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Squad of retired British vets help rebuild razed towns

Squad of retired British vets help rebuild razed towns

The special squad — which is part of veteran-led disaster response organisation Team Rubicon — includes a former soldier, retired London police officer and even an arborist who has been helping to cut down trees around the devastated town of Cobargo.

The special squad — which is part of veteran-led disaster response organisation Team Rubicon — includes a former soldier, retired London police officer and even an arborist who has been helping to cut down trees around the devastated town of Cobargo.

Team Rubicon currently has 2000 people deployed to fire-ravaged areas all over across Australia.

Neil Milner.

Chris North, 42, who was deployed to Afghanistan with the Royal Australian Navy, has been working on the fire recovery for four months.

He said the Australian team desperately needed the help from the Brits.

“When they came out, it was such a relief for us because we’ve been operating this season since late October,” Mr North said.

Chris North and Ben Catchpole.

“We’ve basically been following the fires — up at Rappville near Casino, then Willawarrin near Kempsey then we’ve been moving south.

“Our people are starting to get exhausted, burnt out, tired, because (they’re) all volunteers — they’re still working in their daily lives.”

Former London police officer Ben Catchpole, 46, said the UK reinforcements got the call-up and were deployed to the other side of the world within hours last week.

Ben Catchpole.

“Literally within the space of 48 hours we were on a flight via Singapore or via the US,” Mr Catchpole said.

“We didn’t have any time to acclimatise, it was just straight in but we just wanted to get the job done.”

Mr Catchpole said veterans and former emergency workers added a special element to the bushfire recovery having experienced trauma in their old line of work.

“I think you can empathise a lot more, you’re trained to be hardened to certain scenarios,” he said.

Yorkshire arborist Neil Milner, 50, said the team aspect of the work made it all the more satisfying.

“It’s so rewarding,” Mr Milner told The Daily Telegraph.