A British soldier severely injured in Afghanistan has thanked all those who helped renovate his new lodgings at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.

Former Guardsman John Dawson was shot in the head by a sniper in Helmand Province, leaving him with life-long injuries

The Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital, Heidi Meyer, said they had been given a generous grant by the Grocers Livery Company to renovate a flat for the ‘wounded warrior’.

She said: “Working with BLESMA (a charity for limbless veterans), John was selected as an ideal person to occupy the flat. With his arrival we are truly meeting our founder Robert Dudley’s intent and our 1572 charter to provide for those “maimed or hurt in the wars, in the service of the Queens Majesty”.

Local organisations and individuals were quick to offer their support for this initiative, including former Warwick mayor Mandy Littlejohn, deputy patrons Rosie Bragg and Janet Honnoraty, the Army Benevolent Fund, Rugby for Heroes, the 353 charity, the Grenadier Guards, Warwick Relief in Need, the Lions and Blythe Liggins Solicitors.

Leamington solicitor Nick Watts from Blythe Liggins, who gave his time for free to handle all the legal work, said: “It has been heart-warming to see so many people rallying to support John. He gave so much for his country and it’s wonderful that so many people wanted him to know how much they appreciated his sacrifice.”

Mr Dawson was serving with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards when he went up a lookout tower to relieve another sentry and was shot in the head. “The boys came running and started to return fire and to give me first aid. I was evacuated and flown to Kabul where I was operated on in a US hospital before being flown back to Brize Norton and taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. I was in a coma for a few weeks and was then taken for rehabilitation at a military unit in Surrey where I spent the next two years, 18 months of which I couldn’t even walk. I then spent a further two years at a brain trauma unit in Nuneaton.”

The former guardsman, who has titanium plates in his head and is blind in one eye, remains extremely positive and humorous. “I was very lucky really compared with the injuries that so many servicemen suffered out there, not to mention all those who never did come back.”

Although he remembers very little of that day he does recall that it was his parents’ wedding anniversary, and that his son was only five weeks old at the time.

He also remembers with great pride his meetings with senior members of the Royal Family. As well as being asked by Prince Harry for some advice about the Invictus Games, he also met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle, and again as a guest at Royal Ascot.

“People have been so kind to me and it’s wonderful to see how proud they are of our Armed Forces and to know that our military is held in such high esteem. I have been so lucky to get a place at the Lord Leycester Hospital where I live alongside other retired servicemen, and I am very grateful to the master and her team for all they have done for me,” he said.

Despite its name, the Lord Leycester Hospital has never been a medical establishment. The word hospital is used in its ancient sense meaning a charitable institution founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and soldiers who live there are referred to as the Brethren. Today, the Lord Leycester is open to the public who can view 700-year-old rooms built by the medieval guilds of Warwick and where they conducted business as the civic and philanthropic heart of Warwick.

Caption: War hero John Dawson with solicitor Nick Watts and Lord Leycester Hospital Brethren John Wilcock (left) and John Maughan (right).

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