The Argentinian shell that proudly sits on the bar at the Rorke’s Drift pub is steeped in history that goes back more than 40 years.

Dave Hain was in the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment when he first came across the shell during the Battle of Goose Green in the Falklands War. In a spur of the moment decision, Dave decided to pick the shell casing up and carry it with him for the duration of the war; before bringing it back to his homeland of Scotland.

After polishing and engraving the shell, it remained at the Railway Pub, Scotland as a way of collecting donations. Patrons would buy their pints and leave loose change in the shell; with donations going towards events such as an old age pensioner’s Christmas dinner.

Meanwhile, Dave moved to Brecon to work in military transport. What was supposed to be a two-year posting transpired into six.

Having settled in the town with his family, Dave then chose to stay in Brecon and re-join the Ministry of Defence; this was a role he maintained for 23 years.

Upon hearing about the closure of the Railway Pub in Scotland all these years later, Dave decided to take back the shell and rehome it at his local pub – the Rorkes Drift. With a new home came a new purpose.

Falklands shell
The shell on the bar top of the Rorke's Drift pub in Brecon (B&R)

The shell was used for so much good at the Railway, but Dave wanted the donations to go towards something else – homeless veterans.

Dave explained: “I used to go to the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool. They had these big archways and sleeping rough under them would be veterans, young and old, in sleeping bags.”

This inspired Dave to research charities in Wales who aid homeless veterans, which is how he found Joe Delacey and Alabare.

“I spent a lot of time looking online at different websites, trying to find something as local to Brecon as possible,” he said.

“I found Alabare, which is where I met Joe. We had a few phone calls, exchanged emails and found that it was a great fit.”

Alabare is a charity that strives to help marginalised individuals from those with mental health issues to struggling parents and children. Crucially, they also offer a service to veterans in North and South Wales – specifically; Cardiff, Pontypridd, Swansea and Conwy.

The programme is open to anyone who has served in the British army and offers them accommodation for up to two years. In this time, veterans are given full support from their allocated key worker, who personally helps them develop a plan based on their individual needs and goals.

Veterans also have access to training and the opportunity to develop skills needed for independent living, including budgeting, healthy eating, shopping and life skills. There are also courses available through the local college.

As an ex-serviceman himself, the Manager of South West Wales, Joe, has full empathy with the veterans that the charity takes on.

“When you are in the army, everything is taken care of – your home, expenses, bills... there is not much that you have to think of,” Joe said.

“While the majority of veterans make a fantastic transition from military life to civilian, some have had experiences that make it very hard to make that transition, PTSD, depression, marriage breakdown.

“Some do not have homes to return to and the pressure gets to them, further impacting their mental health and/or leading them to drink and drugs.”

Alabare hopes to put them back on the right track – helping veterans from 18 to 78 years old, who have been self-referred or sent via housing options teams, the Royal British Legion, the criminal justice system, GP or mental health teams.

The dedication of the charity is apparent as Joe said: “It is a very hands-on charity; we do not work 9 to 5, there are days where we get a phone call and must drive a veteran to the hospital at six o’clock in the evening. The waiting list is constantly full, dating back to September.”

With this in acknowledgment, all help and donations are massively appreciated by the charity.

On March 29, for the first time since the shell has been back in Brecon, it was emptied, and donations collected have gone directly towards the veterans living in the Swansea properties.

The shell will continue to be collecting for Alabare and going forward Dave and Joe believe this is the start of a great partnership.

Landlords of the Rorke’s Drift, Sally and Darren are thrilled to play their part, especially with the deep military connections Brecon holds.

They said: “Thank you to all our wonderful customers for their generosity. With the town’s association to the military, we are pleased to be a part and contribute to such a fantastic cause.”

The shell will remain a feature of the pub for many years to come and hopefully continue to raise money and awareness for the homeless veterans of Wales.