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Soldiers on flood-relief duty given sanctuary in local church

Posted on: December 11, 2015 10:45 AM
The Revd Andrew Wilkinson with soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who were given an unusual billeting at St Michael’s on Wyre Church near Garstang when they were deployed on flood relief duties.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Blackburn

[ACNS] A platoon of soldiers has taken up residence in a church in north-west England – but the troops are not part of an invasion force – they are helping to alleviate the effects of severe flooding that has impacted north-east England.

St Michael’s on Wyre Church near Garstang serves one of the communities that has been directly affected by the current flooding and has become home to troops from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who have been deployed to assist the civilian population.

The solders “are sleeping when they can between callouts and are making themselves comfortable as best they can, including making good use of the church’s hassocks,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Blackburn said. “Their presence boosted the usual attendance at mid-week prayers – although some of the soldiers were, understandably, still sleeping.”

The soldiers had anticipating sleeping in the back of the minibus that had driven them to the area, but the Vicar of St Michael’s, and Area Dean of Garstang, the Revd Andrew Wilkinson, invited them to bed down for the night in the church and to make use of the building’s newly installed kitchen and toilet facilities.

“I visited to give them a few cases of coke and some chocolate and found that villagers had been showing similar acts of kindness before me,” Wilkinson said. “The soldiers have been active as required on flood relief duty all day and night, working with the Environment Agency. They have been making emergency repairs to four breaches in the flood embankments of the River Brock that caused the flooding and helping with the evacuation of numerous dwellings.

“Our electrician and Churchwarden worked all day earlier this week to restore power to the church central heating boiler, which kept [the soldiers] warmer than they might otherwise have been on a cold December night.”

The local community has also rallied round. A bakery firm, Holland's Pies, delivered pies and a fish and chip shop delivered a supply of "chip butties" to keep the troops sustained.

He said that the church was “praying their work will prove successful and the clay banks they have built prove strong.”

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, visited the area yesterday along with the Archdeacon of Lancaster, the Ven Michael Everitt.

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Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson chats with a soldier on flood relief duties during a visit to St Michael’s on Wyre Church near Garstang. Photo: St Michael’s on Wyre Church

“These are tough times for numerous communities across the diocese who are continue to struggle with the effects of flooding, following unprecedented weather conditions across North West England,” Bishop Henderson said in a joint statement with his suffragan bishops, the Rt Revd Geoff Pearson of Lancaster and the Rt Revd Philip North of Burnley, who have visited other flood-hit communities this week.

“Our continued thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been driven from their homes, those who face the discomfort of having no power supplies and all whose lives have been affected.

“We can only continue to admire the army and emergency services for their work during this major incident and it is important that people in the worst affected areas continue to co-operate with them.

“Numerous volunteers, many from the faith communities, are also doing what they can to alleviate the ongoing situation. However, we continue to remain concerned especially for elderly and vulnerable people and those struggling to find the help they need. We hope that people can go on pulling together in this time of crisis and will continue to do all we can to offer support.”