Wigan armed forces hub to be unveiled

Withnall House
Withnall House

Wigan's new facility supporting those who have served on the front line and their families is about to be unveiled.

The ground-breaking hub, which will officially be called Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ, at the former Withnall House in Scholes will be opened at a lavish ceremony on Saturday November 10.

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War heroes Simon Weston CBE and Andy Reid will join Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux for the ribbon-cutting and other formalities.

The building, which is close to Wigan Little Theatre, has also been renamed Molyneux House in honour of local serviceman Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, who was killed on board his submarine in 2011.

The hub will provide specialised support to the armed forces community, with charities and organisations preparing to work there including the Royal British Legion (RBL), Blind Veterans UK and Healthier Heroes CIC.

There will also be a cadet facility there in the first arrangement of its kind.

Activities and displays at the opening will include a visual World War One field hospital complete with military vehicles, tents and a simulation dome, giving visitors an insight into trench life during the Great War.

Coun Molyneux said: “We are thrilled that an opening date for the hub is now here and we look forward to the fantastic support the hub will offer.

“Although the hub will provide invaluable services for serving personnel, ex-forces and their families, we’re also keen to involve the community too as this interaction is vital in supporting veterans in their transition back into civilian life.

“We’re actively encouraging local community groups to operate from some of the rooms and for local people to volunteer their time to make the hub the best it can be.

“Not only will this be a beneficial facility for Wigan Borough residents but also the wider Greater Manchester armed forces community and is another great example of how we are leading the way.”

The long-awaited project is part of the town hall's armed forces covenant and will help personnel transition back into civilian life, offer advice on employment, finance and other subjects and also provide places for people with similar experiences to socialise.

There will be a mixture of therapy rooms, classrooms, social space and meeting rooms for partners to use on site.

The work has been done in two phases, with Wigan Sea Cadets moving into the old Withnall House building and the other services working from an extension accessed via a corridor.

Wigan Council pledged £500,000 to support the development of the hub and the Ministry of Defence also promised £100,000. Wigan Sea Cadets added to this by giving more than £140,000 from the sale of their previous building.

Ian Almond, project and fund-raising manager at Wigan Sea Cadets, said: “Molyneux House has secured a long term future for Wigan Sea Cadets and we can now focus more on delivering the cadet experience to our young people.

“It has been crucial to ensure that the delivery of the hub meets the needs of veterans, armed forces families and also our requirements in providing our training structure to cadets.

“We are excited that the official opening is now only a stone’s throw away and are very happy about the work we’ve been undertaking in the cadet building over recent weeks to build up to this point. We have been establishing ourselves here and have had fantastic feedback from the public.”

Alison Bunn, area manager for the RBL in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, said: “I believe that the hub will be a real asset to the armed forces community.

“It will act as a focal point for serving individuals, veterans and their families so they can easily find information and will combat social isolation which is an issue for veterans of all ages.

“Both the Legion and our partner organisations will be able to use the hub to meet with those who need support or advice and will provide a valuable base in Wigan to reach out from.”