Veterans charity chief honoured

May 15, 2012
London based Chief Executive of Veterans Aid, Dr Hugh Milroy, becomes an OBE in the Queens Birthday Honours in recognition of his outstanding work on behalf of homeless ex-Servicemen and women.

Dr Milroy, a former RAF Wing Commander, has headed-up the 79-year-old charity since November 2005, and has transformed it to become the leading UK charity for veterans in crisis. Distinguished by its philosophy of immediate intervention and delivery of bespoke solutions VA has been described as a model of how post-modern charities should operate and has attracted attention worldwide.

VA takes about 2,000 calls for help each year, provides 20,000 nights of accommodation and puts an average of four people a month into detox facilities.

Major General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, Chief Executive of  ABF The Soldiers Charity and a deputy Lord Lieutenant for Gloucestershire, was one of the first to welcome the news. He said, “I and my welfare staff hold Hugh Milroy in very high esteem. He has brought this wonderful charity to life and achieved some spectacular results in restoring lives to our former servicemen and now many more  know about Veterans Aid. No honour has been more  richly deserved.  This is indeed good news.”

Hugh Milroy’s blend of pragmatism, compassion, and practical experience working with the homeless and academic provenance make him rare in the charity world. A hands-on CEO who leads from the front he has challenged many popular perceptions about the veterans’ community and issues relating to homelessness, prison service and mental health.

A Gulf War veteran, where he served with the Army, Dr Milroy lives with his family in the Cotswolds, from where he travels daily to VA’s Victoria drop-in centre and HQ. Although London-based, the charity re-homes veterans across the UK and takes calls from those in crisis worldwide.

Dr Milroy, who served in the RAF for 17 years and undertook tri-Service deployments, is chair of ESAG (the Ex-Services Action Group on homelessness), an advisor to The Howard League for Penal Reform and a Senior Visiting Fellow at King’s College Department of War Studies. Widely regarded as an expert in his field he has been courted by politicians, Government agencies, and academics (in the UK and from as far afield as Japan and the USA). He has presented to university audiences at in Dublin and Toronto and co-authored publications on social exclusion with Georgia University’s Professor Jay Mancini. Veterans welfare groups from Argentina and Croatia have also sought Dr Milroy’s advice.

He said,  “I am delighted to have been honoured with the award of the OBE.   The work we do with VA is very frontline and stressful for all of the staff so in a sense, this award is for all of them.   We are very much the accident and emergency unit for veterans in crisis.”

Those associated with VA were delighted to welcome the award. MD of Citrica, Mr Danny Buckley said, “If you are lucky, once in a lifetime time you meet someone who seems to do the impossible – who can change the course of events for those who have lost life’s course. When you meet Hugh Milroy you know you are in the presence of such a person. This is a well-deserved recognition of Hugh’s hard work.”

Mayor of Westminster Susie Burbridge in whose borough VA’s drop-in centre is based said, “Hugh certainly deserves recognition for his amazing achievements and success guiding Veterans Aid.  I was overwhelmed when I first met him, by his ambition,  sparkle and determination to help veterans whatever it takes, whatever their state.   He is so enthusiastic and passionate about what he does at Veterans Aid that it is catching. His commitment and energy  is there for all to see.

“Westminster used to have a high number of ex-soldiers sleeping rough on its streets; that is not the case anymore. Charities like Veterans Aid have turned their lives around – as Hugh said to me “not by a hand out, but by a hand up”.   He is the ‘hands-on, get cracking, role up your sleeves’ man spreading his infectious style around the organisation.

“You don’t see much about Veterans Aid in the press – they are too busy actually helping people! –  but I was so absolutely bowled over by Hugh’s commitment that I am determined to raise the awareness of the charity’s work during my year of office.”

Dr Milroy was born in Irvine Valley, Scotland. The son of Bill and May Milroy he grew up in Darvel where he attended Loudoun Academy before leaving to work in the Far East. In his youth he was a member of 327 Sqn Air Training Corps in Kilmarnock.   In his limited leisure time he enjoys horse-riding and fishing.