A charity is leading a fundraising drive to get a 98-year-old veteran home from Australia so he can become a Chelsea Pensioner.
John Morris served in a branch of the Special Air Service (SAS) and took part in the campaign to liberate Italy and Yugoslavia during the Second World War. For the last 32 years he has lived in Australia and is in the process of applying for a place at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Veterans charity Pilgrim Bandits has launched a campaign to raise £10,000 to cover the cost of John’s flights, quarantine costs and temporary accommodation while he completes the final stages of his application.
The charity’s CEO, former SAS Warrant Officer Matt Hellyer, said: “John really needs our help. “Becoming a Chelsea Pensioner would be a life-changing opportunity for him, but he’s stranded in Australia waiting for his vaccine. “He’s 98-years-old and has fallen on hard times, simply due to life experiences, which could happen to any of us, so we want to help him. “It’s his plight really to get over here, get amongst all his ex-military comrades and live his life out to the full.”
John Morris joined the Royal Artillery in 1939, aged 17, and fought as an Anti Aircraft Gunner in the Battle of Britain. He subsequently volunteered for Special Forces and was posted to the Raiding Support Regiment, a branch of the SAS. They fought in the Mediterranean after their successful campaign in the North African Desert led by Lieutenant Colonel Sir David Stirling and Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Mayne. John was in uniform until 1946 and went on to have a career as a Territorial Army Reservist in post-war Britain.
If the fundraising drive is successful, the Pilgrim Bandits are hoping John is able to travel this July or August. Matt Hellyer believes his application to join the Chelsea Pensioners will be accepted. He said: “It is a process, everyone has to go through the process. He’s in the same boat as everyone else but it’s looking good. “We’re going to get him over here to the UK safe and sound, fully vaccinated and through the quarantine procedure. “Then John can carry on with his application. “We’re really confident and so is he and so is the hospital that he will have a bed space at that prestigious place by the end of the summer.”