AN unsung hero who has helped hundreds of service men and woman has won a top honour.

Alan Ravenscroft, from Winsford, has been awarded the prestigious Global Sir James Gildea award for his dedication to the Cheshire branch of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.

The 84-year-old has been supporting vulnerable clients with complex problems as a SSAFA case worker for more than 27 years.

Alan, a former army vehicle mechanic who served as a reservist for 23 years, said: "The award came as a surprise. I was the only case worker to receive it. They made a fuss of me. I feel very honoured."

The award was presented by Prince Michael of Kent at the annual meeting of SSAFA in London..

With painstaking diligence, he has helped to improve the lives of countless military personnel by pursuing funding claims and providing practical help and equipment.

The voluntary work requires personal visits to gather supporting evidence and the claims are all made confidentially.

"I have helped hundreds of people with all kinds of things," said Alan, of Station Road. "It could be debt relief, home appliances, convalescent breaks, anything they need.

"Some people have fallen on hard times and are very grateful. Some are homeless so we help to find them a place to live. We apply to civilian and military charities and go to the person's occupation charity."

Alan was inspired to help veterans by his courageous late uncle George Bossons, a Second World War hero, from Sandbach.

"He took on a German Spandau gun position crossing a river in Italy on his own, firing a gun from the hip," said Alan. "He survived and was slightly wounded and was awarded a military medal. He later developed Huntingdon's disease and nothing much was done for him."

Alan's countless cases include many notable victories.

"I secured a war pension for a soldier who had been captured in the desert and ended up in Auschwitz," said Alan. "He was actually a hero. He had protected a Jewish person and a German guard had bayoneted him.

"I also got Japanese reparations for all the widows and former prisoner of war soldiers. There were over a dozen of them and they all lives in Winsford and Middlewich.

"What we do is secret at the time. We are the infantry to HQ. I hope to carry on as long as my health allows me."

Alan started helping the veteran community on his own in 1987 when he worked with the Royal British Legion.

Kirsty Bushell, national vice chairman at SSAFA, said: “Alan Ravenscroft’s exceptional commitment and sustained voluntary support has truly impacted the lives of many veterans and their dependents.

"He exemplifies the highest standards of service that SSAFA provides, prompting many clients to write into the Division and express their gratitude.

"We are delighted that he has been awarded the Global Sir James Gildea Award. SSAFA has over 5000 hardworking volunteers – so for Alan to stand out against his colleagues means he is doing truly amazing work for SSAFA”

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Winsford Town Council awarded Alan the mayor's award in 1999 and 2018 and makes an annual donation of £500 to the SSAFA Cheshire branch in his name.