A WIGAN army reservist has spoken of his pride in standing alongside Princes William and Harry while filming a special series of DIY SOS.
Jason Shawcross, from Ashton, has been part of a unique task for the BBC show, which is tackling its most ambitious project ever.
A support troop warrant officer, his skills in training soldiers how to use specialist vehicles came in very handy as he led the 75 engineer regiment team.
Over two 60-minute episodes, the first of which was shown last week on BBC1 with the second set to be shown tonight, DIY SOS rallied the troops and turned a row of derelict houses into a street of homes and a new community for war veterans.
The show focused on 22 homes on Canada Street and New Street in Manchester which had been given to Haigh Housing, a housing association that runs schemes specifically for veterans.
The entire street was transformed to provide the basis of a new community and seven derelict houses (of the 22 vacant ones there) were renovated into three new homes with a new training centre established alongside the development for the retraining of wounded soldiers in the trades.
A normal day on site was 12 hours but towards the end of the project I did 17 hour days to get it done on timeJason Shawcross
In addition face lifting of all properties in the street was undertaken improving the lives of the current tenants and owners.
Explaining his involvement, Jason – who also works for Nationwide Safety and Training Ltd – said: “A normal day on site was 12 hours but towards the end I did 17 hour days to get the project finished on time.
“From my Facebook shout-outs we got approximately 20 reservists every day to help out on site.
“Since we had a guaranteed MOD workforce every day we all worked in the same properties to see them through from start to finish. The charity office and the next double house where referred to as sapper houses because of the amount of RE personnel regular, reservist and veterans.
“Through a civilian customer of mine J Murphy and Sons I was able to secure a seven-tonne wagon and driver for three weeks. The same customer also provided us with a telehandler operator and vehicle banksman.
“Towards the end of the project the BBC ran out of money and I posted on Facebook that we had no money for materials. Numerous people rang Jewsons and put money on our account for the purchase of materials.
“The total amount of money donated was well over £500. Since I was the only qualified operator of all the plant on site I assumed full responsibility of the critical assets.”
Princes William and Harry also joined the team to offer their help.
Jason says the whole experience was a humping one.
“The DIY SOS project was a tremendously moving experience for all of us,” he said.
“Motivation was not a factor; people were actively looking for work to do and wanted to put in longer days than they had to.
“We were able to send artisan tradesman, including bricklayers and joiners, as well as some Army recruiters who could pitch in as labourers or assist with the decorating. Everyone just wanted to give something back to those who have sacrificed a lot for Queen and country.”
The DIY SOS episode screens at 8pm on BBC1 this evening.