Battle Back to the Paralympics

Lieutenant Colonel Fred Hargreaves OBE had the idea for Battle Back in 2007, after seeing disabled skiers returning from the slopes carrying adapted equipment. Colonel Hargreaves realised his wounded comrades could take part in military ski trips with this type of equipment. 

Help for Heroes helped fund a place on a ski trip organized by Colonel Hargreaves and his team of adaptive ski instructors and Battle Back was born. Help for Heroes are the founder patrons for the Battle Back programme, a UK Military initiative, using adaptive adventure training and sports rehabilitation to help seriously wounded service personnel gain independence and confidence to focus on what they can achieve rather on what they can’t achieve.

Mr Steve Spiers, an Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor at Headley Court said: “We have two Battle Back personnel based at Headley Court. Part of their job is to introduce AT and sport activity back to the injured service personnel. There are so many different activities and sports that they can take part in, despite their injuries.” He added: “The scheme gives the troops confidence and some activities will test their injuries. Getting back into something enables them to see that there are opportunities out there.”

Battle Back and Help for Heroes also have close links with the British Paralympics team and work to identify wounded personnel who show a talent for a particular sport and may benefit from inclusion in Paralympic development programmes. A group of eight service personnel, undergoing rehabilitation at Headley Court, came to RAF Halton to fly with the Joint Service Adventure Training (Gliding) section under the Battle Back initiative. The group who visited RAF Halton, consisted of a mix of Army and RAF personnel who all sustained upper limb injuries either on operations in Afghanistan or during the normal course of their work. Flight Sergeant Nick Lewinton, a glider pilot instructor for JSAT(G) said: “We have two gliders that have been converted to allow for adaptation kit. We make available eight sessions per year for Battle Back but because gliding is so weather dependant we try to be as flexible as possible.”

One of the group that visited Halton Sergeant Mark Holloway, based in Germany with 5 Rifles, was injured in an IED incident in December 2011. After the attack he was treated in the hospital at Camp Bastion before transferring to the Birmingham Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit. He was then allowed home to Lancashire to his family until his stay at Headley Court. Mark said: “This Battle Back day is purely relaxation for me after the stress of the last year and weeks of therapy. Sitting out in the sun and enjoying a glider flight is bliss and a fantastic chance to experience gliding and get away from the gym. I normally just go to Headley Court and back again at the end of the day to my room so I fully appreciated the beautiful scenery around the area. I think the Battle Back scheme is an incredibly good tool for helping us recharge our batteries and return to full fitness whilst giving us the chance to enjoy a glider flight. Thank you to my pilot, Nigel.”

Battle Back (BB) is a Ministry of Defence led initiative in partnership with and mostly funded by two leading Service Charities, Help for Heroes (H4H) and The Royal British Legion (RBL). BB is an inclusive Adaptive Sport (AS) and Adventurous Training (AT) programme of activities for Wounded, Injured and Sick (WIS) personnel from all three Armed Services including mobilised reservists and reservists injured during “On Duty” training. BB is also available to Armed Services’ Veterans but funded separately.

The BB Programme is controlled by the Defence Adaptive Sport and Adventurous Training (DASAT) Board, which includes representatives from all three Armed Services and the Combined Services’ Sports’ Board and AT Leads. For the DASAT Board, and inclusion in the BB Programme, AS is authorised by the Combined Services’ Adaptive Sports’ Association (“BB Sport”), and AT by Adventure Training Group (Army). All BB activities are in the BB Programme and are linked to WIS’ Individual Recovery Plans (IRP). WIS can claim Travel & Subsistence if they are doing an activity listed on the BB Programme that is formally authorised by their Chain-of-Command (C-o-C) as part of their IRP.

“Team BB” has its Headquarters at the BB / DASAT Centre supported by the RBL at the National Sports’ Centre Lilleshall (NSCL), near Newport, Shropshire, and a presence at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court, Tedworth House at Tidworth, and Phoenix House at Catterick. “Team BB” hope to extend their presence to Chavasse VC* House at Colchester, and the Personnel Recovery Centres (PRC) at Edinburgh and Sennelager.

Team BB’s Main Effort is the twenty-four week-long Multi-Activity Courses (MAC) run annually at The BB / DASAT Centre at NSCL. This has a residential capacity of 24 (16 of the 24 bedrooms are Equality Act 2010 disability-compliant). The twenty-four week-long MAC are mandatory Core Recovery Events (CRE) in Army WIS’ IRP. To attend BB / DASAT Centre’s MAC WIS must be “independently mobile and self-medicating.”

Battle Back athlete Jon-Allan Butterworth joined the RAF at age 16 to train as a weapons technician but lost his left arm during bombing in Basra, Iraq 5 years ago. With great performances in the National Paracycling championships, he became the 1km time trial champion, set a new world record in the 200m event and in London 2012 collected 3 silver medals showing just what determination, hard work and the right support can provide. Information from and Royal Air Force News Last Modified: 15 Aug 2012 – 14:04

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