Sharks stars meet 94-year-old Manchester war hero
Ahead of the 100-year anniversary of the end of WWI, two first-team stars from Sale Sharks spent an afternoon with some of Manchester’s military veterans – including a 94-year old WWII hero – as part of a ground-breaking community programme supporting ex-forces personnel across the region.
Fly-half AJ MacGinty and hooker Curtis Langdon visited Broughton House – a nursing home for elderly military veterans in Salford, after the club’s Community Trust established a new link-up with the charity.
Through its Sharks Forces programme, the Trust invited eight veterans living at Broughton House along to watch Sale take on Saracens at the AJ Bell Stadium last weekend.
That group included 94-year-old George Simms – a former Royal Marine who was born in Gorton and fought in WWII, surviving the D-Day battle despite being wounded twice, and later being awarded the French Legion of Honour for his actions on Sword Beach – the highest gallantry award to be issued.
At the Sale game, George met MacGinty and Langdon for the first time and made them promise to come and visit him at Broughton House soon after.
And the players kept their word as they dropped in to see George along with Trust coach Craig Monaghan, who leads the Sharks Forces programme and is a military veteran himself, having served in Afghanistan.
Craig said: “The lads really enjoyed spending time with some of the veterans at Broughton House and especially meeting up with George again.
“He’s got a brilliant personality with some amazing stories to tell, and he made a big impression on me and the players when he came to the Saracens game.
“Curtis Langdon’s dad was also a Royal Marine, so I know he found it fascinating to listen to George and hear more about what life in the forces is like.
“With the work we’re doing as part of Sharks Forces in partnership with the Royal British Legion, this link-up felt like a natural extension of the programme and it’s been fantastic to meet someone like George already.”
Rhys Edwards, Fundraising and Marketing Manager at Broughton House, said: “Building a relationship with a club as prestigious as Sale Sharks is huge for us here at Broughton House, and our residents are really excited to see what the partnership will bring.
“Attending games and meeting players means the world to our residents, which is evident from the photos taken both at the game and here at Broughton House.
“We’re at an important time in our 102-year history as we begin our £14m redevelopment to become the North West’s first Veteran Care Village, and we look forward to the club joining us on this journey.”
As part of the new link-up between Sale Sharks Community Trust and Broughton House, Craig has committed to someone visiting the care home once a week through the Sharks Forces programme, and Sale Sharks will also host an event for the home’s military veterans once a month.
Sharks Forces was established almost two years ago in association with the Royal British Legion and has been helping military veterans build confidence and skills to help them return to normal civilian life, as well as helping many to find employment.
“Sharks Forces has been growing and growing and we’re helping more people all the time, but it isn’t just about helping veterans or ex-forces personnel who have difficulty transitioning back to civilian life or encounter problems later down the line,” added Craig.
“It’s a project designed to build a military community and support network for veterans, which is why working with Broughton House is fantastic for the programme.
“I’m really proud that we’ve managed to build this relationship already, especially at this time of year as November is always a tough month for military veterans.
“It’s even more so this year as we mark 100-years since the end of WWI, but I’m hoping we can continue to expand the reach of the programme and help even more people in the future.”