Erskine case study

In 2015 and 2016, Erskine received a total of £50,000 in grants from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity to help provide enhanced care and support to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines veterans resident at the 180-bed Erskine Home in Bishopton.


The grants will help provide a number of care services including nursing care, short-term respite care, dementia care and palliative care.


How the Charity helps veterans

Erskine Homes care for men and women with a broad range of complex care needs, for example, those living with a physical disability as a result of amputation of limb(s) and those with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. They provide on-site services in all of their homes including physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, recreational and social activities, dentistry, podiatry, hairdressing and more.

In addition to their services they also provide residential accommodation for veterans and their families following the recent completion of a four-year building project to construct 44 new properties on the Erskine Estate in Bishopston. These offer modern accommodation commensurate with the standards and principles of Housing for Varying Needs and takes into account the diversity of their residents (youngest resident is 27 and the oldest resident is 85).

Their main charitable mission remains to enable members of the ex-Service community to access the best care and support to achieve maximum quality of life.

Bob Gilfillan, Erskine resident

Bob Gilfillan, Erskine resident

One of the Royal Navy veterans currently living at the Erskine Home is Robert Gilfillan, better known as Bob. After telling a “wee fib” about his age and enlisting in the Royal Navy four months before his 18th birthday, Bob’s career as a submariner started in 1944 and his first mission on board HMS Sceptre was one that he will never forget:


“We left Holy Loch to start our six weeks at sea and after only a few days sighted a convoy heading to Norway with vital supplies for German troops. We fired our torpedoes and later found we got three ships. We were chased for days by destroyers who fired depth charges, trying to sink us. It was relentless and quite terrifying – the skull shattering noise, the smell of diesel and salt water leaking in, the explosions throwing us all around like rag dolls. I’ll not forget any of that. I know I’m lucky to have made it through when so many others paid with their lives, defending our country.”


As Bob grew older and less mobile, he was finding it increasingly difficult to cope living at home. He ultimately made the decision that the time was right to live in a supported environment and he moved to the Erskine Home in January 2013. He celebrated his 90th birthday in style last year with his fellow Erskine residents and is glad that he made the choice to enjoy the later stages of his life at Erskine:


“I go to physiotherapy every day and it’s made a huge difference to my independence – with determination and the support of the nurses and staff at Erskine, I’m doing much better and I’m loving life,” he says.

Bill Anderson, Erskine resident

Bill Anderson, Erskine resident

Bill Anderson, 94, was first called up to the Royal Navy as a signalman in June 1941.


For the majority of his service, Bill was based at Scapa Flow, helping to protect Arctic Convoys. Then in 1945, Bill was sent to Liverpool to join an assignment with an unknown purpose and an unknown destination. Bill and his comrades were told not to speak with anyone, were given clothing, and taken to their ship. It wasn’t a Naval vessel but a liner called 55 Franconia.


Bill set sail for the Black Sea aboard the 55 Franconia. Upon arrival at their final destination, Bill was stationed as Signalman on the dock jetty. In the pitch dark, two figures made their way down the jetty, heading for the 55 Franconia. It was Winston Churchill and his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden. The two men needed a lamp to light the way, and there, guiding them through the darkness, was Bill. Bill was stationed in Yalta, Crimea during the moment in history known as the Yalta Conference, when Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin met to put together their final strategy for ending the Second World War. Bill says: “Of course none of us at the time realised how important this meeting was and how it would shape the world for years to come.”


As a Signalman, Bill would spend long hours on the ship’s bridge, often in freezing temperatures. Having endured this for more than 4 years, Bill suffered from many problems with his hands and feet due to exposure, which eventually saw him medically discharged from the Navy.


Bill began a career with the Post Office and went on to live a full and happy life with his wife Nancy and their two daughters. After more than 60 happy years together, Bill was devastated when Nancy passed away suddenly after having a fall in the street.


“I found living on my own tough. Nancy and I, we did everything together for over 60 years and had a wonderful life together. My daughters live in Canada and South Africa, so I had no family close by. I was down in the dumps, fed up and kept thinking what’s life all about? My daughters urged me to move into Erskine and I’ve settled here. I have freedom here and the support I need. I can rest in my room, socialise and there’s always an outing- today there’s a trip down to Helensburgh. I’m a lucky wee guy really!”


“Erskine is the best thing for me and it is home. I sit at night here and think of my Mum and Dad who meant a lot to me. They worked so hard to bring me up well and I hope they would be proud of me.”


Bill benefits from all of the on-site services available to him in his home. One of his favourite activities is the Musical Memories group, where residents have the chance to choose their favourite songs for the group to enjoy. Bill likes nothing better than singing along to the music of Frank Sinatra and can even be tempted to take part in a dance now and again. Upon hearing his favourite songs, he’ll often remark to staff, “You’ve made an old man very happy”. Bill’s father, James, was a resident in the original Erskine Hospital from 1939 to 1951and we are delighted to be part of his family once more.

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