AN innovative programme that helps war veterans gain qualifications and jobs in the art of bookbinding has trained 74 ex-servicemen since it started earlier this year.

Work began to set up Woodborough charity The Wiltshire Barn Project in September 2012, and training started in March. Three months later it was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton.

The project, based at Nursery Farm, is the brainchild of former serviceman Jonathan Powell, who discovered the therapeutic nature of such work when he was employed by Shepherds bookbinders in London.

The majority of the service personnel attended workshops, but some went on to formal training.

He said: “It’s been a very busy and successful year. It’s been very challenging but we’ve achieved everything we set out to, except that we were one veteran short of how many we wanted to get onto formal training courses.

“We wanted to get six people into formal training. However, one veteran got his qualification in book binding from City and Guilds and we never expected to get to that stage so quickly.”

The project offers level one and two courses in craft bookbinding and is accredited by the vocational educational organisation City and Guilds, of which Princess Anne is president.

At the end of each stage the veterans get an award and if they complete both stages, they also earn a nationally-recognised certificate in bookbinding.

The Princess Royal visited the charity in November to meet the veterans and present Terry De’Ath, the first veteran to gain his qualification, with a City and Guilds Certificate.

Chief Scout Bear Grylls also paid a visit. He is a patron of the project and saw how the project runs a classroom for training, practice and qualification in bookbinding, alongside a workshop in which veterans manufacture high-quality stationery items for retail.

The books are sold in shops run by Shepherds and some local outlets such as Devizes Books and all the profits from sales are ploughed back into the charity to fund further training.

Mr Powell said the group is looking at getting a regular number of classes running through the year.