Veteran interview: Veterans community garden project

2 Jul 2024

The GMC June Best Sanctuary Garden – built by the military community for the military community

Why is the Gordon Messenger Centre (GMC) – a military community hub based at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone, Devon – of such value to all who use it? 

As we count down to the impending construction of a garden here, we’ve spoken to some of those who use it, to find out… 

Former Wren, Bex Pearson’s eyes fill with tears when she describes knocking on the door of the GMC in December and realised it was for veterans like her. 

“I live in the village and watched it being built, but assumed it was an extension of the camp,” explains the 57-year-old. “I was at a stage of my life where I’d begun to feel a bit lost and wanted to join the Military Wives Choir, so knocked on the door, and LJ answered. She was a ray of sunshine! 

“She showed me round and I was absolutely gob smacked at the facilities here. 

“It was almost like ‘coming home’; finding that missing piece of the jigsaw that I needed to be back among Forces’ people.”

Bex joined the Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) in 1989 aged 19, as a Radio Operator. She trained at Raleigh, then Mercury, then completed her Officer Training at Dartmouth. She spent eight years as a Royal Naval Officer ending up as the senior personnel selection officer for the department of naval recruiting. 

She married a Royal Navy Green Beret dentist, had her daughter, and left the Navy in 2000. Bex is now compiling a roll of honour for the 1,800 women who served in the Land Army in Devon during the Second World war, for the Devon Records Office.  

“I don’t think I realised quite how much it meant to me until I started dreaming about being back,” she says. “And now, being here among other veterans means so much to me. 

“I love the banter, kicking around, and helping out. 

“Coming up here has given me a whole new lease of life.” 

 ***The GMC June Best Sanctuary Garden, located at the Gordon Messenger Centre (GMC), a tri-service community hub at CTCRM, Lympstone, has been sponsored by SSAFA Devon The Armed Forces Charity, thanks to a generous legacy gift by former SSAFA Devon volunteer June Best. It is being built by volunteers from the military community, for the military community, and delivered by Splash Projects. Further substantial sponsorship has come from RMA-The Royal Marines Charity (donated as a legacy gift by a former Royal Marine through the Tavistock Freemasons/Sanctuary Lodge), with significant additional support from Vistry Group.*** 

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