RAF veteran charts a new course

Fraser, 53, from Thorpe St Andrew, served in the Royal Air Force for 10 years as an Avionics Engineer. He was six weeks away from realising his dream of being commissioned as a Navigator when he was injured in training, then broke his neck in a road accident. Fraser was medically discharged and enjoyed a long and varied civilian career. After going through redundancy in his 50s, The Poppy Factory helped him find a new role that better suits his work-life balance.

Fraser now works as a Property Valuer at Taverham-based Internet Surveys. He is also a Trustee of Equal Lives, an advocacy and support organisation in Norfolk that empowers people with disabilities to have their voices heard and live independent lives.

Fraser said:

From the age of 11, I always wanted to be a pilot. I joined the RAF when I was 17 as a radar technician and I tried for seven and a half years to be put forward for a commission. Eventually my application was accepted and I got through selection at the first attempt. I was on course to become a navigator and hoped to fly in a Tornado fighter jet on completion of training.

“I was six weeks away from graduating when I started getting shin splints in training. Then one day when we were running up a hill, my hip gave way and I ended up on the floor with a telegraph pole on top of me.

“I had surgery on my leg and then shortly after I was given the all-clear to drive again, I was involved in an accident. I was driving with my wife when a pick-up truck pulled out in front of us and we clipped the corner. We both walked away but I had a lot of neck pain. At first the doctors thought I had whiplash, then an X-ray showed I had been walking round for six weeks with a broken neck.

“I had to have physiotherapy and I tried to get back to fitness but eventually, after 18 months, the RAF decided to give me a medical discharge. I was told I would never drive or work again but I was determined to prove them wrong.

“I got a job quickly at the Department of Work and Pensions. Then when we moved to Norfolk I worked for the police as a crime analyst. I went on to work at a hospital as a senior analyst, then I worked for 16 years with Norfolk Youth Offending Team as its Performance and Information Manager where I set up all their IT systems.

“I started having more problems with my neck and I suffered a prolapsing disk in my lower back. It meant I had difficulty walking between meetings – I was having to get in my car to travel small distances. After a long time considering it and talking to my GP, I decided to get a wheelchair.

“I decided to move to a different job and I worked in the private sector, first as a Logistics Operations Manager for Amazon and then as a Systems Manager for the Zertus Group. I was made redundant in December 2018 and I thought I would find another job easily enough, but it wasn’t as I expected. I was having to go for interviews in my wheelchair, and I noticed I was getting a negative response.

“I’d been unemployed for seven months and I wasn’t getting any offers. I was getting to the point of giving up and thinking I’d never work again. But I contacted The Poppy Factory and was put in touch with Keiron, my adviser. Initially he helped with my CV, then out of the blue he came to me with a job that he thought was right up my street.

“Keiron had realised something about me that I hadn’t even recognised myself. I’d been looking at jobs that were at a similar level to ones I’d had in the past. But I’m 53, and a lot of the physical flare-ups I’d been having were linked to stress and pressure. What I needed was to take a more back-seat approach with less responsibility.

“I got the job that Keiron suggested. I’m now a Property Valuer at Internet Surveys Limited, gathering data to put together a picture of a house that will help insurers reach a correct valuation.

“The job is perfect for me now. It’s a really good environment and it’s an easy 20 minute drive from my home along a straight road. I’m enjoying the work, they’re pleased with my progress and I’m starting to take on more complex cases. If I hadn’t contacted The Poppy Factory, I would never have had this opportunity.”

See also Military charities

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