Southport holidays for soldiers' families

Families at Byng House in Southport Paul Slaney, 37 (left), served in the Royal Green Jackets for 14 years

A holiday home in Southport has opened its doors to give young soldiers and their families a free holiday.

Byng House usually caters for veterans aged over 70 but new facilities mean they can offer places to young families for the first time.

Funded by The Royal British Legion, Byng House is one of four Poppy Break Centres in the UK offering holidays for serving and former members of the British Armed Forces.

Manager Paul Flood said: "You usually think of veterans as old, but there are a lot of young veterans now with children.

"For us, it is to give something back to the families that can ultimately give their lives for their country.

"We've got family suites and a new games room and plans for a multimedia centre so we can now offer plenty for children to do.

"We've got young families staying with us that have been affected by Afghanistan war, Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland."

The Grade II listed building on Southport promenade accommodates up to 68 people in 36 rooms and offers soldiers a chance to mix with people who have had similar experiences.

Mr Flood said: "We have people staying with us who have been bereaved, who are suffering with combat stress and who are recovering from injuries.

"We can offer them a place where they can come and relax in a safe secure environment.

"It gives families a chance to get to know each other and speak to people with similar experiences."

Paul Slaney, 37, from Derbyshire, served in the Royal Green Jackets for 14 years. He is staying at Byng House with his wife Isabella and four children.

He said: "It is great to mix with other soldiers again and it's good for my wife to meet other women who are from the same backgrounds and who have been through the same things.

"It doesn't matter how long you've been away from soldiers you fit straight back into it, you just click straight away.

"It's good to get to know people and how they have served in the forces and share the times that they've had, good and bad. Whether we are 40, 50 or 60, you are always a soldier.

"We are very grateful that the British Legion have put this on for us and it is beyond anything that we expected."

Byng House costs around £1m a year to run and is funded by the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and charity donations.

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