretched conditions and experiences faced away from our shores.

"But trauma takes place in many forms, and also in many places.

"Alan Kennedy’s story is one that will resonate with many in the Forces – but not necessarily those who haven’t served.

"In Alan’s particular case, the disaster he faced at Lockerbie, bore horrors that many will never fully appreciate or understand.

"Sent to simply help, he was faced with a scene resembling a warzone in his own country. No one signed up for that."

He added: "At Erskine, we continue to tirelessly work for our nation’s heroes.

"We strive to provide Veterans of all ages with the high-quality care and compassion that they so richly deserve, with support coming in many forms and locations."