National Lottery honours Trafford volunteer with handcrafted Town Hall bench

claire bench


The co-founder of a local organisation that supports armed forces veterans and personnel has been recognised by the National Lottery for her exceptional community work during the coronavirus pandemic.

A specially commissioned bench designed by TV presenter and eco-designer Jay Blades has been installed at Trafford Town Hall in honour of Claire Wright, co-founder and director of Trafford Veterans, bearing the inscription ‘Improvise, Adapt and Overcome’. Claire is one of thirteen people across the UK to be commended in this way, as part of a UK-wide National Lottery project to recognise society’s unheralded champions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Claire and her partner Chris Squires served in the armed forces but after that came to an end they struggled to adapt to civilian life, having both been eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For Claire, who travelled the world as a helicopter mechanic on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, it was an easier transition as she became a police officer, but for Chris, who was made redundant after 13 years’ service with the King’s Regiment in 2013, it wasn’t so easy and he was let go from his first civilian job. This unfortunately led to three suicide attempts.

Realising the lack of support available to former service men and women, Claire and Chris started Trafford Veterans in May 2015 to support former members of the armed forces and the Emergency Services who needed help in Greater Manchester. Now five years on, it is now run by 27 volunteers, with the community-based group growing from 30 to 117 people regularly joining for meals, with World War Two veterans and young cadets sitting side-by-side.

Claire said:

“We were just trying to give people a purpose and make them feel connected. It’s been difficult for us all, but we’ve found that the welfare checks have been really useful because it’s a way of making sure that everybody is okay and keeping an eye on their mental health. It does fill me with pride what we’ve done, but because I’m in the thick of it, sometimes I can’t see. Lockdown has certainly made us more determined – it felt like out duty to go out and help others.”

Cllr Judith Lloyd, Trafford Council’s Armed Forces Champion said:

“Claire’s work has had a hugely positive impact on armed forces veterans living in Trafford, and the support she and the Trafford Veterans team have provided has been invaluable during the pandemic. We are very proud to see her efforts gain the recognition they deserve, and delighted to have her beautiful bench in pride of place at Trafford Town Hall.”

Dawn Austwick, CEO of The National Lottery Community Fund said:

“For 26 years The National Lottery has helped make amazing things happen, but never in such extraordinary times. People and communities have found themselves facing myriad challenges and pressures but have still found the passion and drive to support each other in so many different ways. Their incredible work has not gone unnoticed and is in fact recognised, valued and inspiring others more than ever before.”

Posted on Thursday 12th November 2020