AN ex-serviceman raising money to open a physical veteran hub has thanked everyone for their support this year.

Graham Stobbs, 47, from central Swindon is the man behind the Veterans’ Hub Swindon – a Facebook community which he set it up nine months ago after his own mental health issues spiralled when he left the army.

He has set his sights on raising £50,000 to open a place for veterans to come and get assistance with readjusting to civilian life.

“I’m really humbled by all the support,” said Graham who so a far has raised £1300.

The veteran is collecting sponsorship to undertake a 222-mile kayak trip next May from Dungeness in Kent to northern France.

“It’s incredible how many people are jumping on board, wishing me well and getting behind it,” he added.

Over the 14-day challenge next year, Graham will kayak from Dungeness to Boulogne with Paul Levins, while Andy Price provides land support for the pair.

They run the veterans’ hubs in Harrogate and Weymouth.

The trio will then travel along the northern coast to the Pegasus Bridge memorial near Caen for D-Day (June 6) to lay a wreath, finishing at Pointe Du Hòc.

Two months ago Graham had an encounter with a barge while training for the challenge at the River Thames in Lechlade.

“I was speeding,” said Graham.

“The speed limit on the canal is six knots and I was doing eight.

“I came round a corner and there was a barge, so I had to do an emergency stop.

“I’m doing most of my training in the gym at the moment,” he said.

Graham continued: “I have actually had a couple of near misses during the training. It’s quite exciting really, like being on a rollercoaster, and you’re not sure where you’ll come off.”

During his army career Graham completed a tour of Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.

He served in the village of Crossmaglen in south Armagh with the 3rd battalion the Royal Green Jackets in 1991 and 1992 when he was 19.

The area was considered so dangerous the army had to be flown in by helicopter.

“I was severely affected by what I saw out there. I lost mates, I went through situations. When I came out I was in a bad way,” said Graham.

Graham left the army in 1993, but his mental health deteriorated following his divorce five years ago.

He was assessed by the Veteran Transition Intervention and Liaison Service, which provides support for current and ex-forces personnel.

“Our veterans are being let down on a massive scale,” Graham said.

“Here in Swindon the Royal British Legion (pop-in centre on Regent Street) is shutting up shop, leaving us with nowhere to go.

“Today’s veterans are not old grey men. Many veterans when leaving the armed forces are still young men.

“Many feel lost and disconnected, and struggle to find support and help that is so desperately needed when rejoining civvy street,” he said.

“Obviously Christmas is a difficult time for some people, but it’s not important that we remember veterans just at this time of year.

“We need to start remembering them all year and not just at Christmas.”

Graham added: “The point is that at the moment veterans are remembered on Remembrance Sunday and then again on Armed Forces Day.

“What we need to do is remember veterans 365 days of the year. We don’t go anywhere. I don’t stop being a veteran.

"We don’t go off into the background for the rest of the year after this."

Speaking about his expectations of the future kayaking trip he said: “It’s a big challenge I’ve taken on. I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I think it’s going to be an emotional journey. We’re both going to be out of our comfort zones and get put in a bad place mentally at times. But it’s all for a good cause.”

To sponsor Graham, visit