Afghanistan veteran with medals and child
24 July 2013

SSAFA caseworker stars in Alan Titchmarsh Garden Make-Over

Captain John Phillips DSC took part in ITV’s prime time television programme ‘Love your Garden’ hosted by Alan Titchmarsh.

SSAFA caseworker stars in Alan Titchmarsh Garden Make-Over

SSAFA caseworker, Captain John Phillips DSC, last night took a starring role in ITV’s prime time television programme, ‘Love your Garden’, hosted by the nation’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh. The programme sees the gardens of Britain’s most deserving people transformed by the celebrity gardener and a dedicated team of fellow horticulturalists.

Injured Falkland’s Veteran John came to be selected following a request which came into SSAFA’s Central Office for worthy candidates to have their garden’s made over. When he heard about it SSAFA Divisional Secretary for Woking, Simon Booth-Mason, had just the man in mind. John beat off tough competition of over 700 candidates to be selected to receive the Titchmarsh Treatment.

John and his wife Christine had recently moved to Woking from the West Midlands to be close to his grandchildren. Whilst serving in the Royal Engineers in the Falkland’s in 1982, John was defusing a device onboard HMS Antelope when it exploded, John's colleague was sadly killed, whilst John himself was badly injured resulting in the amputation of an arm. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and continued to serve for another eight years. He became a SSAFA caseworker in Coventry when he retired and when he moved to be close to his daughter and her family he transferred to the Woking Division to continue his volunteering work.

John says: “I get a great deal of satisfaction when a case is completed successfully and the client has received all the help they need. Some cases are more complicated and difficult than others but the pleasure in helping them is the same.”

John’s new house was in good order but the garden needed a huge amount of work. The result of the television make-over was spectacular including a water feature with rock specially brought back from the Falkland’s by his then Commanding Officer, Guy Lucas. The rock features three crests: The Royal Engineers, The Bomb Disposal Engineers and the DSC.

Naturally John was thrilled when he saw the finished garden. He says: "The make-over is fantastic and has given my wife and I a great deal of pleasure already. I was very worried about the amount of work involved in getting it from a bare uninteresting patch to something like a presentable garden. The task would have taken me several years. It was a great relief when my selection was confirmed by a knock on the door by Alan Titchmarsh to say ‘I understand you need a little help with your garden’. You bet I did!”

After the show, SSAFA supporters headed to Twitter to show their appreciation for the work of SSAFA volunteers like John.

Love Your Garden on Twitter

Catch up with the programme on ITV Player (available until 22 August 2013).