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KM Media Group and Royal British Legion Industries launch Homes for Heroes campaign

Today the KM Media Group launches Homes for Heroes – a vital campaign to raise funds to support our ex-servicemen and women.

A Kent charity which for the past 100 years has dedicated itself to the needs of former military personnel is two-thirds of the way through an ambitious project to expand its facilities – but needs another £100,000 to complete the mission. With your help, we can find them that money.

Many return from conflict with physical injuries or mental trauma. Often they find it difficult to settle back into civilian life and a disproportionate number end up living on the streets.

Fortunately there's one place where our ex-servicemen and women can always be certain of finding support and that's right here in Kent at the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) village in Aylesford.

The RBLI is quite separate from the Royal British Legion which conducts the familiar annual Poppy appeal.

From its foundation in 1919, it has focussed on providing holistic support for veterans returning from conflict with disability, giving very practical help in finding accommodation and employment.

Today, it gives first-class accommodation to more 350 veterans and their families.

But it does much more than just provide a place to stay.


There is the on-site social enterprise factory of Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, which gives gainful employment to more than 80 injured veterans who manufacture traffic signs used by local authorities and businesses across the country.

And there are specialist provisions offering dementia care and an emergency support service for the homeless.

Since 2017, the charity has been embarked on a major expansion programme to deliver the Centenary Village.

The aim is to provide a home and support for hundreds more veterans that will last for the next 100 years.

The project has so far cost £24m, with the money donated by companies, foundations and philanthropists, including the Colyer Fergusson Charitable Trust, the Lawson Trust and Rochester-based BAE Systems.

Much has already been achieved, with new assisted-living homes for veterans over 55, disability-adapted apartments, the Appleton Lodge care home (opened by the late Queen in 2019), and Bradbury House, a dementia facility.

Invictus Games House, RBLI village, Aylesford
Invictus Games House, RBLI village, Aylesford

But the RBLI wants to complete the project with new female-only homes, and a community centre with accessible gym and an IT suite.

Planning permission is already in place, but before the final spade can go in the ground, the charity needs to raise £100,000.

Raj Bisram is an antiques dealer from Cranbrook, where he owns Bentleys Antiques and Fine Art Auctioneers, but he is most famous for his appearances on TV over the last 10 years in shows such as Antiques Road Trip, Bargain Hunt and Flog It!

Although he enjoys his celebrity status, Mr Bisram gets as much pleasure from his work as an ambassador for the RBLI.

He is himself an ex-serviceman, having signed up in 1973 at the age of 17 and served for four years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

Before he opened his antiques business, he had enjoyed an altogether different career as a professional skier in Europe, which he said was all down to the Army.

Raj Bisram and veteran George Bradford at the RBLI Village in Aylesford
Raj Bisram and veteran George Bradford at the RBLI Village in Aylesford

He explained: "I was a keen sportsman and I was told the Army was the place to be.

"I went in and became a physical training instructor and it was the Army that taught me to ski – which I had never done before. That led to my career after leaving that lasted until I was 27, so I have a lot to thank the Army for."

Shrugging off his own service as "modest", the 66-year-old is full of praise for the veterans who saw combat.

He said: "This campaign is really important because the veterans who served our country – they kept us all safe. That's what they have been doing throughout history, keeping us safe.

"Yet when they get to a position where they need help – perhaps they are homeless, it could be all sorts of reasons – they're on their own.

"So the support given by the RBLI is invaluable. I can't tell you how important it is. The veterans here at Aylesford will tell you that for many it's literally a lifesaver."

The village includes an on-site sign-making factory
The village includes an on-site sign-making factory

Mr Bisram was critical of the lack of official provision for ex-servicemen in society.

He said: "Really we shouldn't need to be raising money – I believe the Government should be paying for all this. After all if you are a soldier prepared to give up your life for your country, the least the Government should do is look after you and your family if you get hurt.

"But they don't. That's why we have to do what we are doing, raising as much money as we can."

Mr Bisram said he suspected many people were still ignorant of the vital support given by the RBLI.

He said: "I didn't even know about the village until in 2019 I came here to film a segment for one of the TV shows that I do – and I found out about it."

"I didn't know and I have lived in Kent for 40 years and I'm an ex-soldier.

An aerial view of the new RBLI Centenary Village at Aylesford
An aerial view of the new RBLI Centenary Village at Aylesford

"It was a real eye-opener – I was so impressed by the staff and how brilliantly they help the veterans.

"So when I was asked if I would help, I jumped at the chance."

Now Mr Bisram visits regularly and has become friends with many of the vets.

He said: "There's something about being ex-military, as soon as you meet another ex-serviceman there 's an instant bond."

One of those he's become pals with is George Bradford.

George Bradford meeting the Queen
George Bradford meeting the Queen

He was a warrant officer with the Royal Marine Commandos. Like Mr Bisram, he signed up at 17 and served from 1948 till 1973.

He saw action in the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s, where he was once forced to eat monkey when rations were short ("It's tough and tastes like rancid bacon!") and he did three tours of duty in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

In between, he saw service in Borneo, Aden, the Canal Zone and Hong Kong. He has been a resident at the Queen Elizabeth Court in the village for six years.

The block is "assisted living" for those who can largely still look after themselves, but occasionally need support.

The 92-year-old said: "I moved here from a large four-bedroom house that became too big after my wife died.

"Now I have my own comfortable flat where I can either cook for myself or alternatively I can go down and eat in the dining room. I can do my own washing, or put it in the washing machine and the careers with do it for me.

Victory House, RBLI Village Aylesford
Victory House, RBLI Village Aylesford

"We have an excellent care staff, if I’m ill, unable to do it, they will do the washing up, make me a cup of tea, they’ll make my bed.

"But when I’m okay, I do it all for myself."

When he's well. Mr Bradford leads the court's chair-fitness exercise programme. Mr Bisram said: "George is typical of the veterans here. He is a hero. They are all heroes."

Though Mr Bradford disagreed, saying: "I was just doing my job."

The RBLI has seen a 45% increase in demand for its housing from homeless veterans in the past year alone.

And the cost-of-living rises have increased the charity's bills threefold.

The dining room in Queen Elizabeth Court
The dining room in Queen Elizabeth Court

Mr Bisram said: "These veterans need our help. I think that once the people of Kent know about the village, they will support it.

"I believe the general public out there feels the same way that I do, that we shouldn't have to do this, but if we need to, we'll give it our all."

"Imagine you were homeless. That in itself is bad enough. Now imagine being injured or having a disability or a mental health issue on top of that, that really is a struggle.

"If you can imagine that, what can you do but help?"

KM Media Group editorial director Ian Carter explained why we're backing the campaign.

Auctioneer Raj Bisram with veteran Nigel Bird
Auctioneer Raj Bisram with veteran Nigel Bird

He said: "We're incredibly proud of the RBLI's Kent links and in awe of the amazing work they do there.

"Looking after those men and women who gave so much is as noble an endeavour as there is.

"We're delighted to support the charity and call on the great Kent public to help them raise that final £100,000."

To donate to Homes for Heroes, visit this website.

Alternatively, donate by text message – text 5RBLI to 70085 to donate £5; text 10RBLI to 70085 to donate £10, or or text 20RBLI to 70085 to donate £20.

Texts will cost the donation amount plus one standard network rate message, and you’ll be opting into hearing more from the RBLI.

If you would like to donate, but not be contacted further, please add NOINFO to your text message.

Next week we'll be going behind the scenes at Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company.

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